Does Trump want war with Iran?

Trump, President, Usa, Donald Trump

July 14, 2015, seems so far away. On the eve of the signing of the nuclear agreement between Iran and the major powers (United States, Russia, China, France, France, the United Kingdom and Germany), thousands of Iranians rushed to the streets to celebrate the end of international sanctions and Iran's restoration to the community of nations, which was generating an unprecedented wave of hope after 36 years of isolation.

However, less than four years later, the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln was about to reach the waters of the Persian Gulf, accompanied by a B-52 bomber force. She will be joined by the USS Arlington, a warship carrying amphibious vehicles, as well as a Patriot missile battery. For US National Security Adviser John Bolton, the aim is to send a "clear and unequivocal message to the Iranian regime: we will respond implacably to any attack against the interests of the United States or our allies".



How did we get to là ? It must be said that in the meantime, Donald Trump withdrew on May 8, 2018, from the Iranian nuclear agreement, which severely restricted Iran's nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions, and which Tehran respected, according to multiple reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Tired, the American President, who is pleased to unravel the entire legacy of his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, would like to extract a new global agreement from Iran: in addition to the nuclear issue, he would like to limit the Iranian ballistic programme and stop the Islamic Republic's support to groups and countries hostile to US interests in the Middle East (Shia militias in Iraq, Houthi rebels in Yemen, Syrian regime, Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad).


Bringing Iran to its knees 


To do this, the American billionaire intends to exert "maximum pressure" on Tehran to bring the Iranian regime to its knees. On the economic front, Donald Trump ordered two rounds of drastic sanctions, in August and November 2018, against the banking system and especially Iranian oil sales, which represent 40% of the Iranian government's budget. Politically, the White House resident has classified the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran's armed wing, on the American list of terrorist organizations, despite the advice of the Pentagon and intelligence services to the contrary. In retaliation, the Pasdaran, in turn, described the American forces in the region as "terrorists". The problem, Iranian Guards and American soldiers frequently meet in Iraq, Syria or in the waters of the Persian Gulf, where they have maintained a precarious balance until now.



"The Iranians have always done everything to avoid confrontation, but today we have all these mutual terrorist forces next to each other in the region," says a keen eastern connoisseur of the issue. "Donald Trump didn't realize the consequences of this decision or maybe his advisors made this choice without realizing the side effects. "In a recent note, former French ambassador Michel Duclos said that "in this context, any incident in the Straits of Hormuz or Iraq, or even Syria, can turn into a large-scale military confrontation between Iran and the United States (and its allies)". And the former diplomat, now special geopolitical adviser to the Montaigne Institute, stressed: "The absence of a "deconfliction" channel between Washington and Tehran can only increase the risk of accidental conflict. »



Coincidentally or not, on Monday, Saudi Arabia announced that unclaimed "subversive acts" had been carried out the previous day against two Saudi tankers, a Norwegian ship and an Emirate cargo ship off the emirate of Fujairah, which belongs to the United Arab Emirates. On Tuesday, the al-Saoud kingdom reported that it had ceased operations on a major oil pipeline in the Riyadh region after being targeted by attacks by "armed drones". They were claimed by Yemeni Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, whom Saudi Arabia openly accuses of being behind the attack.


120,000 American soldiers 


In announcing the deployment of the American armada in the Persian Gulf on May 5, John Bolton, notoriously known as a supporter of the changing regime in Iran, said it was a "response to disturbing indications and warnings that have led to an escalation". At the behest of the National Security Advisor, Pentagon Acting Head Patrick Shanahan reportedly presented a plan on May 7 to several national security officials, including John Bolton and Gina Haspel, CIA Director, to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East if Iran retaliated against US forces in the region or resumed its nuclear program, according to information from the New York Times. According to the New York daily, the alarming evidence before John Bolton comes from a US intelligence report he received on May 3, which contradicts the conclusions of the European and American services, which have so far stated that they do not see an increase in the Iranian threat in the region.



Including telephone interceptions and satellite imagery, this report would indicate that Iran has ordered its militias to prepare to attack US forces in the region. According to the American news website Axios, it was the Israeli intelligence services that transmitted information to Washington about possible Iranian attacks on "an American target in the Gulf or US allies such as Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates". Yet in Washington, Democratic Senator Bob Menendez deplored on Wednesday that "the Trump administration[did] not provide any information "to Congress" on the information behind its decisions, or on what it intends to do".


