Will Regional Deterrence of Iran Work After US Withdraws from JCPOA?

The United States’ withdrawal from the JCPOA, Washington’s ultimatums with a clear aim of regime change in Iran, as well as a tougher emphasis on regional deterrence of Tehran demoralized the moderate liberal wing of the Iranian leadership and at the same time sharply strengthened the positions of conservative radical circles in their fundamental opposition to the United States.

When he signed the nuclear deal with Iran, Barack Obama, in addition to limiting Tehran’s nuclear activities, apparently hoped to involve Iran in compromise agreements on other issues, in particular regarding the region. Barack Obama hoped that the JCPOA would strengthen the position of Iranian reformers so that they could convince the country’s leadership on the need for a more “constructive” course in regional affairs. Of course, from the American point of view. An argument in favor of this could be the establishment of active trade, economic and other forms of cooperation with the West in order to improve the socio-economic situation of the country and strengthen its international position.

However, none of that happened. Hassan Rouhani’s government could not convert the JCPOA into an instrument of influence on the Iranian foreign policy, if it was possible at all. Donald Trump immediately rejected the JCPOA and took a clear Iranophobic position.

The United States’ withdrawal from the JCPOA, Washington’s ultimatums with a clear aim of regime change in Iran, as well as a tougher emphasis on regional deterrence of Tehran demoralized the moderate liberal wing of the Iranian leadership and at the same time sharply strengthened the positions of conservative radical circles in their fundamental opposition to the United States.

As usual, in case of increased threats to the country’s national security, the position and influence of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) became even stronger. This elite branch of the Iranian security forces played a decisive role in creating and strengthening the so-called “axis of resistance” with the participation of pro-Iranian Shiite organizations and groups in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. So, Iran consistently implements the concept of deterring terrorist and other threats at long distance to its borders, creates logistical prerequisites to stop military-political threats from the region and a multifaceted response to possible military provocations against Tehran.

The United States’ withdrawal from the JCPOA, the tightening of US sanctions and their extension to European and other countries that do not cease active trade and economic cooperation with Tehran, will certainly seriously complicate the economic and domestic political situation in Iran. The Iranian leadership is now actively seeking ways and means to mitigate the effects of American actions.

Why the US Anti-Iran Strategy Won’t Work
US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the resumption of new large-scale trade and economic sanctions against Iran are the implementation of the Donald Trump administration’s efforts to contain Iran’s growing successful activities in the region, aggravating the socio-economic situation in that country and strengthening protests among the Iranians with a view to replacing the current theocratic regime.
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However, with a great deal of certainty we can say that increasing pressure against Iran will not only change its regional policy, but will also make it more focused. It is absolutely clear that Iran is not going to lose its positions and influence in Iraq and especially in Syria, which it uses to advance its interests in the formation of a post-conflict order in the Middle East.

The priority for the US is to oust Iran from Syria and Iraq, while deliberately ignoring the important role of Iran in the fight against extremist groups. For example, while it declares the fight against ISIL and other terrorist groups as its main goal, Washington actually patronizes them in areas controlled by US forces and inflicts air strikes against the positions of Syrian forces and pro-Iranian groups. While declaring the need of political settlement in Syria, the United States refuses to seek compromises when discussing the cessation of hostilities and the future state structure of this country in the Geneva talks, and does not participate in the Astana process, although Washington was invited there.

The attempts to create an anti-Iran coalition of the Middle East states in the region are clearly failing. They are not eager to take active and, even more, forceful actions against Tehran, perhaps except Israel, which has marked its “red lines” against Iran, which Tehran apparently is not going to overstep unless it is absolutely necessary. The conflict between the Gulf States and Qatar as well as Saudi Arabia’s unsuccessful military campaign against the Yemeni rebels are factors which make the region’s countries unwilling to go to confrontation with Iran.

Washington itself does not seem to be planning a direct military confrontation with Iran either. It would be very dangerous, giving to Tehran the possibility of asymmetric response with the use of extensive network of groups under its control against American bases and facilities in the region. Moreover, Iran continues to improve actively its missile potential, bearing in mind the bitter lessons of the Iran-Iraq war.

Taking into account the abovementioned factors, the policy of regional deterrence of Iran is unlikely to be successful in the foreseeable future. But it can further destabilize the situation in the Middle East. 

If history is any guide, new tough actions against Iran will meet harsh resistance

To relieve tension in the region is possible only through united efforts in an uncompromising fight against terrorism, stopping mutual threats and accusations, finding compromise and mutually acceptable solutions of the existing conflicts and problems, which Russia calls for.


Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.