Things are clear: the problem is not in the nuclear deal itself, but rather in the regional wars managed by Iran. The regime cannot be allowed to spread chaos in the region, threaten regimes, and dominate Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, as a reward for reducing its stockpiles of enriched uranium.
The UK and Germany have criticized Iranian activities and announced that they are joining the United States to face Tehran’s aggressive regional policy. Their positions have thwarted Iran’s efforts to impose the agreement as a single package on everyone, without distinguishing between aborting nuclear activities that lead to military power, and the regime’s dangerous practices that are taking advantage of the nuclear deal.
We must admit that the White House has cleverly managed the battle with its European allies, who were initially against anything that would lead to strained relations with Tehran. However, Trump gave them two options: they either had to correct the errors committed under the umbrella of the deal, or cancel it completely. He firmly refused to carry on with the previous situation. Trump’s position is consistent with the Republican Party’s convictions and is certainly supported by his government.
The US President gave his allies a choice – confront the chaos that the nuclear deal allows Tehran to spread, or scrap the deal itself.
The wheel will turn again to put pressure on Tehran’s regime that will be solely responsible for Iran’s next economic and political crisis if it refuses to change its behavior and withdraw its military and militia activities in the region. The US and its allied governments are not opposing Iran’s right to build its civilian nuclear project, but they seek to stop the Revolutionary Guards and their intelligence apparatus deployed in the region. Iran has to withdraw its militias formed and trained by the Revolutionary Guards, including oppressed Afghans, Pakistanis, Iraqi refugees and others. The IRGC has even changed Hezbollah’s missions, turning its members to mercenaries waging wars in the region and training Houthis in Yemen for the same purpose. Iran has also used a naval network to smuggle weapons into dangerous zones in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon. This network succeeded in financing and conducting the Yemeni war; it even tried to extend its reach to the Syrian ports on the Mediterranean. Iran is also active in Afghanistan, supporting the war since the US invasion after the 9/11 attacks.
Iran would not have reached such a frightening level of reach in the region if the signatories to the deal had not accepted its terms and lifted all sanctions arbitrarily. Iran’s influence would not have reached Syria, had it not been for the administration of former US President Barack Obama that was lenient, fearing that Iran would back down from signing the deal.
The challenge is to put forward a new project that will lift the sanctions on Tehran, if the regime decides to carry on with the deal, but adds a commitment to withdraw all its foreign militias from fighting zones and pledges to stop supporting its locally allied militias such as Houthis, Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, Iraqi Hezbollah and others.
Washington said it would revive its support for the Iranian opposition in order to put pressure on Tehran. The Iranian opposition was working on toppling the regime before being stalled by the Obama administration, which slowed down the support for academic, media and political activities directed against the regime, to satisfy Hassan Rouhani’s government.
With the return of political confrontations, the new equation has left the Iranian regime with two options: stop fighting wars, or return to sanctions. A new bloc will be formed to put pressure on Iran and to ensure the implementation of the sanctions.
• Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya news channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article is also published.