As the world battles a deadly pandemic and the global community calls for worldwide cooperation and ceasefires, Donald Trump’s hawkish policy on Iran has not changed. The international consensus on Iran has been centred around diplomacy and the survival of the nuclear deal, which was confirmed again in an unprecedented defeat of the US at the UN Security Council last week. Even America’s closest European allies, the UK, Germany, and France, refused to vote for the US resolution to extend an arms embargo on Iran.
Iran hawks see this time of global crisis as an opportune moment to go after a country of over 80m people, in a region already beleaguered by decades of conflict and US militarism.
Rising tensions between Washington and Tehran since Trump unilaterally exited the Iran nuclear deal in 2018, and the belligerent rhetoric of this administration – especially from the Department of State led by Mike Pompeo – recalls the build-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. However, the pithy slogan, “Don’t Iraq Iran”, is not an accurate analogy to the situation of Iran today. In fact, a potential conflict with Iran will not be like the war in Iraq, instead, the more plausible comparison is Syria.
Even the most determined hawks in Washington realise that the war with Iraq was a mistake and that the American people have no appetite for war. Yet, not only has the US under the Trump administration become increasingly isolated from the international community, on the issue of Iran it is acting against the will of the global consensus and America’s closest allies. Despite running on a platform against the Iraq war and US militarism in the Middle East, and claiming that he wants a deal with Iran, reports reveal that President Trump greenlit the CIA in 2018 to carry out covert operations against Iran, with the objective to destabilise or collapse the country, according to former officials.
The most outspoken Iran hawk in the current administration, Mike Pompeo, has been integral in Trump’s Iran policy. Two weeks after Pompeo swore in as Secretary of State, Trump announced the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. Since then, none of the stated or supposed goals of the administration’s “maximum pressure” policy have come to pass. Instead, Iran took measured steps to reduce its compliance with the nuclear deal and we have seen a persistent increase in tensions, which almost led to war in January after the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.
The upcoming appointment of another long-time Iran hawk to the post of Iran envoy, Elliott Abrams, who was involved in the Iran-Contra scandal under the Reagan administration, signals diminishing hopes for any diplomacy with Iran. Currently serving as Trump’s special representative for Venezuela, Abrams has been pushing for regime-change there and will most likely incorporate a similar policy in his new role.