25 June 2019   Leave a comment

The war of words between Iran and the US reached depths that have rarely been seen in diplomatic history. The Associated Press reports:

“Iran warned Tuesday that new U.S. sanctions targeting its supreme leader and other top officials meant ‘closing the doors of diplomacy’ between Tehran and Washington amid heightened tensions, even as President Hassan Rouhani derided the White House as being ‘afflicted by mental retardation.’

“President Donald Trump called that a ‘very ignorant and insulting statement,’ tweeting that an Iranian attack on any U.S. interest will be met with ‘great and overwhelming force … overwhelming will mean obliteration.’ His secretary of state said the Iranian statement was ‘immature.’”

Winston Churchill once defined diplomacy this way: “Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip.” The current situation between Iran and the US hardly fits with that definition, but the US naively believes that there is a diplomatic course of action. The US National Security Adviser, John Bolton, made this comment: “The president has held the door open to real negotiations to completely and verifiably eliminate Iran’s nuclear weapons program, its pursuit of ballistic missile delivery systems, its support for international terrorism and other malign behavior worldwide,” Bolton said in Jerusalem. “All that Iran needs to do is to walk through that open door.”

I cannot even begin to measure Bolton’s chutzpah. After all, Iran maintained strict adherence to the JCPOA, but the US violated the agreement by pulling out. Why would Iran even think that the US would keep its end of a new agreement, particularly one that would demand that Iran abandon its allies, Hamas and Hezbollah, and unilaterally disarm by ending its missile program even though there has not been any lessening of the threats to Iran by the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel?

Iran’s only strategy is to remind the world–particularly France, Great Britain, Germany, China, and Russia, the other partners to the JCPOA–that a US-Iranian conflict would completely destabilize the global oil market and consequently the global economy. These other states would therefore have to decide whether they think the US reasons for going to war justify that horrific outcome. Given that the JCPOA was preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, it is highly likely that they would decide that going to war with Iran is a far less desirable method for obtaining that objective.

In reality, the US is negotiating from a very weak position, despite its overwhelming military superiority. Its objectives are actually limited, even though Iran would never agree to them. American allies in the region–Israel and Saudi Arabia–, however, have more ambitious objectives–the overthrow of the Iranian regime–which can only be attained with US military power. Whether they can persuade President Trump to do their dirty work remains to be seen. And whether the rest of the world can persuade Trump to back off from the threat of war.

Posted June 25, 2019 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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