The reversed stature of Iran and the US

Iranian Diplomacy | Niloofar Ghadiri: It is no exaggeration to say that the international status of Iran and the US, whose uneasy relations have been a major factor impacting the political landscape of West Asia for decades, has reversed dramatically in a matter of days.

On the one hand, US President Donald Trump has dealt a heavy blow to the American reputation with his pugnacious address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday that included a scathing verbal attack on Iran.

On the other, Iran appears more than ever as a rational player and its coherent foreign policy has put the US on the defensive. It is apparent that US power and influence under Trump is diminishing while Iran’s role and position is gradually improving. In short, Iran is speaking with logic and reason and the world is listening.

In his maiden UNGA speech, Trump tried to vilify the Iranian government and urged the world to unite to stop what he described as an “economically depleted rogue state”.

Trump also called the Iran nuclear deal, concluded after two years of painstaking talks by Iran and six major powers, “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions” and an “embarrassment” to the US, raising speculations that he is intent on making good on his election promise to scuttle the multilateral deal.

US Fading Grandeur

The big change we are talking about is visible in back-to-back opinion pieces published by western media scorning the tough US line on Iran, the comments of European officials supporting Tehran’s stance and the US politicians struggling to justify their increasingly antagonistic approach toward Iran.  In recent days, there have been other signs clearly demonstrating that things have changed and time is no longer on the US side.

A few days before the hawkish Trump’s speech, the Chinese lender CITIC Trust granted a $10 billion credit line to five Iranian banks for supporting development projects in Iran on Sept. 14.

Just hours after Trump’s fiery address, last Wednesday, the British investment firm Quercus signed an agreement with Iran’s Energy Ministry to invest over $600 million in a project to build the sixth largest solar power plant globally in central Iran. While Trump was busy meeting his counterparts on the sidelines of UNGA on Thursday, the Austrian Oberbank signed a finance deal worth €1 billion with 14 Iranian banks for the implementation of development and production projects. The host of deals did not end there, as Denmark’s Danske Bank inked a €500 million finance agreement with 10 Iranian banks on Thursday to fund development projects in Iran.

Gaping US-EU Divide

Iran’s new economic deals with Europeans, which came at a time when the US government is leading one of its fiercest onslaughts against Iran in the past four decades, are bringing to the surface a widening chasm between the US and Europe regarding Iran.

To get a better view of this chasm, one needs to remember Trump’s call on his European partners during his first NATO summit in May in Brussels to hold off from signing new business deals with Iran.

The Europe’s response, which was most likely frowned upon in Washington, has led to economic contracts worth billions of dollars in energy, transport and now finance sector, signaling an increasing rift between the US and EU diplomats who are keen to sustain the nuclear deal.

This has frustrated opponents of the nuclear deal in the US, who hoped that the fear of falling foul of vague and complicated US sanctions rules will prompt European firms to steer clear of the Iranian market, effectively limiting the benefits Iran was entitled to under the pact, which could in turn derail the hard-earned nuclear settlement.

Of course, this does not mean that the US will totally fail in its attempts at undermining the deal and complicating Tehran’s drive to revitalize its economy. However, the US is no longer in a position to easily mobilize the world against Iran, as it did under the previous chief executive, Barack Obama. In an awkward situation for the controversial US president, even US senators last Wednesday asked him for evidence to back his claim that Iran is violating the nuclear pact.

Trump’s Iranophobic language will mostly go unheeded, as the international community increasingly recognizes the businessman-turned-politician at the US helm to be untrustworthy.