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Iran Isn’t Eager to Reject the Nuclear Deal

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other senior figures in the Islamic Republic repeatedly threatened that, were America to withdraw from the nuclear agreement, their country would immediately do likewise and resume the activities the deal proscribed. In truth, write Yigal Carmon and A. Savyon, this threat has proved an empty one:

The Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, . . . in a speech following the U.S. withdrawal from the deal, did not announce that Iran was [itself] withdrawing, as he had stated in the past that he would if the U.S. did. Furthermore, he has given President Rouhani increasing room to maneuver in reaching new agreements with the Europeans. This was also Khamenei’s modus operandi when the agreement was accepted—he spoke against it at the same time as he approved it. Iran has no real tools to deal with the U.S.’s withdrawal from the agreement, or with the Europeans’ anticipated withdrawal from it as well, which may happen because they have no option. . . .

There has also been a shift in Iran’s position concerning its nuclear program and the resumption of its uranium enrichment in excess of the percentage permitted it by the nuclear deal. While prior to President Trump’s announcement [of American withdrawal], Iranian regime spokesmen had threatened to renew uranium enrichment, since the announcement the regime has taken no steps aimed at doing so, or at resuming activity in any other areas of its nuclear program.

Carmon and Savyon see similar timidity when it comes to tensions with Israel over Syria:

Iran is not ready for a widescale confrontation with Israel, and the steps it is taking in the hostilities are minimal. It has announced a policy of restraint, and has responded in measured fashion, one time only, to the serial Israeli attacks that caused Iranian loss of life and damage to Iranian battle arrays in Syria.

As on previous occasions, Iran is, for the time being, refraining from publishing any reports on the May 10 widescale Israeli attacks that struck as many as 50 Iranian targets in Syria. The Iranian media’s reports on the hail of Iranian rockets on Israeli military targets in the Golan Heights depict this as an operation carried out by the Syrian army, not by Iran, and in response to an Israeli attack that preceded it. Iran also is refraining, in its media, from presenting the Israeli attacks as a direct Israel-Iran confrontation. As far as Iran is concerned, any postponement of all-out confrontation with Israel is preferable, because Iran has not yet completed all steps of its deployment in the region, and U.S. forces still remain in Syria.

Read more at MEMRI

More about: Ali Khamenei, Iran, Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen