By Dil Bola
By Dil Bola
Rabat- US President Donald Trump tweeted threats to Iranian Prime Minister Hassan Rouhani on Sunday; the latest development in worsening US-Iran relations.
US-Iranian relations over the course of the last century have continuously shifted, but American interference remains prominent within the predominantly Shiite Islam state. Contemporary issues stem from the recent decision enforced by the Trump administration’s withdrawing the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), otherwise known as the Iran Nuclear Deal coupled with the reinstatement of economic sanctions.
Rouhani: ‘Do not play with the lion’s tail’
The leaders of each state have taken to social media in an attempt to tackle the issue as disagreements, threats, and challenges from each side take the internet by storm.
Rouhani initiated the most recent heated debate during his address to diplomats on July 22nd in Tehran. He warned the US that a war with Iran would be “the mother of all wars” while attempts to maintain “peace with Iran is the mother of all peace,” thus implying a peace agreement was not out of the question.
However, the US would have to comply with a potential agreement. His next message to President Trump: “do not play with the lion’s tail, because you will regret it eternally,” clearly exhibits Iran’s position. Iran has decided to put an end to the diplomatic coercion of US leaders, who many have labelled as a bully in the global arena.
Trump: ‘Never, ever threaten the United States’
Trump quickly took to Twitter to respond, threaten, and, ultimately, challenge the Iranian regime the next night.
To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018
Trump’s ferocity, encapsulated in his all-caps tirade, took Twitter and the international community by storm. Rouhani dismissed the outburst as “baseless comments and empty threats.” He added: “We should respond to them with action” rather than responding “to any nonsensical comment.” Rouhani’s statements prompted a response from Iran’s dominant military figure, the general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Sardar Qasem Soleimani of the IRGC was quoted Thursday, July 26, saying: “The Red Sea which was secure is no longer secure with the American presence.” Additionally, he stated the president “should know that [Iran is] a nation of martyrdom and that [they] await him,” implying Iran is prepared for a war that would “destroy all that [the US] possesses.”
A brief history: How did it come to this?
To understand this week’s Twitter battle, it’s necessary to understand the history of US-Iran relations.
With US external interference reaching new heights during the Cold War era, the 1950s saw heavy US involvement within the Iranian government, with assistance from the UK.
To assure Soviet-Iranian relations would not further, the US orchestrated a coup removing democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in favour of Shah Reza Pahlavi. The shah subsequently became the reigning authoritarian monarch and a lackey of the US.
Following the coup, Shah Pahlavi eagerly signed the Iran-United States Agreement for Cooperation Concerning Civil Uses of Atomic Energy in 1957 and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968, thus relinquishing Iran’s ability to develop nuclear-powered weaponry. In return, the US granted mass amounts of foreign aid to Iran, consolidating the alliance.
Rising tensions and conflicting ideals within government and amongst civilians resulted in the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Civilian insurrections ousted the shah and soon after prompted the return of the previously exiled Ruhollah Khomeini. The affair highlights the swift change in Iranian governance as the secular, Westernized state quickly became the first official Shiite state ruled by Sharia law.
The newly-revolutionized Iranian government under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini primarily aimed to reject Western civilization, especially from the US. Diplomatic relations rapidly deteriorated as the Cold War continued and fear of nuclear warfare in the Middle East once again became the US main security concern.
US retaliation came in the form of heavy economic sanctions destroying Iran’s trade ability. Not only did the US impose sanctions, it encouraged others to do the same. By stunting their economic growth, the US crippled Iran’s economy, leaving the country with no choice but to renegotiate terms.
The Iran Nuclear Deal falls apart
The JCPOA, under Barack Obama’s administration, was the conclusion of formal negotiations between Iran and six major powers—the US, the UK, Russia, France, China, and Germany—in 2015.
The agreement aimed to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation by eliminating certain Iranian facilities and scientific practices that could result in Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons. As part of the terms of the agreement, Iran granted the International Atomic Energy Commission (IAEA) the ability to periodically inspect the state, ensuring Iranian compliance.
In May of 2018, the US officially withdrew from the agreement. Other parties to the deal reassured Iran that they would attempt to preserve the deal.
President Donald Trump justified his withdrawal and reinstatement of sanctions by claiming the deal was “defective at its core” and further, insinuating the IAEA inspections failed to notice Iranian nuclear weapons development activity that was still taking place.
Additionally, President Trump claims that if Iran considered relinquishing development of ballistic missile programs, he would be open to re-negotiating terms of the deal. Trump also said that Iranian support for the Assad government in Syria, its intervention in the Yemeni civil war, and the role of Iranian military forces in regional disputes, all informed his decision to exit the agreement.
The Iranian response
When the US exited the deal, the Iranian currency instantly took a dive. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded directly to the US president, stating Trump had “made a mistake.”
Further, after President Hassan Rouhani verified Iranian attempts to salvage the deal through guarantees with remaining European powers rather than re-negotiating with the US, Khamenei stated: “I said from the first day: don’t trust America.”
As Iranians set American flags on fire in front of Tehran’s parliament building, Iranian rockets based in Syria fired off at Israeli military targets.
The US congressional response
The US congressional response remains divided as ever. Indeed, most issues reaching the House provoke divisive reactions.
The general Republican opposition to the Iran deal stems from “genuine distaste for the deal’s details, inherent distrust of President Obama, intense loyalty to Israel and an expansive view of the role that sanctions have played beyond preventing Iran’s nuclear activities,” according to a New York Times analysis of the affair.
Democratic opinions, on the other hand, primarily argue the path of diplomacy is the only option with Iran as renegotiation is unrealistic—in the face of false accusations, Iran will reject US attempts to discuss a settlement.
Looking to the future
In rescinding its commitments on a significant foreign policy agreement, the US has proved to be unreliable. With no foundation of possible replacements for the agreement, President Trump’s juvenile diplomatic behaviour once again comes to the forefront as he repeatedly takes to Twitter to openly threaten leaders of states.
In saying that, rhetoric used within his statements mirrors prior inflammatory exchanges with North Korea, prompting the question: Are these empty threats simply a new form of US strategy in the age of social media? Or is a US-Iranian war the only way the standoff can end after the US renounced the agreement?
In either case, US foreign policy has lost credibility, and Iran has even less incentive to comply with or submit to US demands, which no longer seems to be on the table.
Both leaders should tread carefully over the political minefield they have created in order to avoid a worst-case scenario of a full-scale US-Iranian war which would only further destabilize the Middle Eastern region and polarize the global arena.