Unclear on American "information 


The vagueness that reigns over this American "information" is reinforced by the denial on Tuesday by the deputy commander of the international coalition against the Islamic state, led by the United States. "No, there has been no increase in the threat posed by pro-Iranian forces in Iraq or Syria," Major General Chris Ghika, who was speaking from Baghdad, where he is based, told American journalists. However, this high-ranking British officer was quickly contradicted by the American military command in the Middle East (Centcom).

"Recent comments by the Deputy Commander of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) contradict the credible threats received from the US and allied intelligence services regarding pro-Iranian forces in the region," Centcom spokesman Major Bill Urban insisted in a statement. "As a result, the RIO is now at a high alert level and we continue to closely monitor credible and possibly imminent threats against US forces in Iraq. »



The questions of journalists and experts in Washington are all the greater because John Bolton was one of the architects of the 2003 American intervention in Iraq, based on false allegations about Saddam Hussein's possession of weapons of mass destruction. This Iranian threat "is real," said an American State Department official, whose head, Mike Pompeo, is also known for his aversion to the Iranian regime. Quoted by Agence France-Presse (AFP), this high diplomat mentioned the responsibility of "Iraqi militias under the command and control of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards", in particular, the Shiite groups Asaïb Ahl al-Haq and the Iraqi Hezbollah brigades. In addition, several US military officials, who had access to the famous report, told AFP that intelligence has observed movements of pro-Iranian weapons and groups on land and at sea, as well as instructions from Iranian leaders to attack US interests such as embassies, consulates or soldiers.



"US officials say Iran has given permission to its regional allies to attack US interests without showing any evidence," says the think tank International Crisis Group in a recent analysis. "Whether Iran is directly or indirectly behind the recent attacks (...) and Washington is making accusations to justify a peak in its military activities, all the ingredients for an escalation are present," the organization said, adding: "All this rise in tension was entirely predictable and most of it was caused by the United States. »


Trump: a war despite him? 


Extremely rare, due to the "increased threat flow", the State Department on Wednesday ordered non-essential U.S. personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the U.S. Consulate in Erbil to leave Iraq. For the time being, Iran seems to want to calm things down. Accusing the United States on Thursday of provoking an "unacceptable" "escalation of tensions" against Iran, Iranian diplomatic leader Mohammad Javad Zarif said that his country was acting "with maximum restraint". The day before, in retaliation for the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement a year earlier, Tehran officially stopped limiting its reserves of heavy water and enriched uranium, two measures that it had committed itself to respect under the agreement, but that it is entitled to break if one of the parties to the text fails to comply. Putting aside any negotiations with the United States, the Islamic Republic gave the Europeans two months to find a solution to loosen the clamp around its banking and oil sectors. Otherwise, it has indicated that it will intensify the resumption of its nuclear programme.



"Iran does not want to fall into Donald Trump's trap of getting out of the nuclear agreement. But for a year now, Europe has been promising it a compensation mechanism (Instex), without a single dollar having been exchanged," recalls the above-mentioned eastern source. "Iran will not be the country that starts a war with the United States or any other country in the region. But this country cannot surrender to the Americans either. »

Surprisingly, the increased risk of war between the United States and Iran contradicts Trump's campaign promise to stop intervening in conflicts abroad. Since coming to power, the American President has reduced American troops in Syria and Afghanistan. And while he warned Iran against an attack on American interests, the billionaire reiterated on Thursday morning his desire to negotiate directly with Iranian leaders. "Everything in his administration's policy towards Iran points in a surprisingly different direction: war, by will or by mistake," warns the International



Crisis Group. "A crisis that he may not want, but that would not disturb some of his advisors and that would be about to break out. "When asked Thursday evening about the White House square about the possibility of a war against Iran, the American president simply replied with a laconic answer: "I hope not. » "Trump wants to bring Iran to its knees"

Haro on oil Iranian  ! US President Donald Trump announced on Monday that no country would be able to buy Iranian crude oil from May 2, 2010, with the aim of " porter to zero the exportations " of Tehran and " prevent the regime of its main source revenue ". In fact, Washington, which had already sanctioned the Iranian oil sector on November 5, decided to end the " dérogations " regime that still allowed eight countries (China, India, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Italy and Greece) to import Iranian crude. The US decision pushed crude oil prices to their highest level of the year on Monday, with Brent crude oil reaching $74.28 a barrel.



