(May 19, 2019 / Israel Hayom) The recent escalation between the United States and Iran coincided with the anniversary of the U.S. decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic.
Iran, it appears, is trying to create a crisis in reaction to its worsening economy and unsuccessful efforts to overcome U.S. sanctions.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton recently revealed that the administration was sending an aircraft carrier to the region, as well as strategic bombers, because of “troubling and escalatory indications” suggesting Iran was planning to attack U.S. interests or allies in the region.
Hours after Bolton made that statement, the Iranian media reported that the regime would announce its pullout from the nuclear deal. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani did exactly that several days later in a televised speech to the nation.
In his speech, he warned that the Islamic Republic would resume high-level enrichment of uranium unless its European trade partners found a way to bypass the American sanctions.
This latest behavior underscores the changing Iranian strategy for coping with the debilitating sanctions, which have dealt a crushing blow to Iran’s economy.
According to the International Monetary Fund, Iran’s economy will likely contract by six percent in 2019, compared with four percent in 2018. Inflation is set to climb to 40 percent.
These figures do not take into account the economic impact of the Trump administration’s decision not to renew the waivers it previously gave eight nations so that they could continue buying oil from Iran.
Meanwhile, the Iranian currency is nose-diving against the dollar, exacerbating public discontent in Iran.
Iran plans to use pro-Iranian allies to do its bidding by staging provocations that would complement its combative rhetoric.
This new approach was already on display last week, when oil tankers, including two Saudi vessels, were sabotaged near the Strait of Hormuz.
Another example was the drone attack on Saudi oil installations near the capital of Riyadh. The attack was claimed to be carried out by the Houthis, a militia rebel group in Yemen backed by Iran.
According to reports in the U.S. media, the administration believes that Iran was responsible for sabotaging the tankers. After all, the incident took place not long after Bolton’s announcement about “troubling intelligence” showing that pro-Iranian groups were planning to attack American troops in the region. One of those indications was the transfer of Iranian missiles through the area.
Bolton’s announcement may have helped deter Iran from targeting the United States, but it did not stop it from engaging in other forms of aggression.
Iran has blamed U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the recent escalation and has cast Bolton as a warmonger. Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif repeatedly refers to Bolton, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed as the “B Team” because they are supposedly trying to make Trump go to war with Iran.
But despite the rising tensions, American and Iranian officials have made it clear that neither side wants war. Trump even said he would like Iranian leaders to call him so that they could make a deal.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei responded by saying that he would not renegotiate the 2015 agreement. However, Khamenei might ultimately buckle if the sanctions continue. It all boils down to the economy.
This article first appeared on Israel Hayom.