Iranians pray for a normal country
With the reintroduction last week of US sanctions on Iran’s oil trade, there were fears that the price of oil would soar. Those fears were misplaced. At the end of the week the price was at its lowest for six months.
That is good news for most of us, especially US President Donald Trump, but bad news for Iran, which had hoped for a price rise to bolster its struggling finances. In addition, those countries that have obtained waivers allowing them to continue purchasing Iranian oil still cannot pay Tehran directly; the funds must go into a special account, which Iran can use to pay for humanitarian necessities.
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has vowed to sell oil regardless of the sanctions. Perhaps he intends to do so on the black market, where customers may be willing to take the risk because of the high quality of Iranian oil, and low prices. In that way Iran may earn some revenue to pay for its continued regional meddling, but whether its rulers can pacify ordinary Iranians, already angry at medicine shortages and daily price increases, is another matter.
The sanctions were originally imposed by Barack Obama’s administration in 2010. They worked. Despite the ayatollahs’ hatred of the US, they came to the negotiating table and signed the 2015 agreement to curb their nuclear program and have the sanctions lifted.
Donald Trump wants to talk about Iran’s behavior in the region, and the sanctions are back until that behavior changes.
From the beginning, however, there have been two issues on the table: Not just the nuclear program, but Iran’s regional behavior too. Obama’s policy was to settle the nuclear issue first, and leave other matters for later. In that, he succeeded. Iran’s nuclear program has been dismantled to the extent that it cannot easily be restarted, however much Iran’s leaders may wish it.
For Obama’s successor, however, this is not enough. Donald Trump wants to talk about Iran’s behavior in the region, and the sanctions are back until that behavior changes. Essentially, Trump wants to complete Obama’s unfinished business.
This will not be an easy task. The region is in chaos, in Syria and elsewhere, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have taken advantage of that chaos to pursue their own regional goals and expand their networks.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has called on Iran to behave like a normal nation, and a normal Iran is what ordinary Iranians pray for every night. However, it is hard to say if the rulers in Tehran are able to withdraw their support for groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon or the Assad regime in Syria. The challenge confronting the ruling clerics in Tehran comes not just from the US, but from the regional mercenaries Iran has funded.
Unfortunately for the regime, while they look for a way to negotiate and settle their bills with all these militias, the country will be ruined — and it is not clear that the Iranian people have the patience for that.
Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and author of Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth (Seven Stories Press, 2008). Twitter: @CameliaFard