Research Director at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS), where he is a specialist in energy issues, Francis Perrin analyses in an interview with Le Point the consequences of the American decision for Iran and the world market.

Item: With the end of the exemptions, are we entering a new phase of pressure on Tehran? 


Francis Perrin: this is certainly a new phase, as eight countries have so far benefited from an exemption on Iranian oil purchases: five in Asia (China, India, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan) and three in Europe (Greece, Italy, Turkey). However, as of May 2, there will be none at all.


Can the United States succeed in wiping out Iran's crude oil exports as it claims? 


This is far from certain, but there will inevitably be a significant decrease in Iranian oil exports. In my opinion, the "0 export" objective is more of a political display. The idea is to bring Iran to its knees and hit the key point of oil for the Islamic Republic by reducing its sales as much as possible. But I doubt that anyone will buy Iranian oil anymore.


What is the effect of this decision on the Iranian economy? 


This new phase is very negative for Iran, which has already seen its exports drop significantly since Donald Trump's withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear agreement and the restoration of US extraterritorial sanctions.

The volume of exports has increased from 2.5 million barrels per day to about 1.1 million barrels per day today. This is considerable, especially since oil sales represent 60 to 70% of Iranian exports. The impact of the sanctions on the Iranian economy, already very significant so far, will, therefore, be reinforced.


Could the countries concerned refuse to give in to American pressure? 


Of the eight countries that benefited from exemptions, there are few that can resist US extraterritorial sanctions. Taiwan, Japan and South Korea are allies of the United States and it is hard to see these countries saying " no " in Washington. The same applies to Greece and Italy. As for Turkey (which has announced that it will continue to trade with Tehran, editor's note), the volume of oil it buys from Iran is not significant.

Therefore, only China and India, as powers, can defy the injunctions of the United States, particularly Beijing. China is, in my opinion, a key point.


Could China, a major importer of Iranian oil, not comply with the American decision? 


From a Chinese perspective, Iran can be considered as a card in the poker game started with the United States. There are huge interests between the two countries, especially in trade, because Washington taxes $250 billion of Chinese exports to the United States, which is a concern for Beijing. Similarly, Chinese companies have a strong presence in the United States. Therefore, while China can afford to say "no" to the United States on Iranian oil, it must still take into account the threat of US sanctions.


Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have indicated their desire to compensate for the decline of Iranian oil on the market. Is this realistic? 


This announcement was expected and it makes perfect sense. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi share with Washington the strategic objective of weakening Iran, which requires sanctions against its oil. These two countries can therefore only appreciate what Donald Trump is doing. On the contrary, they had had very little taste of the rapprochement that Barack Obama had begun with Iran, which had taken the form of the signing of the Iranian nuclear agreement. Today, Donald Trump is doing a lot to please the Saudis, which deserves a lift back. In addition, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have sufficient unused oil capacity to bring large volumes of oil to market. So there is both a willingness to help the United States, and the capacity to do so.


We are witnessing an increase in the price of oil. Is there a risk of a price explosion?


The price of a barrel of Brent oil rose by nearly 3% to 74 dollars, which was inevitable. But there is clearly a willingness on Washington's part to limit the damage. The objective is to convince the market that prices will not skyrocket. To do this, the United States has indicated that it will increase its production, which it has been doing for the past ten years with its unconventional energies (shale oil). On this point, Donald Trump knows that he benefits from the support of American industrialists. Washington also pointed out that it benefited from the agreement of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to use their unused production capacities. The American and Saudi oil are therefore the two jewels of the crown so that oil prices do not soar with the fall of Iranian oil. Iran: "Trump's gift to the Revolutionary Guards"


Iranian expert Hamze Safavi explains why the US decision to classify Pasdaran as terrorists will actually strengthen them.  


Tuesday's session of the Iranian Parliament will go down in history. Almost all MPs, of all tendencies, presented themselves in green military uniforms: those of the Revolutionary Guards, the ideological army of the Islamic Republic, more powerful than the regular forces. They wanted to show their solidarity with the so-called pasdarans (guards) in Iran, which Donald Trump has just placed on the American list of terrorist organizations, a first for an entity belonging to a foreign government.

