Mideast risks escalation as Iran ponders response to US

Al-Monitor | : Out of the 12 conditions set by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to reach a new agreement with Iran, eight were tied to Tehran’s regional influence and its support for non-state actors in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Palestine. To the United States, Iran’s regional policies are becoming an unbearable threat to its interests and also that of its allies. To the region, Tehran is becoming a new Washington: a regional superpower involved in multiple theaters across West Asia.

As for Iran, the region is its fence when it comes to direct threats to its stability and independence. Therefore, the gap between US and Iranian demands is becoming larger — and hence, the possibility of reaching a consensus is diminishing and the potential for a future direct or indirect confrontation is getting stronger.

To Iran, the United States is using the nuclear deal as ransom to achieve what it and its allies failed to achieve in the region. In the words of an Iranian military source in Syria who spoke with Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Syria is the main issue here. After they failed [to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad] despite investing billions of dollars, they want to take revenge [on] Iran by undermining the nuclear deal.” The military source explained that Iran’s role in Syria isn’t negotiable, “It’s up to the Syrians to decide; they invited Iran, not the US and not any of its allies,” he said, stating that the “number of Iranian advisers in Syria is limited. They [the US] aren’t after the number [of Iranian advisers], but the confidence people have in the Iranians, Iran’s influence and its leverage over other players in the Syrian war.”

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