Responsible international, U.S. and regional policymakers must come together to chart a diplomatic course that promotes broad dialogue and engagement with Iran to avoid a possible war.
In his recent talk at Asia Society in New York, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif blamed the “B-Team”—U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed—for “pushing the U.S. toward disaster” in spite of the Trump’s campaign promise not to get involved in expensive foreign wars. He also offered to negotiate a humanitarian deal for exchange of prisoners, but the United States refused.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly told a group of Iranian-American community leaders the United States’ best interest is “a non-revolutionary set of leaders leading Iran.” Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department announced the end of waivers for countries to import Iranian oil to drive Iran’s exports to zero. “They truly believe that they can … collapse Iran’s economy and bring it into recession and essentially bring the Iranians to their knees, to the point where they’re either coming to us and begging for talks, or where we’re essentially leading to regime collapse and something follows on,” said Richard Johnson, one of the State Department’s former top experts on nuclear issues.
Two weeks after President Donald Trump designated Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization, Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed Major General Hossein Salami as the new head of the IRGC. Iran’s National Security Council designated the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) as a terrorist organization, called the United States a sponsor of terrorism, and warned of the consequences of its moves toward peace and security in the Middle East. In early 2019, Major General Salami warned Israel that the outbreak of a war with Iran would result in the elimination of Israel. With Netanyahu now entering a fifth term as prime minister of Israel, the already-disastrous Israeli-Palestinian relationship is likely to be made much worse for the region with the release of the Trump administration’s peace plan. Furthermore, a ramping up of tensions with Iran seems more likely because Bibi is the devil on Trump’s shoulder, whispering provocations into his ear.