Sputnik – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced the creation of the Iran Action Group in order to address all manifestations of the “Iranian threat.” Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Dr. Mohammadbagher Forough, Assistant Professor of International Relations, Leiden University, has shared his views on the Trump administration’s Iran strategy.
Sputnik: What is your take on the recent escalation of tensions between Iran and the US?
Mohammadbagher Forough: Generally, that the American foreign policy under the Trump administration, you could say that this is one of the most consistent policies that you have in this very inconsistent administration. It has flip-flopped on almost every issue except for the Iran issue and maybe one or two other issues. So, it is not surprising they are escalating the situation and last May they decertified a nuclear deal which was a multilateral agreement. It was not an agreement between the US and Iran, but still they withdrew from the agreement and then one round of sanctions in August and then the next round of sanctions will be announced on November 5. So, again, this is one of the most consistent policies of the Trump administration and the announcement of this [Iran] Action Group just solidifies the consistency. So now they are focused on Iran in a more concentrated manner, so to speak.
Sputnik: Can you elaborate a bit more what exactly this Action Group is and what their goals are?
Mohammadbagher Forough: Well, the goal is basically to coordinate all the policy efforts of the Trump administration towards Iran, or rather against Iran because there are sanctions with which the Americans have difficulty getting other countries on board. Under the Obama administration there were sanctions, the toughest rounds of sanctions Iran suffered from in the last four decades and the Europeans plus China, plus Russia at some point got on board so that was the toughest round of sanctions. But in this case, under the Trump administration, the Europeans are not on board, China is not on board and Russia is not on board because the Americans withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, JCPOA [the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action]. General aim of this Action Group is basically to concentrate all American efforts in one group — to apply sanctions, negotiate with allies and, possibly, and this is a very remote possibility, with China and Russia.
Internationally, the US does not have a lot of cooperation. The Europeans are not cooperating, Russia and China are definitely not cooperating. Internationally, the chances for the Americans to succeed in regime change are not that solid, but then there is issue of domestic issues within Iran. So there have been a lot of conversations, discussions and heated debate in Iran between various factions about corruption, electricity outages in Iran especially during the heat of the summer. There has been a water shortage in various parts of the country, again especially intensified by the summer heat. So, the environmental factor plays a major role, corruption plays a major role. It has become a public conversation that is no longer, like behind-the-scenes. The economy is not doing particularly well. The currency has been devalued by around 50 percent. So, it depends on how things unfold and whether the Iranian government, domestically speaking and regardless of the Trump administration, the main problem that the Iranian government faces is its own internal problems.
Sputnik: The Trump administration said that they were unhappy with the deal, it was a bad deal, that’s why they decertified it and pulled out of it. Do you think that this whole sort of escalation of tensions, because there is one point of view that this escalation of tensions is actually aimed at renegotiating a new deal on nuclear weapons and other weapons as well?
Mohammadbagher Forough: Yes, that is the aim, but how realistic is that, that is the question. And it is not very realistic because if you look at the demands that the Trump administration has put forward for Iran to follow and become a “normal country” which in the American government’s mentality means a country that never says no the US policy, to become a so-called normal country. The 12 items on the list, the 12 demands they sound more like a wish list, than a list of demands and they basically demand that Iran gives up all its independent foreign policy […].