The United States and its Persian Gulf Arab allies may be able to provide India with enough crude to offset any reduction in India’s oil imports from Iran. But will Delhi give in to the Trump administration’s pressure to cut Iranian oil imports completely by Nov. 4, thereby endangering a long-standing relationship with Tehran that goes beyond energy?
The acquittal of the twenty-one activists seemed to confirm that part of the security apparatus isn’t fully intent on cracking down on women’s groups, and that some of their peaceful activities would be tolerated. This message was echoed by Shahindokht Mowlaverdi—a staunch advocate of women’s rights and special advisor to the president on citizens’ rights—who in a recent interview promised that the Rouhani administration was working to ease social, cultural, and political pressures. However, Mowlaverdi also warned that “the [Rouhani] government is not the only entity in charge of these sectors,” referring to the Judiciary and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who are responsible for much of the crackdowns and pressures over the years.
So what are the major factors working against the Iranian government?
The Trump administration, unlike its predecessor, claims to oppose Iran’s domination of what is left of the Syrian state. Unlike his predecessor, US President Donald Trump did not hesitate to strike militarily when Bashar al-Assad, supported by Iran and Russia, twice assaulted defenseless civilians with sarin nerve agent. When Russian “military contractors” sought, in February of this year, to cross the Euphrates River to attack American-held positions, there was no ignominious retreat. On the contrary, the Kremlin learned a hard lesson about testing American resolve east of the Euphrates de-confliction line. Iranian-led Shia militias and regime military units have been similarly educated.
The US and Iran should negotiate, but meaningful steps need to be taken in advance and the objective must be to solve all major bilateral issues.
This is a win-win situation for politicians and arms merchants; and a lose-lose situation for ordinary people, particularly Iranians, and all peace lovers who would rather see their resources spent on economic development.
Earlier presidents at least knew Iran was a trap. They saw how Iran had destroyed Jimmy Carter’s presidency and almost did the same to Ronald Reagan’s. Although it proved impossible, their preference—at least until Barack Obama—was to ignore Iran.
Trump’s subsequent offer to meet with his Iranian counterpart “without preconditions” produced an understandable feeling of whiplash, a week after he appeared to threaten Iran with destruction. During his campaign, Trump promised an “unpredictable” foreign policy. It is not clear whether he knew at the time about the Nixon-Kissinger “madman” doctrine of the 1970s. More likely, this was preening bluster, intended to capture the world's attention. Trump’s offer to meet Iran’s leadership seems like a similar piece of posturing.