Fragile US-Iran relations continue

Fragile US-Iran relations continue

31/05/17

Samantha Deave, Corporate Services Manager

‘Something deeply rotten is unfolding in our part of the world’ Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, wrote in an op-ed for the Huffington Post following US President Trump’s arms deal with the Saudi’s last week.

US-Iran relations are back on the global agenda, with a strong and vocal response from Iran to the latest salvo from President Trump.

Despite Trump’s powerful anti-Iran rhetoric during the election campaign, the US agreed to continue to waive sanctions and implement the commitments of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. The announcement temporarily calmed uncertainty surrounding Trump’s Iran policy and was a sign that he may let the deal stand.

The statement came just days before the re-election of President Rouhani. There was fear that the moderate candidate’s popularity had decreased, as the country had not seen the economic impetus promised after the lifting of the sanctions. Rouhani’s landslide victory, however, showed that the majority of Iranians continue to support Tehran’s attempts to engage with the West and end years of economic isolation.

But Trump then visited Saudi Arabia on his first overseas trip as President.  He signed a $US110 billion arms deal with the Saudi Arabian government, reigniting the tension between the US and Iran. Sunni-led Saudi Arabia and Shia-majority Iran are on opposing sides of several conflicts across the Middle East – including the wars in Syria and Yemen. The Iran-US relationship suffered another blow as Trump, on the same trip, accused Tehran of supporting terrorism in the Middle East and called on Muslim countries to stand united against Iran.

Responses by Iran’s Supreme Leader and ministers in President Rouhani’s cabinet to Trump’s comments in Saudi Arabia have been heated and extensive. In the Huffington Post op-ed, Zarif, Iranian Foreign Minister wrote, ‘At best, Mr. Trump is extorting our Saudi neighbours, milking them for money they do not have. At worst, he could be turning the United States into Saudi Arabia’s mercenary in the Middle East, a rather ignominious position for America considering where 15 of the September 11 hijackers came from.’

Trump’s comments on Iran have triggered a public feud in the Middle East, bringing Qatar in to the rift: Saudi Arabia and the UAE are angered by the conciliatory line taken by Qatar on Iran, further deepening long-standing divides in the region.