(July 26, 2019 / JNS) Since pulling America out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal last May, U.S. President Donald Trump has embarked on a campaign of maximum pressure on Iran, largely through sanctions aimed at crippling the Islamic Republic’s economy in a bid to get the country to end its pursuit of nuclear weapons and aggressive military behavior.
With inflation reaching record highs, the economy contracting and Iranians feeling the squeeze, it is no surprise that Iran has begun to lash at the United States—and now the United Kingdom and Europe.
“The Iranian regime feels increasingly pushed into a corner, like being checkmated,” Harold Rhode, a former adviser on Islamic affairs in the U.S. Department of Defense and now a distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute think tank, told JNS.
He believes that the maximum pressure campaign by Trump, coupled with his unpredictability as to whether or not he will launch military strikes at the Islamic Republic, has frustrated Tehran.
“President Trump seems to be intentionally confusing the Iranians because he reacts in ways unlike previous American presidents,” stated Rhode. “Iran keeps goading [America] in the Gulf. They said they helped a ship in distress in the Strait of Hormuz and brought it to shore ‘to rescue’ the crew. This was a lie, but the U.S. didn’t strongly react.”
“From the Iranian perspective, the U.S. demonstrated weakness by not more forcefully responding,” he assessed. Of course, Iran cannot read Trump and his international policies, which has proven time and again to run contrary to past governments, so Tehran needs to remain at guard, lest Trump decides to take serious action.
Former Pentagon official Michael Rubin and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute thinks differently, telling JNS, “Frankly, it is Britain and not the U.S. that needs to respond forcefully.”
Boris Johnson, who just took over as prime minister of the United Kingdom, has called on Iran to stop its “madness.” Yet questions remain over whether or not Johnson will continue to stay in the Iran nuclear agreement or join Trump in sanctioning the country.
Rubin believes that it’s time for not only European allies to step up to Iran, but the global community as well.
“Let’s stop making excuses for Iranian behavior,” he said. “Every diplomat, every analyst, every member of the media needs to repeat to themselves: ‘It is not acceptable to seize hostages, hijack ships or conduct terrorism.’ ”
“Trump is right to see the forest through the trees and take a no-nonsense, no-excuse approach to Iran’s rogue behavior,” he said.
U.S. Central Command Chief Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said earlier this month that the United States has been consulting with other nations in the region as to how to ensure freedom of passage in the Gulf. Even so, in the meantime, Iran has upped the ante and continued its aggressive behavior.
Additionally, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that American and European allies will need to form a “collective defense” against shipping threats posed by Iran, so that incidents like Iran seizing oil tankers in Persian Gulf, as it has in the past week, can end.