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Sunday, October 01, 2017, 13:21 (GMT+7)
New moves in the US-Iran relations

Alleging that Iran supported terrorism and continued to test and develop ballistic missiles, posing a threat to regional and global security, recently, the U.S. has accelerated economic sanctions and military deterrence against Iran. This has been a new move of the US government since President Donald Trump took office, making the U.S.-Iran relations more intense.

1. Thorny history of the US-Iran relations

It is believed that among international relations, the US-Iran relations have had the most long-lasting hostility. After the end of the World War II, to become the world hegemony, the U.S. and the West considered the control of the Middle East - the world’s centre of petroleum - as a focus, with Iran as an important link in the chain and a key player in this principally strategic area. In 1953, the U.S and a number of Western countries backed a military coup overthrowing the Iranian Government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, who was in the vanguard of the movement of petroleum nationalization), to establish a Western-backed government led by Mohammad Reza Shah - a dictator. However, in January 1979, the Iranian revolution broke out and dethroned the dictatorial administration, establishing a new political institution led by religious leader Ayatollah Khomeini. In revenge for that, the U.S and Western countries both severed diplomatic links with Iran and imposed sanctions against this country. Those moves of the U.S. were strongly condemned by the international community, thereby inciting and intensifying hatred and hostility against the U.S among the people of Iran and within the Islamic community around the world.

In 1992, under the administration of President Bill Clinton, alleging that Iran developed nuclear weapons to threaten regional and global security, the U.S. forced the United Nations to release a resolution on imposing trade and petroleum sanctions against Tehran. Simultaneously, the US Department of Defence speeded up military deterrence against this country. Thus, during the two terms of US President Bill Clinton in office, the US-Iran relations had always been in the “freezing” state. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, US President George Walker Bush put Iran in the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and threatened this country with “preemptive attacks”, thereby pushing the two countries’ relations into dangerous confrontation. Nevertheless, getting bugged down in the two wars of Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S could not fulfil its anti-terrorist strategy of “preemptive strike” against Iran. Taking office, US President Barack Obama  adopted the “smart power” foreign policy with more “flexible” approaches to Iran in order to control this Islamic country. Alongside accelerated deterrent and preventive measures, Obama’s Administration focused on negotiations to deal with Tehran’s nuclear program. After devoted diplomatic efforts, on July 14th 2015, the P5+1 nations and Iran reached a comprehensive agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program. Afterwards the U.S. and many of Western countries lifted sanctions against Iran, opening up an opportunity for this country to integrate into the world and for other countries to invest in Iran which is rich in energy and natural gas. Experts believe that it is a historic deal which has closed one of the thorniest nuclear profile in the modern international relations and created prospects for improving the US-Iran relations. However, no sooner did the US-Iran relations “flourish” than President Donald Trump’s Administration made changes in its positions on and approaches to Iran. That has “kindled” a new confrontation between the two sides. 

Iran and P5+1 nations signing the historic nuclear deal in July 2015
(photo: Reuters)

