We have surpassed a roller coaster month of intense developments over the Iran nuclear deal. Discussions in Washington, and talks between Europe and the United States catapulted us all into a simple conclusion:
A major global policy change was in the making. U.S. President Donald J. Trump followed suit and delivered his landmark speech last Friday.
It was the first time in over 30 years that a U.S. president completely devoted a speech to announcing his policy in regards to Iran. Trump delivered America’s new comprehensive strategy vis-à-vis Iran, following months of anticipation and talks.
The issue at hand is not a discussion about personal differences between George W. Bush, Barack Obama or Donald Trump. Policies have reached a dead end and long term interests have left America no choice but to adopt new policies.
What makes this transition even more important is the fact that an intense war on both sides of the Atlantic has been ongoing over this policy transition. This is not limited to the pro-Iran lobby camp. Major interests are at risk here, covering issues far more important than Washington’s Iran policy.
In this 19-minute speech never did Trump deliver a neutral stance regarding Iran. The entire text was focused on placing his crosshairs on the Iranian regime. He began with the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover in Tehran, continuing with the bombings in Beirut, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Tanzania and Iraq against America and its allies.
The objective was not to deliver new tactics or mere mechanisms on how America will approach Iran. The very foundations of U.S. policy on Iran has undergone major alterations.
One very interesting fact was how Trump focused on using the terms the “Iranian regime” and/or the “Iranian dictatorship”. Even if he preferred not to use the phrase of “Islamic Republic,” Trump had the option of resorting to “Iran.” Yet his decision to rely on the “Iranian regime” can be considered a non-recognition of this regime in its entirety.
President Trump using the terms “dictatorship” and “regime” indicates the ultimate objective of US policy is regime change in Iran, according to Richard Haass, President of the Council of Foreign Relations, as cited by various state websites in Iran.
In the first minute of his speech the U.S. president described Iran as an aggressive, radical and fanatic regime, and he refused to use the term “government.”
Trump’s speech focused on two subjects: the Iran nuclear deal and this regime’s regional belligerence and meddling through the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).
Prior to his remarks, Trump was under fierce pressure from Europe to certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear accord, technically known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). America’s European allies even took one step back in asking Trump that in the case of decertifying the JCPOA, at least call on Congress not to re-impose pre-JCPOA sanctions on Iran.
Trump, however, stood against all pressures and his specific orders sent a message to the U.S. Congress and Europe: either fix the JCPOA or else the entire pact will come to an end.
The Europeans, seeking to maintain the JCPOA intact at all costs, found themselves before a fork in the road. The price of safeguarding the JCPOA is to place pressure on Tehran to resolve the existing loopholes.
This will be completely against Tehran’s interests, targeting the “sunset” clauses, Iran’s ballistic missile program and access to military sites for rigorous inspections.
“The notion that [Iran’s] entry into the JCPOA would curtail Iranian adventurism, the terror threat, or their malignant behavior has proven to be fundamentally false,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said at a recent session held by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Another very important aspect of Trump’s speech is recognizing Tehran as a threat, and in other words, America’s enemy number one. This, again, marks a strategic shift and not a mere tactical alteration.
“Over the last decade and a half, United States policy has also consistently prioritized the immediate threat of Sunni extremist organizations over the longer-term threat of Iranian-backed militancy,” a White House press release read prior to Trump’s speech.
This is the epicenter of America’s strategic shift regarding Iran and the Middle East. Following the 9/11 attacks, the flawed U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 played into Iran’s hands. These developments provided the necessary grounds for Tehran to spread its influence in the shadows of Sunni extremists and fundamentalists.
To add insult to injury, the Obama years gave birth to a policy hinging on recognizing a role for Tehran in regional developments. This period witnessed America distancing from its Sunni allies.
“The Trump Administration will not repeat these mistakes,” the press release adds. Once again the Iranian regime has become the main enemy in the region, as we have witnessed in the developments of the past few months following the historic Riyadh conference back in April.
The IRGC also became another major target of Trump’s harsh and unprecedented remarks targeting the Iranian regime’s top authority.
“The Revolutionary Guard is the Iranian Supreme Leader’s corrupt personal terror force and militia… I am authorizing the Treasury Department to further sanction the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support for terrorism and to apply sanctions to its officials, agents, and affiliates,” he said.
The U.S. Treasury Department followed suit and blacklisted the IRGC as a terrorist entity.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei responded Wednesday to Trump’s remarks by merely saying Tehran would not walk out of the JCPOA, indicating his regime’s desperate dependence to the pact’s reliefs.
This makes it even more interesting how Germany’s Der Tagesspiegel recently wrote, “Iran has [according to German security sources] clearly not given up its long-term goal to become an nuclear power that can mount nuclear weapons on rockets.”
Equally important is how Trump in his remarks specifically separated the Iranian people from the ruling regime, and made his intention crystal clear.
“Iran is under the control of a fanatical regime that seized power in 1979 and forced a proud people to submit to its extremist rule… In this effort, we stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims: its own people,” he specified.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in an interview with CNN on Sunday raised the stakes further for Tehran.
“… the hope that one day the Iranian people will retake the government of Iran,” he said.
Of course, we can argue that Trump’s speech fell short of shedding important light on Iran’s flagrant human rights violations and the Iranian people’s demand for change.
While this is worthy of a lengthy debate, what is important now is that a major revolution in U.S. policy in the face of the Iranian regime spells disaster for Tehran’s rulers, and opportunity for the Iranian people.