Pompeo’s approach to Iran reflects US’s changed worldview

The long list of US demands is virtually a declaration of war.
Sunday 27/05/2018
A demonstrator awaits the arrival of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a hearing of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington,  on May 23. (Reuters)
Back to the wall. A demonstrator awaits the arrival of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at a hearing of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on May 23. (Reuters)

I don’t think anyone believes that Washington expects the Iranian regime to comply with the 12 conditions announced by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a speech explaining his country’s strategy for dealing with the “Iranian case” worldwide.

Pompeo’s revelations constitute a complete reversal of a policy that spanned all US administrations for the past 30 years. The Iranian Islamic Revolution had classified the United States as the “Great Satan,” which, in the eyes of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his successors, makes it a legitimate target for attacks in the spirit of protecting the “weak” from the “arrogance” of the mighty.

The list of Iran-sponsored actions against the United States is quite long. Suffice it to say that the Iranian regime had used its proxies to kidnap US citizens and destroy the US Marines quarters in Beirut. It allowed its “students” to take US diplomats in Tehran hostage. It collaborated with the Iraqi “resistance” to target US soldiers in Iraq and elsewhere in the world.

The long list of US demands is virtually a declaration of war. Similarly, on the Iranian side, open threats against the United States have fused from all sides, especially from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and al-Quds brigade. From an American point of view, there was enough evidence to push for a forceful change of regime in Iran. After all, the Americans have done this sort of thing before and through a variety of ways in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and other places. They could have done it in Iran as well but they didn’t. Why?

From a geostrategic point of view, the United States has bitten the bullet during the past four decades to achieve greater strategic goals. The goal of bringing down the Soviet Union and dismantling its international network required the price of paving the way for Khomeini to replace the vacillating shah. That task of reshaping the post-Cold War world was much more urgent and vital than wrangling with one member of the “axis of evil.”

Add to that the fact that the September 11 attacks naturally rehabilitated Iran as a logical ally in the war against Sunni terrorism, which had struck at the heart of America.

US and Iranian interests have found common ground and targets in the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq and in the war on terror embodied by the fight against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.

This is probably why Washington and Tehran have colluded to simply exchange insults and accusations so that Iran may look like the brave defender of the “weak” and the beacon for “resistance” while the United States remains the leader of the free world and the sworn enemy of evil around the world.

The world has changed, however, and with it changed America’s worldview.  In this new world, the Iranian card has lost its strategic appeal and therefore “protecting” Iran is no longer warranted.

US President Donald Trump and his administration have a view of the world and of America’s role in it that voids Iran’s previous importance to US strategies and plans. The Iranian regime finds itself caught in the crosshairs of the new US president and his secretary of state. All of Iran’s gains outside its borders are threatened by the looming storm from Washington.

Judging by Pompeo’s declarations, the United States does not seem impressed by Iran’s claims that it has become “an empire with Baghdad as its capital” or that it controls four Arab capitals. Even though many of Iran’s enemies have welcomed Pompeo’s proclamations, it remains to be seen whether Washington will translate its new Iranian strategy into a feasible plan.

It is also unclear whether the United States has enough resources to implement new sanctions against Iran and eventually go further in responding to any tricks up the sleeve of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. After all, the IRGC’s generals have clearly announced that the Iranian regime is not afraid of war with the “Great Satan.”

Both Tehran and Washington have wisely managed to cohabitate in Iraq and Syria and avoid confrontation. With recent developments, however, everybody is wondering about America’s reaction when US soldiers start falling victims of terrorist attacks perpetrated by new or old groups that Pompeo described as benefiting from Iranian support.

He has offered a new deal to the entire world and not just Iran. Without US support, the Iran nuclear agreement will die no matter how hard the Europeans try to reshape it. Washington is adamant on isolating Iran and on imposing the harshest sanctions against it.

The door, however, remains open for a new deal with Iran if it is willing to start a new page with itself. In other words, Washington relies on its European allies to bring it a new Iranian state after burying the Iranian revolution.

Whoever wrote Pompeo’s speech must have had access to facts about changes in Iran. These facts were hinted at by the results of elections in Iraq and the intense popular demonstrations in Iranian cities a few months ago. Perhaps the biggest indicators of a reversal of fortune for Iran are the mysterious bombings of Iranian targets in Syria and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s rumoured new Russian password in Syria: “Iran, out, out.”