Plan A: threats, sanctions, military attacks – no Plan B

After pulling out of a nuclear accord President Donald Trump has threatened “the strongest sanctions” against Iran, and if they don’t negotiate a new deal then “something will happen”.

The USA has no support in their withdrawal from the international legal agreement, except from Israel who has followed up on the US move they had strongly Trump to take with attacks on Iranian targets in Syria.

Given the volatile history of the Middle East, Iran’s involvement in a number of countries and Russia’s military support of Iran this is a high risk situation.

Reuters: Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria after rocket fire

Israel said it attacked nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria on Thursday after Iranian forces fired rockets at Israeli-held territory for the first time in the most extensive military exchange ever between the two adversaries.

It was the heaviest Israeli barrage in Syria since the 2011 start of the civil war in which Iranians, allied Shi’ite Muslim militias and Russian troops have deployed in support of President Bashar al-Assad. The confrontation came two days after the United States announced its withdrawal, with Israel’s urging, from a nuclear accord with Iran.

The timing doesn’t seem coincidental.

Israel destroyed dozens of Iranian military sites in Syria, as well as Syrian anti-aircraft units that tried unsuccessfully to shoot down Israeli planes, Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said.

Syrian state media said Israel launched dozens of missiles and hit a radar station, Syrian air defense positions and an ammunition dump, underscoring the risks of a wider escalation involving Iran and its regional allies.

Wider escalation is always a risk in the region.

In the meantime Trump Bets Sanctions Will Force Iran to Bargain. There’s No Plan B.

President Trump said on Wednesday that he expects Iran to continue to comply with the terms of the 2015 deal that limits Tehran’s nuclear program, even as the United States violates it by reimposing what he called “among the strongest sanctions that we’ve ever put on a country.”

Beyond betting that Iran’s leaders will return to the negotiating table, and seek a better deal, once they feel the sanctions’ bite, the president appeared to acknowledge that he has no Plan B for dealing with Tehran.

“Iran will come back and say, ‘We don’t want to negotiate,’” Mr. Trump told reporters. “And of course, they’re going to say that. And if I were in their position, I’d say that, too, for the first couple of months: ‘We’re not going to negotiate.’”

“But they’ll negotiate, or something will happen,” Mr. Trump said. “And hopefully that won’t be the case.”

But Iran are trying to isolate the US and continue to talk with Europe, Russia and China.

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said on Tuesday that he had instructed his foreign minister to determine if negotiators from European nations, Russia and China could make up for the economic benefits that Iran would lose after the American withdrawal.

Only then would he decide, Mr. Rouhani said, whether to instruct Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization to resume the enrichment of uranium.

After Mr. Trump announced his decision, the leaders of Britain, France and Germany on Tuesday reaffirmed their support for a United Nations Security Council resolution that formally endorsed the accord. The European leaders asserted that the resolution was the applicable international law governing the Iranian nuclear problem — a way of suggesting that the United States is the first country to violate the accord.

They also noted that Mr. Trump’s own intelligence officials — including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when he was serving as C.I.A. director — have said he saw no evidence that Iran had violated the deal.

So Trump not only has to deal with a markedly different position taken by other major world powers, he is at odds with US intelligence – and also some republican politicians.

Even Republicans who had their qualms about the shortcomings of the nuclear deal — especially its “sunset clauses” that gave Iran the right to produce nuclear fuel after 2030 — expressed concern that the White House appeared more interested in scrapping the accord than coming up with a comprehensive way to deal with Tehran.

Few in the Pentagon expect the Iranians to back down. Intelligence analysts expect that Iran will grow more active in Syria and Iraq, in part to make the United States and its allies pay a price.

So Trump is being bold or brash, and there is no way of knowing which way this may now go. It is a much higher risk and more complex situation than with North Korea.

Michael Singh, who worked on Iran issues during George W. Bush’s presidency, wrote in Foreign Affairs:

One of the chief criticisms leveled against former U.S. President Barack Obama by critics of the JCPOA was that he focused on the nuclear issue to the exclusion of all others and that the agreement itself institutionalized this focus by trading comprehensive sanctions relief for Tehran’s restraint solely in the nuclear realm.

