Throughout the 40 years after the Islamic revolution of 1979 in Iran and the severance of its diplomatic relations with the United States, Washington has been exercising political and economic pressure in Tehran and maintaining sanctions. Now it has included the country in the list of its adversaries.
Having lost the shah-ruled Iran, the US lost not only a strong ally and military partner in the region and control over its enormous resources, but also the crucial leverage of influence on neighboring countries and the outpost of its confrontation with the Soviet Union in the East.
Speaking at the 55th Munich Security Conference in February 2019, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, “The United States has never forgiven us for exercising our right to self-determination. As a result, we have long been an object of obsession.”
The international agreement on the Iranian nuclear program signed in 2015 – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – seemed to create a hope that Washington would be able to make compromises with Tehran for the sake of strengthening international security. Alas! In 2017, the White House became the residence of Donald Trump, a president who does not intend to give Iran even a tiny chance at peaceful development. In 2018, the US withdrew from the JCPOA, and in May and November it resumed the toughest sanctions, prohibiting, among other things, exports and transportation of Iranian oil and transactions in gold and US dollars in settlements with Iran. This was done despite the fact that Tehran had fully honored its commitments under the deal, which was confirmed by regular inspections and reports of the IAEA.
“The United States will continue applying maximum pressure to the Iranian regime, using all economic tools to prevent Iran from developing weapons of mass destruction,” US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said on March 22, announcing introduction of another set of punitive measures against Iran.
The end goal of the withdrawal from the deal and resumption of sanctions is destabilization of the country as a minimum and a regime change as the maximum. The US does not particularly try to conceal it. But Washington does not want a different Iran, whether loyal or plunged in chaos, for its own sake. The sanctions are just the top of the iceberg of America’s greater strategic goals in Eurasia, the main one being prevention of a partnership between Russia and China and integrational processes on the continent at any price.
Iran, which has ports in the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea and an extensive network of roads, plays an important part in Russian-Chinese projects of continental transit. Their implementation may become an important factor of stability throughout Eurasia.
The Islamic Republic has the status of an observer of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. At the summit in Qingdao, China, in June 2018, SCO leaders issued a joint declaration, in which they called on the JCPOA member states to strictly abide by their commitments in order to ensure full and efficient execution of the nuclear deal.
The Organization’s stand is logical, since one of its declared goals is to assist building a new, democratic, fair and rational political and economic world order, including ensuring energy security and stable development of the energy market. Two of the SCO member states – China and India – are the biggest importers of Iranian oil. China is Iran’s leading trade partner. So these two countries are suffering the biggest losses from the anti-Iranian sanctions and are developing bilateral mechanisms for settlements with Iran, including in national currencies.
For Russia, Iran is an important partner for enhancing security and stability in the Caspian area and in Central Asia. But for Washington, with its war in Afghanistan, attempts at militarizing the Caspian region and destabilizing some Central Asian states, cooperation between Russia and Iran in the region creates a serious obstacle.
The Trump administration continues trying to create a broad anti-Iranian front. These efforts are especially visible in the Middle East. For Washington and its main allies in the region – Saudi Arabia and Israel, the growing influence and military might of Iran, Tehran’s strengthened foothold in neighboring Iraq, its assistance to Yemen, participation in the anti-terrorist operation and in political settlement in Syria alongside Russia and Turkey are like a thorn in the side.
The “Iranophobia” brand sells quite well. The bigger the hysteria, the more willing are the wealthy monarchies of the Persian Gulf to buy American arms. “The US is milking the region and its resources by selling huge amounts of weapons,” Mohammad Javad Zarif emphasized in his speech in Munich. “According to the most conservative estimates, this year’s military spending of the member states of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf will reach an all-time high of $100 billion, which is almost seven times more than Iran’s spending.”
So who is really exporting instability here?