Relationships between the Western world and the Middle East since the end of the Cold War have been rather problematic for lack of a better term. Whether it be the rise of terrorist groups, the invading of sovereign states, or funding conflict, it is safe to say that the situations surrounding the various countries involved will not get better any time soon. On May 9, the United States had showcased a new military plan for the Middle East, which featured the implementation of up to 120,000 troops in the region to counter Iran according to the New York Times. President Trump has dismissed this notion by referring to the report as ‘fake news’.
But what exactly are the United States countering in the first place?
According to a tweet from CBS Evening News,
There was no context given. There was no citation offered outside of the “initial assessment of the U.S. team sent to investigate”. There was no evidence. A lot of what is presently being said about Iran by media outlets, including the tweet mentioned above, seems somewhat similar to the Gulf of Tonkin incident that allowed for further United States involvement in Vietnam during the Cold War. As much as the term ‘fake news’ is overused today, the term is very much relevant, especially when discussing the state-driven bias of Western corporate media. The falsification and exaggeration of information by the United States during the Vietnam War was to develop an ever-expanding foreign policy that ensured their control over natural resources and regional politics.
The 2015 nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) oversaw new developments for the potential return of more positive relations between the United States and Iran. Many governments had a positive reaction to the agreement, including but not limited to the United States under the Obama Administration and the Russian Federation.
In May 2018 however, President Trump reversed much of the progress previously made with Iran by taking three drastic actions:
- Departing the JCPOA and splitting with most other global powers;
- Imposing the “the highest level of economic sanctions” on the country;
- Presenting sanctions to any enterprise that continues to do business with Iran.
These measures pursued by the United States make little sense given the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found that Iran was fully compliant with the deal in April of this year. These three developments have provided cause for retaliation from the Iranian government, which in turn has created a spiral effect on the relationship between the two countries. More recently, the United States used the threat of Iranian-backed terrorist groups to increase military involvement in Iraq and Syria, claiming the notion of a “credible threat” in the Levant. However, this is very much not the case as British Major General Christopher Ghika highlighted the lack of Iranian involvement in the region in regards to terrorism or a military threat, directly contradicting the United States. Therefore, the practical approach would be for the United States to remove the increased military presence from the two countries. In reality, this will not occur due to the influence that the United States has in the region and as a global superpower.
So why is the Trump Administration pursuing such an interventionist policy in regards to Iran? The partial answer lies between the advisers to President Trump. John Bolton, the National Security Adviser, has had his fair share of pro-war sentiments over the years, dating back to the horrific Iraq War and beyond. He has repeatedly argued for regime change in Iran and has also expressed the notion of utilizing “unrelenting force” if Iran were to launch any attack. The other individual closest to President Trump is the United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. On May 14, Pompeo met with the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, and exclaimed his lack of desire for a state of war with Iran. However, he also stated that if the interests of the United States were to be attacked, then retaliation would ensue.
Neither Bolton nor Pompeo have had the cleanest track record in regards to foreign policy and the dealing with tensions and threats of war. Pompeo has expressed consistent support for the Saudi war in Yemen, a war that has left over 360,000 children under 5 suffering from acute malnutrition. Before heading to Russia to speak with Lavrov, Pompeo stopped for an unplanned visit in Brussels, Belgium in an attempt to convince the European Union member states to take a harsher stance in regards to Iran, despite not making much progress.
A geographical outlook on the situation that Iran is currently in is also imperative in the analysis of the present complications surrounding the two countries. The United States effectively has Iran encircled within its borders with military bases surrounding the country. This is especially problematic because it forces the leadership of Iran to prepare for war and to have a war-like mentality, even if there isn’t one in the first place. The double standard when discussing Iran is very much present, especially in regards to military geographic positioning. If the roles were reversed and the Iranian military was stationed in Canada and Mexico, particularly near the borders with the United States, there would be absolute outrage. In 2018, the Israeli Defence Minister, Avigdor Liberman, expressed strong disdain towards the idea of an Iranian military base in Syria. This, in particular, outlines the double standard narrative since the United States has military bases in Turkey, Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and more, all of whom are especially close to Iran.
The relationship between Iran and the United States remains very tense and unstable, mostly due to the involvement of state intelligence as well as the influence of the mass media. Iran does not pose a significant national security threat to the United States, contrary to popular belief. Rather, they are retaliating against a complex and hostile foreign policy pushed by the Trump Administration. It is very uncertain as to what will occur in the future in regards to developments surrounding the relationship(s) between the two states, but it is safe to say that a peaceful and cordial outcome is far away from the present and there is much that needs to be done.