One thing needs to be said from the outset: the serious crisis between the United States and Iran is exclusively the fault of the Trump administration. Some are urging that we should avoid “taking sides” between the US and Iran, but this is missing the point and ignoring the context.
Instead, we should take a clear position against a US war plan that went into operation the day Donald Trump entered the White House.
Western media have a short memory these days, and they are neglecting to mention that before the real estate tycoon’s victory in the US presidential elections, relations between Washington and Tehran had seen a first major improvement.
A detente had been reached after decades of confrontation through the July 2015 signing, by Iran and the P5+1—the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany—of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), the international agreement on Tehran’s nuclear energy program.
It was an agreement reached after years of exhausting negotiations, and after the election of the moderate Hassan Rouhani as the Iranian head of state, who put an end to the years of open conflict between former president Ahmadinejad and the United States and Europe.
A decisive factor, in some ways of historical importance, was the decision by former President Barack Obama to give his consent to the JCPOA and extend a hand to Iran, to which he recognized the right to no longer live under the regime of economic sanctions (and other pressures) that it had had to face for years, and to no longer be kept on the sidelines of the international community.
This change in US policy infuriated Israel and Saudi Arabia. Tel Aviv and Riyadh are constantly accusing Iran of wanting to equip itself with nuclear bombs in secret. Tehran has always denied these accusations, although it admits that it would have the capacity to build an atomic bomb.
Whatever Iran’s intentions, the JCPOA was an excellent agreement that set decisive limits to Iran’s uranium enrichment (preventing the possible development of prohibited programs) and established a strict system of controls in the various phases of nuclear production, which Tehran is unable to sidestep. The agreement has been respected by Iran, as the United States itself has certified on several occasions.
Rouhani’s goal for his presidency was to build better relations with the US and Europe and end the sanctions, in the name of the welfare of the population and economic recovery. He has also managed to fend off pressure from Iran’s hawks, who were opposed to the JCPOA and warned against “trusting the Americans.”
For more than a year after the signing, there was indeed a period of detente with many countries, especially European ones, which were ready to make deals with Iran. However, this phase ended when Trump became president.
Trump, a character whose skills and knowledge would hardly qualify him to be a building superintendent, called the JCPOA a “bad deal” that needed to be radically changed or cancelled altogether.
Month after month, after having reluctantly certified on several occasions that Tehran was abiding by the agreement, the US president and his administration teeming with warmongers struck blow after blow against the JCPOA. Then, in May 2018, they finally announced the United States’ exit from the 2015 agreement, accompanied by new sanctions against Tehran’s oil exports and threats to any countries that still maintained relations with the Iranians.
These sanctions have multiplied under the insistent pressure of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who, after fruitlessly fighting against the JCPOA under Obama’s presidency, has found in Trump a steadfast ally and a formidable enforcer for his every desire.
After Donald Trump kicked over the table, the European leaders betrayed the expectations of Rouhani and the Iranian moderates, as they showed themselves unwilling to take concrete steps to oppose Trump’s reckless policy.
Now, the hawks are on the upswing in Iran, even more so after the assassination of General Soleimani, ordered by the White House with the goal of backing Iran into a corner and pushing it toward war. [Editor’s note: As of Wednesday, the Iranian government fired rockets at US forces in Iraq.] It will do more good to denounce who is responsible for all of this than to make appeals to “impartiality.”