Pompeo tries to smooth path for ‘deal of the century’
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week visited the Middle East, taking in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan. His first trip to the region since being approved by Congress aimed to strengthen ties with key allies, coordinate positions on various issues,such as Iran’s nuclear deal, and maintain US influence over key issues in the Middle East, including the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Russia believes that the visit of Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi to Sochi last week and his meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov implies that Jordan has been approached by the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel to act on their behalf with regards to asking Moscow to pressurize Iran over the nuclear deal.
Pompeo’s tour represented an opportunity for further mobilization in favor of the so-called “deal of the century” on Israel and Palestine, and against Iran and the nuclear agreement.
Trump is working on a comprehensive strategy that focuses on Iran’s nuclear file and “confronts a wide range of non-nuclear threats, such as Iranian missile systems, support for Hezbollah, the export of thousands of proxy fighters to Syria and its aid to the rebels in Yemen, working closely with allies in the face of threats and retreating from the full scope of the malignant Iranian influence,” according to Pompeo.
During his joint press conference with his Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir, Pompeo added: “Unlike the previous administration, we do not ignore Iran’s widespread terrorism.”
Tehran is not prepared to end its military presence in various countries in the region regardless of the threats waged by the US and Israel.
Pompeo’s tour showed the American administration’s determination to deal firmly with Iran. This was also confirmed during Trump’s meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The White House believes the only way out of this stalemate is a full Iranian concession to the international will to denuclearize and end itsballistic missile program.
However, Tehran is not prepared to end its military presence in various countries in the region regardless of the threats waged by the US and Israel.
Russia has not yet commented on the escalating situation. However, both Russia and Iran believe Trump will be forced to get rid of the nuclear deal, which US officials see as an obstacle for a comprehensive peace in the Middle East and as leeway for convincing North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. Senior aides to Trump believe that, as long as the agreement allows Iran to maintain its nuclear program and enable it to enrich uranium later on, there will be no room for an agreement with Pyongyang, under which the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can take place.
Since Pompeo’s visit was limited to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, this means that the US administration wanted to gauge Arab and Israeli opinion on the nuclear deal and the movement of itsembassy, and how to absorb the anger of Arabs and Muslims.
Washington and Riyadh now have a common language regarding Tehran because Iran has supplied the Houthis with weapons, intervened militarily in Syria and Iraq, and has threatened the security and stability of the whole region. The Americans would prefer to amend the deal as a first step before ripping it up; however, Gulf countries wanted the deal to include Iran’s ballistic missiles. Conversely, Iran responded that it would never abandon its development of ballistic missiles. Russia, of course,supports Iran in this perspective.
It looks like the "deal of the century” cannot be reached without ending the nuclear deal with Iran. This cannot be cancelled by the Americans alone, but requires EU, Russian and Chinese approval as well. Consequently, this would likely result in launching limited strikes against Iranian targets in Lebanon and Syria and on their allies in Yemen in order to put more pressure on Iran to approve the American conditions vis-a-vis the deal.
- Maria Dubovikova is a prominent political commentator, researcher and expert on Middle East affairs. She is president of the Moscow-based International Middle Eastern Studies Club (IMESClub). Twitter: @politblogme