Iran should cease its provocative behaviour
There was general dismay over Iran’s response to new sanctions imposed by the United States, which targeted 18 individuals and entities linked to Iranian missile development and weapons procurement.
Almost immediately after the sanctions were announced, the Iranian parliament considered authorising extra funding for Tehran’s ballistic missile programme. It also discussed increasing the resources available to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ foreign operations wing, al-Quds Force, which the United States and several Arab countries accuse of implementing Iran’s expansionist designs in the region.
A senior member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, darkly proposed “reciprocal actions (against the United States) with a high cost.” Iran’s Foreign Ministry went further. It threatened sanctions “against American people and entities.”
Taken together, these were not the actions of a country that seeks peaceful coexistence. With the defiant apportioning of more money to al-Quds Force, Tehran is making its intentions plain.
Now, more than at any time in nearly 25 years, Iran is trying to impose its diktat on countries in the region. Using a mix of soft and hard power, Iran is extending its footprint in the service of its sectarian-based strategic interests.
In Iraq, Iran has acquired enormous influence over the use of local militias. Al-Quds Force is enmeshed in Iraq, too. The plans of its leader, Qassem Soleimani, seem to include turning Iraq’s national army into a “doctrinal” army.
Iran’s relentless attempts at transforming Iraq into a client state of sorts are an increasing source of frustration for Iraqis who want to preserve their country’s independence and protect its political system from sectarianism and its companion affliction, corruption.
In Syria, foreign Shia militias of several nationalities, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, have been doing Iran’s bidding with an eye on assuming a permanent presence there after the war.
In Yemen, by backing the Houthi rebels against the internationally recognised government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, Iran has ensured that that war-stricken country continues to bleed.
In a statement denouncing Tehran, the US State, Treasury and Justice departments said Iran was undermining “regional stability, security and prosperity.” Its activities were said to have violated the “spirit” of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and six world powers.
Those were tough words and they were said by a US administration that has signalled a determination to act tough, too.
Tehran would do well to watch its step. It is squandering resources on regional meddling. The new business opportunities that opened after the international nuclear deal should not be added to its war chest.
Iran’s show of defiance may be the wrong way to deal with US President Donald Trump. The US president must certify Tehran’s compliance with the nuclear deal every three months but Trump seems in no mood to do so come the next deadline in October. By then his administration’s review of Iran policy will be complete. Who knows what will emerge?
It is in everyone’s interest, including Iran’s, to heed the portents.