Ironically, first by emphasizing the need to fix the agreement, and now in insisting that a new deal be negotiated, Trump risks repeating the error.

A different bad agreement to Obama’s may be the best outcome that Trump achieves.

While the United States has debated the JCPOA, Iran has advanced in Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere with little resistance, and prospects for war between Iran and Israel, or Iran and Saudi Arabia, have increased significantly. What Washington really needs is a new Iran policy, not just a nuclear policy – and the will to roll up their sleeves and carry it out.

If Plan A doesn’t work I’m not sure that Trump is a roll his sleeves up type of president.

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23 Comments

  1. David

     /  May 11, 2018

    After the deal was done Iran has escalated its support of rebels/terrorist organisations in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Palestine destabalizing the whole region and done in complete compliance with the agreement. There is near unanimous backing in the middle east to Trumps position who have had to deal with an emboldened Iran. When you have Israel and Saudi Arabia having the same position, not to mention Jordan, UAE and Egypt there is clearly a problem with Irans behaviour.
    As far as the Europeans go they are making lots of money in Iran, they have an alternate gas supply to the Russians and its the one and only agreement the EU had anything to do with and they are so so sensitive to doing anything that could be construed as supportive of Israel and maybe seen as anti islamic given the propensity of their new arrivals to slaughter their generous hosts.

    Reply
    • There is clearly problems with the behaviour of a number of countries who have become involved in the Middle East (including the USA since Bush’s invasion based on a lie).

      It’s complicated, isn’t it.

      Reply
    • Blazer

       /  May 11, 2018

      After the deal was done the U.S has escalated its support of rebels/terrorist organisations in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Palestine destabalizing the whole region and done in complete compliance with the agreement. There is near unanimous backing in the middle east to Iran’s position who have had to deal with an emboldened Israel. When you have Iran and Syria having the same position, not to mention Lebanon, Yemen and Palestine there is clearly a problem with Israels behaviour.
      As far as the Americans go they are making lots of money in the middle east, they supply billions in armaments to Saudi Arabia,Israel and Egypt and the devastation of Iraq is still apparant to its neighbours. An alternate pipeline to the Russians is one thing the Saudis and the U.S want to halt.
      The underlying friction is down to the Shiite vs Sunni muslim factions for dominance.

      Reply
    • Gezza

       /  May 11, 2018

      I think it’s highly unlikely Iranian forces mounted any kind of attack on the Golan Heights as claimed by the Israelis. They have produced no evidence of it at all & Syria is treating the Israeli attack as an attack on Syria, claiming there are no Iranian bases in Syria – that the Iranians occupy training roles in Syrian bases.

      Although Iran blusters and threatens Israel it hasn’t actually ever directly attacked it, whereas Israel, the only nuclear power & real military power in the region, has actually attacked Iran on numerous occasions & is constantly trying to suck America into letting them attack Iran, and even join them in attackingIran. Under Trump, the risk of this happening has & sucking in Arab countries & Russia has now escalated hugely.

      A British commentator in London commented on Aljazeera an hour ago that the American policy & strategic plan, at the time of invading Iraq, & again in supporting the overthrow of Gaddafi was actually to effect regime changes & remake the Middle East to make it more friendly to American (& arguably Western) interests. This was actually was clearly stated.

      She noted that the American policy planners’ intention was stated to be that imposing sanctions on regimes unfriendly to their interests would cause hardship to their peoples which in turn would cause them to rise up against what they think are universally hated regimes, automatically resulting in more Western-style, stable, democratic governments. And that this appears to be STILL be the thinking of American Middle Eastern policy analysts.

      But in her opinion they simply cannot comprehend how Islamic countries work, & all the evidence shows this does not happen. The likelihood is that what will happen is the people of Iran who have been critical of their government spending too much on their Republican Guard and their adventures, will now, like in any other country attacked or punished by enemies, become more fervently nationalistic & more united behind their leadership.

