New York—US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the deal with Iran creates, unnecessarily, a new source of tension in a region besieged by conflicts. Given the level of legal troubles that President Trump is facing now, his decision could be based, to some extent, on creating the conditions to fog his personal drama.
President Trump’s move was heartily supported by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but opposed by all governments that are part of the deal. In March 2015, in front of both houses of the US Congress, Netanyahu said, “we’ve been told that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well, this is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it.”
For the last several decades, relations between the US and Iran, and between Iran and the West, have been shrouded in misconceptions and prejudices. They have done nothing to achieve a peaceful relationship with that country, and only led to a permanent state of distrust that can lead to war at any moment.
Conflicting relations with Iran can be traced to a large extent to 19 August 1953, when both the United Kingdom and the US orchestrated a coup that overthrew Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh. The reason: Mossadegh was trying to audit the books of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (AIOC), a British corporation, to change the terms of that company’s access to Iranian oil.
Following the refusal of the AIOC to cooperate with the Iranian government, the Iranian parliament voted almost unanimously to nationalise the AIOC and expel its representatives from Iran. The anti-government coup that ensued led to the formation of a military government under General Fazlollah Zahedi, which allowed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to return and rule the country as an absolute and ruthless monarch.
Sixty years after the coup, the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) finally admitted that it had been involved in both the planning and execution of the coup that caused mostly civilian casualties. That coup, and the American behaviour towards Arab governments throughout the region, are behind the anti-American sentiment not only in Iran, but throughout the Middle East.
I wonder how we, in the United States, would have reacted if China and Russia, for example, would have plotted to overthrow a democratic American government, leaving a chaotic situation in its wake. In addition, while Iran has not invaded another country in centuries, both the US and Israel, Iran’s enemies, have led brutal wars against other countries and peoples.
US interference in Iranian affairs did not end there. In September 1980, Saddam Hussein started a war against Iran that had devastating consequences for both countries. The war was characterised by Iraq’s indiscriminate ballistic missile attacks and extensive use of chemical weapons.
The war resulted in at least half a million, and probably twice as many, troops killed on both sides, while at least half a million men became permanently disabled. The US actively supported Saddam Hussein in his war efforts with billions of dollars in credits, advanced technology, weaponry, military intelligence, and special operations training.
Given this background, however, rather than following a policy of appeasement, President Trump nixed the nuclear agreement with Iran that goes contrary to the US’s own long-term political and economic interests in the region. And they have a faithful ally in Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Not all Israeli military and intelligence officials share Netanyahu’s negative view on the nuclear deal. Gadi Eisenkot, the current Israel Defence Forces (IDF) chief of staff, said in an interview to mark Israel’s 70th anniversary, “right now, the agreement, with all its faults, is working and is putting off realisation of the Iran nuclear vision by 10 to 15 years. With the deal in place, the window of strategic opportunity is still open in our favour.”
A similar opinion was stated by Amos Gilad, former research chief at Israel’s Directorate of Military Intelligence and former director of the policy and military affairs division at the Defence Ministry. He went as far as to say that the US withdrawal from the 2015 agreement would probably benefit Iran more than Israel, adding, “if the Americans abandon the agreement, they have to prepare for alternatives, and I don’t see this being done.”
Re-imposition of sanctions will certainly affect Iran’s capacity to conduct economic deals with other countries and as a result worsen that country’s already serious economic situation. But it would also raise tensions in the Middle East, deepen the conflict between Israel and Iran, and even affect a possible agreement with North Korea, which may consider the US to be unreliable and unable to keep its word.
Cesar Chelala has written extensively on Middle East issues. He is the foreign correspondent for The Middle East Times International (Australia). He is a winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award and a national journalism award from Argentina. He has written extensively on Iranian issues.