With only a matter of weeks before Trump threw the lever on ‘secondary sanctions’ on countries which continue to trade or buy oil from Iran, Trump has decided he’s open to talking to the Iranians (which senior Iranian officials have already rejected).
While Trump whips up a nuclear crisis which didn’t actually exist until he decided one was necessary, there are a number of indicators which suggest that his entire ill-conceived stunt is going to be a bit of an anti-climax when the starter pistol fires. In fact, it’s unlikely that Iran succumbs in any way to what Trump is aiming for: a political crisis.
If he follows through on the sanctions, Iran is going to suffer economically, certainly, but the question is how long can Trump continue to look ineffective, especially when so many Iranians know what is really going on.
For that matter, would Trump go ahead with a war with Iran in the Strait of Hormuz, if President Rouhani were to go ahead with his ultimate threat of blocking it, and potentially stopping 30 percent of the world’s oil supply?
A few things we’ve learnt about Trump. He’s not always as stupid as we might like to think (but profoundly ignorant); he has no stomach for war in the Middle East; he believes the problems of the region are easily fixed.
But of all the people to pick a fight with, many believe that taking on Iran is rank stupidity. Colin Powell once told Saudi King Abdullah (deceased) that he didn’t think the US could take on Iran and win in a straight fight.
So to put pressure on Iran and force its government to take irrational decisions which could have apocalyptic consequences is both naive and brainless, but entirely in keeping of what we expect from Trump. Can Trump hope to win a war on any scale with Iran while Hezbollah is perched on Israel’s border with 100,000 high tech rockets aimed at Israeli cities, and a defiant nation of Iranians who, when pushed into a corner, will take too many American, Israeli or even Saudi lives with them?
The threat from the US in fact, is only strengthening the resolve of Iranians who are standing behind Rouhani, boosting the popularity of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and making more people around the world question the integrity of Trump’s motives.
Trump is unlikely to hit Iranian vessels in the Strait of Hormuz as he has neither the guts for such an exchange, but also because China–a key customer of Iranian oil—has said they don’t want that. China is also reportedly not happy with Iran’s threats to block the strait.
It’s also likely that President Putin of Russia indicated to Trump that he would not advise such a military hullabaloo, when in fact, all Trump wants is a reworking of Obama’s Iran deal.
The run up to the sanctions are working though, to some extent at least. They are certainly affecting the Iranian economy, but it's equally fair to say that it is also strengthening the will of the Iranian people.
Then there’s the EU, which can work behind the scenes and find ways for Iran to sell its oil while pushing through EU directives which will protect the few remaining European firms, with cash compensation.
Brussels has become a very strong partner with Iran and it can use its clout to encourage a grey market for oil sales, perhaps via China or Russia, or directly through EU central banks. Iran will lose some valuable oil revenue, no question. But it remains to be seen whether the gap will be as huge as western hacks predict.
A deal-breaker will be India, which Germany is trying to convince not to worry about Trump’s petulant response if it continues buying Iran crude.
Another underreported development in recent weeks is of Putin investing $50 billion in Iran’s oil sector – a good indicator that Trump will not be allowed to attack Iran anyway.
Trump bombs a country that Putin just invested in? I’ll let that sink in.
A weak position
There are some commentators who believe he is about to present a cabal of cheap suits from Iran’s opposition group in exile, the MEK, as an alternative government and with a whoosh of his flowing tawdry cloak, magically install them in power. That is as fanciful and ludicrous as Trump’s people believing that the US can carry out airstrikes within Iran and get away with it, regardless of the fact that it breaks international law.
The hypocrisy is stunning. The widespread opprobrium of Washington against Russian meddling in US elections doesn’t hold a light to the Farsi propaganda packages that Trump’s people are making all with the express purpose to topple Iran’s government.
But fret not about Iran. Trump is like one of those peripheral circus performers in a flowing black gown who tells you he has a two headed man in his tent and whom for a few moments you chose to believe as it’s thrilling. His performance is nearly always based on a barrage of lies and threats which he barely remembers for more than a number of hours.
With Iran he is planning the ultimate mother-of-all-stupidity ruses ever known in the region based on his own incredible ignorance of the history of the country, loathed to forget the lessons it yields.
This move, while being a disaster for him, I’m sure will strengthen Iran even more and usher it closer forward as a modern Middle Eastern Country reinventing itself.
The Trump Touch is what we are witnessing. Whatever he touches just gets stronger. It might have worked for a few hours in the UK, Belgium and even Russia. But with the Iranians, the histrionics don’t count for much.
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