With nearly 130,000 members, divided into 4 forces - land, air, sea and air - the Revolutionary Guards are also very involved in the political and economic life of the country, of which they would control nearly 50%. Iran's armed wing in the Middle East, they were the first foreign forces to help Iraq fight Daech as early as 2014. Present from Baghdad to Beirut, they are nevertheless accused by the West and its allies of destabilizing the region. In retaliation for the announcement of US sanctions, Iran announced that it considered "the US regime as a state sponsoring terrorism" and US forces deployed in the Middle East, the Horn of Africa and Central Asia as "terrorist groups".



Professor of political science, member of the Scientific Council of Tehran University and Director of the Institute for the Future Studies of the Islamic World (IIWFS), Hamze Safavi is fully familiar with the Revolutionary Guard Corps. In an interview with Le Point, he explains why Donald Trump's decision to place them on the American list of terrorist organizations will strengthen Pasdaran in Iran and the Middle East.

Point: What immediate effect can the new American sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards have? 
Hamze Safavi: It is still too early to talk about the consequences of this decision without knowing its actual details, much more important than the announcement itself. For example, one may wonder what will happen to American ships that have been crossing the Strait of Hormuz for years with the agreement of the Revolutionary Guards. Now, as a first step, these new sanctions could make it more difficult for companies linked to the Revolutionary Guards in Iraq, where there are many of them. However, over time, these companies are expected to resume business as before with the emergence of new entities with no direct official link to the pasdarans. This may take some time, but there will be no significant long-term consequences.



Will this decision have an impact on the activity of the Revolutionary Guards in Iran, where they have a strong economic presence?  


She's not going to change anything in Iran. On the contrary, look at what happened in Parliament. Members known as opponents of the Revolutionary Guards, such as Mahmoud Sadeghi (reformer, editor's note), have put on their uniforms. This spontaneous response reflects a widespread opinion throughout the country. It is a message sent to the world. To resist against the United States, Iran can only rely on the pasdarans. Thus, the American decision brought the Iranian government (headed by "moderate" President Hassan Rohani, editor's note) closer to the Revolutionary Guards, even though they had disagreements.


What kind of disagreements? 


They have had disagreements for forty years. In foreign policy, for example, the government wanted to get closer to the West. He did not want the Revolutionary Guards to increase their security presence in the Middle East. On the contrary, they believed that Western countries were only trying to weaken Iran. But history has proven them right: the agreement on Iranian nuclear power has not yielded any results (notably because of Donald Trump's withdrawal from the text in May 2018, editor's note), and Iran's leaders believe that it was only a deception. Today, the Pasdaran realize that, in order to guarantee the survival of the Islamic Republic, they have no choice but to strengthen their security presence in the region because of the unpredictability of Donald Trump's decisions in that region. And the government is now following him on this point.


For what reason? 


Because Donald Trump is acting illegally. Not only has it unilaterally withdrawn from the Iranian nuclear agreement, but it has now decided to designate the Revolutionary Guards as "terrorists" (this is the first time that an organization in a foreign government has been sanctioned by the United States, editor's note). When a player acts outside international rules, then he is not surprised if his opponents do not respect them either.


What do you mean by that? 


This means that the Revolutionary Guards will be more active in Iraq. That the budget for pasdarans will increase. In short, that collaboration between the Iranian government and the Revolutionary Guards will be strengthened as never before in Iran's foreign policy to ensure Iran's security.


And inside Iran? 


The government was moderate. But when he sees no interest in reform, his views are closer to those of the more conservative Pasdaran.

However, the Europeans have set up a barter system, called Instex, to continue trading with Iran despite American sanctions. Isn't that an important step?

Instex is not enough. It is more of a political act than an effective decision. Just think about it. Since the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, Iran has lost more than $60 billion due to Washington sanctions, while Europeans have not even been able to provide even $1 billion. In reality, Europe is playing with Iran and the Iranians have understood this well.

What "game" are you talking about? Are Europeans not doing everything they can to save the agreement?
The Europeans have neither the ability nor even the will to oppose Donald Trump, because they are not prepared to pay the price, and the Iranians have realized that.


Could Iran, in turn, leave the nuclear agreement and resume its sensitive nuclear activities?  