      Reply
  2. PartisanZ

     /  May 11, 2018

    If Trump’s Presidency is going to ‘succeed’ and he win back his flagging popularity, he has got to have a war … It’s as simple as that.

    Reply
    • Grimm

       /  May 11, 2018

      538 have Trumps popularity (approval) steadily rising.

      Trump doesn’t want a war. Doesn’t need it. The only thing that has stopped another major war since WW2 is the threat of complete destruction. Appeasement of Dictators and murderous regimes has just emboldened them.

      Reply
  3. NOEL

     /  May 11, 2018

    He can have a war if he wants but it was an international agreement so its a walk away by the US. Didnt work in US favour on the TPPA.

    Reply
  4. Grimm

     /  May 11, 2018

    Why was a “deal” required with Iran in the first place?

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  May 11, 2018

      To stop Israel from attacking them & igniting the entire region in a major war.

      Reply
      • Grimm

         /  May 11, 2018

        So, 100’s of billions were given to one country in order to stop another country attacking them?

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  May 11, 2018

          What’s the cost of the current military engagements the US and the West have got themselves into. Extrapolate that into a major conflict.

          Reply
        • Gezza

           /  May 11, 2018

          Besides which, they weren’t given 100’s of billions. Their own money was released back to them.

          Reply
          • Grimm

             /  May 11, 2018

            So, they were given 100’s of billions of their own money, in order to stop another country attacking them?

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  May 11, 2018

              Yes. All their assets America had frozen. Because it was very plain that Israel was going to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities & quite probably other military targets when they believed they were nearly at the point of producing a working nuclear device & delivery system.

            • Gezza

               /  May 11, 2018

              Israel has made it very clear it is to be the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East.

            • Grimm

               /  May 11, 2018

              “when they believed they were nearly at the point of producing a working nuclear device & delivery system”

              Are you now saying that the Iranians (the worlds leading State sponsors of terrorism), were paid off so that they wouldn’t make nuclear bombs?

              Do we know that they actually stopoped that project after the deal was put in place? Maybe if the inspection reports weren’t secret?

              Aren’t Iran’s most prominent foreign policy objectives, Death to Israel and Death to America? Did giving then access to hundreds of billions of dollars change those objectives?

            • Gezza

               /  May 11, 2018

              Yep that is the common response of people who are muslims to any threat or whatever they’re told to hate. Demonstrations of ignorant sheep carrying signs saying Death To (whoever or whatever) & yelling Allahu Akbar as they fire off anything or as they get hit and blown to bits by something someone else has fired at them.

              May not have changed their behaviour but it stopped them having any thoughts of nuking Israel if they ever seriously had them. You realise it’s actually the US that has extended their influence don’t you? ISIS was created by US ignorance & arrogance & would not have been defeated in Iraq without the Popular Mobilisation Forces – the Shiite Militia’s, many trained by Iranian Republican Guards.

          • Grimm

             /  May 11, 2018

            Just checking Al J for the answer?

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  May 11, 2018

              You can check other Western sources if you like. I do.

            • Gezza

               /  May 11, 2018

              There’s nothing particularly surprising in this Grimm. Israel has faced a threat to its existence ever since it declared Independence. It openly avows pre-emptive strikes & carries them out as policy. Other Arab nations have leaned to leave it alone because it’ll cream them even with conventional weapons.

            • Grimm

               /  May 11, 2018

              “Arab nations have leaned to leave it alone because it’ll cream them even with conventional weapons”

              Exactly. Obama negotiated with a terrorist regime. That still didn’t stop them in Syria, Sudan, Iraq and who knows where else. And we still don’t know if they stopped their nuclear program. Trump has decided that a better approach is to say; build Nuclear weapons and we will turn your country to sand. As you say, it worked for Israel.

            • Gezza

               /  May 11, 2018

              And we still don’t know if they stopped their nuclear program.
              Yeah we do. They had.

            • Grimm

               /  May 11, 2018

              We don’t know that at all. From Trumps speech.

              “inspection provisions lack adequate mechanisms to prevent, detect, and punish cheating and don’t even have the unqualified right to inspect many important locations including military facilities”

              We also know that inspection reports are secret.

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