Donald Trump Administration’s policy of containment and prevention towards Iran

After taking office, President Donald Trump publicly criticized the nuclear deal with Iran, signed by his predecessor and other countries. He repeatedly called it the “worst deal ever” and stated that one of his priorities was to abolish this deal. At the same time, Trump’s Administration alleged that “Iran continues to provoke destabilizing activities”, such as supporting the Syrian Government of President Bashar al-Assad and the Hezbollah forces identified as a terrorist group by the U.S. and more importantly that “it continues to test ballistic missiles, violating the UN Security Council resolution. The White House claimed that “Iran is one of most dangerous threats”, and regarded containment and prevention of this threat as an “urgent” diplomatic task. Accordingly, Iran would be imposed severe regulations on the US foreign aid and prohibition of business and export regarding defence field as well as financial sanctions. The new Immigration Law signed by President Donald Trump put Iranian citizens at the top of the list of Muslim countries banned for immigration into the US. Leaders of Iran vehemently opposed the US new Immigration Law, adding that it included unacceptable political motives. In late March 2017, the US Department of the Treasury imposed supplemented sanctions on dozens of Iran’s companies and officials and 30 foreign companies related to this country’s missile program. The US Department of Defence also deployed a large and powerful fleet of warships to Strait of Hormuz, including the aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush, thereby making the situation in the region of this strait more “intense”. Under the pretext of Iran’s ballistic missile test threatening regional and global security, the US Senate and House passed the Bill to extend sanctions against Tehran, causing opposite reactions within the U.S. and the international community. Several US Senators thought that the Bill was a “needed strong message at present” to make “Tehran aware of the price they have to pay for hostile actions against the US”. Meanwhile, many other officials of the US believed that Trump Administration’s Bill to extend sanctions against Iran was “new wine in old bottle” indeed like sanction policy advocated by other previous US presidents which only made the situation in the Middle East more complicated. They also expressed concern that if the Bill is enforced, it will bring the Agreement on Iran’s nuclear program to the verge of collapse, which would be a “disaster” to the US and the world. Moreover, the US Bill to extend sanctions against Iran was strongly criticized by European allied countries. According to Reuters, British and French Departments of Foreign Affairs announced that the US sanctions against Iran was not in accordance with international law. Many European countries saw the Bill as a bullying action of the US in its relations with the others, which was not beneficial to security and stability of the region and the world. Meanwhile, Iran reaffirmed that its missile tests only aimed at self-defence and did not violate international law. It also stressed that the US Bill to extend sanctions against Iran served as a groundless action and a clear intervention into the other’s internal affairs, adding that it will resolutely protect national independence and sovereignty and readily respond to the US supplemented sanctions.

Bottleneck of the US-Iran relations

According to experts’ comprehensive analysis of the U.S.-Iran relations, in nearly past 40 years, the US has always held that Iran is a dangerous Islamic country potentially causing disadvantages to the US intentions in the Middle East. Therefore, Washington has adopted a hostile, deterrent and preventive policy towards Iran in all fields, such as economic, political, military, diplomatic ones, in combination with “hard” and “soft” measures. Economically, the US has focused on sanctions against Tehran in its key fields of finance, commerce, petroleum export, heavily damaging its economy. Politically, the White House has put pressure on Iran in terms of democracy and human rights to encourage a colour revolution to overthrow Tehran’s government. As for security field, the U.S. has separated Iran from Arab countries, even incited the hatred between Iran and Israel, while regularly maintaining an elite combat force to deter and prevent Iran and control the region. Under siege of the US, to protect national security and benefits, Iran has had to step up modernization of its armed forces and enhance national defensive strength. Experts have showed that in the Middle East, Iran’s military strength in general is weaker than many other countries, particularly Israel - an ally of the US. Thus, it is not objective and convincing to say that Iran pursues the ambition of regional hegemony and threatens the US interests in the Middle East. Moreover, Iran has publicly revealed its goal of civilian nuclear program and invited experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency to supervise its program. Tehran has also expressed goodwill towards the normalization of its relations with the US and recently agreed to sign the Agreement on its nuclear program with the P5+1 nations, which has been seen as a positive step for global and regional stability. Statements and extension of sanctions of Trump’s Administration against Iran indeed aim to achieve the US goal of world hegemony and force Tehran to submit to the US completely, which is hardly accepted by leaders of Iran. This is the “bottleneck” hard to resolve in the US-Iran relations.

Statements and responses of both the U.S. and Iran have complicated the situation in the Middle East. There has appeared a warning that the hostile, preventive policy of the US towards Iran will not help resolve the issue, even “worsening” the situation. It is believed that relevant parties should be fully aware of the development trend of the times as well as the people’s legitimate aspirations to live in peace, altogether speeding up the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, settling all differences between Washington and Tehran, and moving forward to the normalization of relations. That is the only solution beneficial to all parties and peace and stability of the Middle East and the world.

Duc Minh

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