This is a possible scenario, because the country has no interest in the current situation.

In response to Donald Trump's decision, Iran decided to designate American troops in the Middle East as "terrorists". Isn't there a risk of Iranian reprisals against the American army in the region?


Remember that the Pentagon and the American intelligence services were opposed to the idea of designating the Guardians as "terrorists". This decision was actually taken by John Bolton's team, Donald Trump's national security adviser (considered as a falcon opposed to Iran, editor's note), against the advice of the military, who do not want a clash with the Iranians. The same applies to the Iranian forces, which do not want any incidents with the Americans. In Iraq, Syria, or the Persian Gulf, the forces of these two countries communicated with each other before each operation to avoid collision.

Now, with these new sanctions, the problem is that the Americans are obliged to first seek the agreement of the White House or the Pentagon to obtain permission to contact the Iranians on a case-by-case basis.

However, the needs of the field most of the time require immediacy. Thus, the American decision increases the risk of incidents, against the will of the military of both countries. Moreover, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, wrote a letter to the UN to this effect, holding the Americans responsible in the event of a clash.



What do you think is the American strategy towards Iran?  


Donald Trump's first goal in making this decision was to help Likud, Benjamin Netanyahu's party, win the Israeli parliamentary elections, which worked. Similarly, the American President had previously announced the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem and acknowledged Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights. In doing so, Donald Trump hopes to have the support of AIPAC (pro-Israeli lobby, close to Likud) and other American groups close to Netanyahu in the run-up to the next US presidential elections.



As for Iran, which remains on its feet thanks in particular to the Revolutionary Guards, the United States, by attacking them, wants to overthrow the Iranian regime. But they will not achieve their goals. On the contrary, the American decision brought the Guardians closer to the Iranian government and people. The executive understood that diplomacy was not working with Donald Trump and that Europe was not ready to make real decisions, despite the illegality of the American withdrawal from the nuclear agreement. Despite its disagreements with the Guardians, the Iranian government has understood that the country can only rely on itself, and there is nobody as powerful as the Pasdaran body to protect Iran. Its military defence capabilities will therefore increase. Clearly, Trump offered a gift to the Revolutionary Guards. And this will end in favour of pasdarans on the Iranian domestic scene.


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You say that the Iranian people have sided with the Guardians. However, the latter are nevertheless highly criticized in Iran, particularly for having organized the repression of the demonstrations of the green movement in June 2009.  Iranian public opinion has approached the Guardians because there is a shared feeling that the United States is inflicting a terrible injustice on Iran. Once again, Washington is playing a destructive role towards our country. In addition, Revolutionary Guards have been very involved with the victims of the recent floods in Iran.



The West, Israel and the Arab countries nevertheless consider the activities of the pasdarans as destabilizing in the Middle East.


It is incorrect to say that the Guardians have a destabilizing presence in the Middle East. In Syria and Iraq (countries allied to Iran, editor's note), the pasdarans were officially invited by the government to visit the country. If they have a presence in Lebanon, it is in collaboration with the Lebanese forces and the government (the Guards are only present alongside Hezbollah, not the army, NDLR). The situation in Yemen is different, where Iran does not recognize the government accepted by the West (and the UN, editor's note). The same scenario is happening in Venezuela, where Nicolás Maduro's government is recognized by Iran and the UN, but not by the West.


Can Donald Trump succeed, with his decision, in thwarting Iranian influence in the region? 


On the contrary, it will have the exact opposite effect. If the Revolutionary Guards are considered terrorists by the United States, there is nothing to stop them from changing their military uniforms! Today, Iran's willingness to remain in the region against the advice of the United States is all the more important because Iran has no other choice. Do you realize, Washington has closed all the channels of diplomacy. You will see that the Islamic Republic will increase its presence in the Middle East.



The risk of an incident, if not a war, between the United States and Iran has never been greater in the region.
It will not come from the Iranians. Iran has no desire to confront the United States by attacking American soldiers, because it is not in its interest to open a conflict. Now, until now, any risk of an incident in Syria or Iraq was avoided thanks to the direct communication channel that existed between the United States and Iran. However, this relationship has been severed and it is now possible that an incident may occur without our consent. Perhaps John Bolton wants this scenario to happen, but not Iran.


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