US determined to placate Iran despite its many provocations
There is talk today about the possibility of the US removing Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from its list of designated foreign terrorist organizations, which would be an important victory for Tehran despite its previous ability to circumvent the restrictions on the IRGC with great flexibility.
Strangely, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stressed that Iran — meaning the IRGC — was behind the attacks launched by the Houthi militia on Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which targeted oil installations, power and water stations, and civilian residential areas alike. So will he still reward Tehran by removing the IRGC’s terrorist designation, just as this administration did before with the Houthi gang in Yemen, or will he keep it intact?
The US last year removed the Houthis from its terror list despite the fact the militia had turned against the people and government of Yemen and eroded the identity of the state. It has also carried out terrible crimes inside Yemen, from recruiting children to stealing aid and systematic assassinations, while rejecting all attempts at mediation. It has humiliated the people to the point of depriving them of health treatment and educational services. The terrorist Houthis have also allied themselves with Al-Qaeda via a deal to release the latter’s leaders who were detained in Yemeni prisons. This confirms that what links terrorist organizations is not doctrinal thought, as they delude people into thinking, but rather the intersections of their interests.
We know that the Houthi leader does not make his own decisions and that he is acting according to an Iranian agenda that dictated the recent attacks, despite them reinforcing the justifications for the group’s redesignation by the US.
Iran is gambling with its allies, such as the Houthis, and with its military components, such as the IRGC, because it sees this as an acceptable risk to take in return for the political and moral investment it achieves in causing a dispute between Washington and its traditional allies. The Iranians are now observing the tense course of Saudi-US relations and are trying to exploit this and even aggravate the relationship further to achieve the goals of their sabotage project. Tehran wants to try and exploit the US administration’s rush to achieve a nuclear agreement at any cost.
Therefore, through the Houthi escalation against Saudi facilities, the Iranians are trying to invest in deepening the Riyadh-Washington tension and show the Americans to be an unreliable ally. They are also telling the Americans that it is necessary to lift its sanctions against the IRGC. In the event that the Revolutionary Guards are removed from the terrorist list, Iran will have achieved an imaginary victory at home.
Iran continues to say that America does not stand with its allies, that it will not offer a response to those who attack them, and that it establishes a sharp separation between its interests with its allies and its interests with its opponents.
The Iranians are now observing the tense course of Saudi-US relations and are trying to exploit this.
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri
Every time Iran shows aggression in the region and does not receive a real response from Washington, it takes another step forward on the path toward undermining America’s credibility. It overrules the foundations of the relationship between Washington and its allies, raising the level of popular and political anxiety.
One serious punishment — just one of the many that have been hastily applied against Russia — would have sufficed had it been applied against Iran and the Houthis. It would have deterred them, but Western countries chose not to do so. Rather, America removed the Houthis’ terrorist classification and plans to do the same for the IRGC. These are not the policies or behaviors of allies.
Saudi Arabia last month stated that it will not bear any responsibility for any shortage in oil supplies to global markets as a result of Houthi attacks on its oil facilities. This is a very important statement because it rearranges international responsibilities and bears a clear message to the world that the Iranian strategy in Yemen will be paid for by the international community as a whole. It is not a marginal problem that can be bypassed and its harm will be directed to ordinary citizens everywhere, particularly those in Europe and America.
At the historic moment of transformation that the world is experiencing today, Iran has chosen to ignite the region, mobilize the Houthi militia and strike energy markets and supplies. This is being directly reflected in the price of oil.
While America today chooses to stay away from its allies and free the hand of terrorism, what worries us the most is America’s indulgence of the IRGC, its terrorism and its defiance of the US and its sovereignty. The Washington Examiner last month revealed a plot backed by the IRGC to assassinate former US National Security Adviser John Bolton. The newspaper said that at least two Iranians affiliated with the IRGC’s Quds Force planned to carry out the operation, according to a Justice Ministry official. It also reported that Biden administration officials had refused to make public accusations against the suspects out of fear it would hinder efforts to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran.
The Trump administration’s special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, also previously announced that the Quds Force had killed more than 600 American soldiers in Iraq.
On top of this, the Twitter account of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in January posted a video clip simulating the assassination of former US President Donald Trump, who gave the order to assassinate Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani in 2020. Officials in Iran have repeatedly vowed to avenge Soleimani’s killers.
After all this information and terrorism directed against US interests, we still see from the Biden administration a strange insistence on removing the IRGC from the list of foreign terrorist organizations and reaching a weak nuclear agreement that will merely enable Tehran to carry out more terrorist attacks and send more money to its militias.
• Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri is a political analyst and international relations scholar.