Iran is running out of allies in the Middle East. Trump is determined to use this advantage to end Iran-sponsored terrorism and curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Will it work?
“We each come from different nations and cultures. Our people speak different languages. They hold fast to different faiths, from the Abrahamic tradition and beyond. But all of us are united in our mission to forge a brighter future of security and prosperity in the Middle East.” — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, at the Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East. February 13, 2019.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, on a State Department visit to Switzerland this weekend, made it clear that the Trump Administration is not backing down on Iran and its destabilizing influence on the Middle East.
After a long three years of consolidating support from other nations in the region, the U.S. is strategically well-placed to take on Iran as never before. Trump administration officials seem determined to use this momentum from the international consensus to push Iran for concessions to its nuclear programs.
And an end to its state-sponsored terrorism.
Back in July of 2018, Trump himself suggested his willingness to sit down with Iranian leadership for talks “without preconditions”, an offer Tehran is yet to accept. Switzerland has indicated willingness to mediate the talks. However, both Iran and the U.S. must request that they do so, which has not happened yet according to Swiss officials.
Pompeo repeated the offer for talks with Iran “without preconditions” on Sunday, though he made it clear the U.S. had no intention of backing down from its demands that Iran halt its nuclear program and stop funding terrorist attacks.
“We’re prepared to engage in a conversation with no preconditions. We’re ready to sit down with them, but the American effort to fundamentally reverse the malign activity of this Islamic Republic, this revolutionary force, is going to continue.” — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Over the past year, the U.S. has taken numerous steps to counter Iran. One of those steps was repeatedly ramping up sanctions on Iran. The increasingly crippling sanctions, and Trump’s move last year to classify Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization, has drawn threats and condemnation from Iranian authorities.
Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, wants the U.S. to honor the 2015 nuclear deal entered into by the Obama Administration. Considering it was the only accomplishment of his tenure in office, and its terms were very friendly to Iran, this isn’t much of a surprise.
Not that there is much hope of that happening. The Trump Administration, and U.S. allies in the Middle East like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, were never happy with the terms of the agreement, nor Iran’s adherence to it.
Instead, the Trump Administration has been teasing a Mideast peace plan spearheaded by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. The plan is due to be released sometime this month.
Promises of a peace plan have been met with the usual resistance from regional powers in Iran and Palestine, who see no hope in a Trump plan that is almost certainly going to contain concessions to Israel.
However, the Iranian government, and Hezbollah, which is largely in charge of the Palestinian government, aren’t likely to find many friends among their neighbors. Other Middle Eastern nations, the most frequent target of extremist Islamist attacks, are tired of dealing with the fundamentalist government in Iran.
They have even softened on Israel.
“An Israeli prime minister and the foreign ministers of the leading Arab countries stood together and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against the common threat of the Iranian regime.” Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, February 2019
Middle Eastern nations insist that Iran used the billions of dollars they received in 2015 deal with U.S. President Barack Obama to fund more terrorism. Nor has Iran curbed its nuclear ambitions, as they promised to do in the agreement.
Iran may also be concerned at breaking news that Russia has withdrawn its support for embattled Venezuelan dictator, Nicolaus Maduro. President Hassan Rouhani may be rightly concerned that Russia may prove as unwilling to buck the international community in supporting the Iranian regime.
“The Iranian regime is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world. They have bombed American embassies, murdered hundreds of American troops, and even to this day, they hold hostage citizens of the United States and other Western nations.”
“Iran has brazenly defied United Nations sanctions, violated resolutions, and plotted terrorist attacks on European soil.”
“Forty years ago this month, the mullahs seized control of that country [Iran]. And every year since, they’ve supported terrorist proxies and militias — Hezbollah and Hamas; exported missiles; fueled conflicts in Syria and Yemen and beyond.” — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence
The extremist regime in Iran has wrecked the most havoc on the Iranian citizens themselves. Before the Iranian Revolution of 1979, women could vote, abstain from wearing the hijab, even hold office.
Today, women can’t even talk about sex in Iran, not even to their husbands.
Iran engages in state-sanctioned religious discrimination. Iranian law denies freedom of religion to Baha’is and minority Muslims.
“The authoritarian regime in Tehran represses the freedom of speech and assembly, it persecutes religious minorities, brutalizes women, executes gay people, and openly advocates the destruction of the State of Israel.” — U.S. Vice President Mike Pence
Being LGTBQ in Iran was made a capital offense after the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
Under Iranian law, same-sex conduct is punishable by flogging and can carry the death penalty. Amnesty International estimates that more than 5,000 people have been executed under Iran’s same-sex conduct laws since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Other things carry a death sentence in Iran, too. Iranian law considers acts such as blasphemy (insulting the prophet), apostasy (converting from Islam), adultery, and even certain non-violent drug-related offenses as crimes punishable by death.
As support for the Iranian regime dwindles, how will President Rouhani react to Trump’s peace plan?
He may want to seriously consider it. Rouhani may soon find himself running out of options as well as running out of friends.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)