Commentary. Trump’s policy reinforces the belief by middle-sized powers that you need to have nuclear weapons in order to avoid being attacked and to get to the negotiating table. Thus, the nuclear race will not slow down, but will only accelerate.

US escalation against Iran is setting up another disaster in the Middle East

We’re always on the brink of a new war somewhere: this time, it’s Iran. The goal of the US, encouraged by Israel and Saudi Arabia, is to use sanctions to tighten the noose around Tehran’s neck, strangling Iran’s economy, pushing moderates like President Hassan Rouhani into a corner and setting off an escalation with consequences that are not even hard to predict: another disaster in the Middle East, right before the gates of Europe. If Russia, China and the European Union—the latter already guilty of being overly pliable—fail to strenuously oppose these developments, and to do so together, there will be no alternative left to that scenario.

The only consideration that might perhaps keep Trump from starting an out-and-out war is that there are just a few months left until next year, when he is up for re-election, and American soldiers are currently exposed in Iraq and Syria, where Tehran has powerful assets both militarily and politically.

As for Italy, we have already decided to tag along with the US by choosing to no longer buy Iranian oil, with no justification whatsoever, even as we were benefitting from a six-months exemption from sanctions. Furthermore, up to this point, Italy has not even made an official decision to participate in the Europe-wide effort to find a way around the US sanctions. Instead, our inscrutable Foreign Minister was the only one from a founding country of the EU to attend the anti-Iran summit in February in Warsaw. In exchange for all this kowtowing, we have gotten precisely nothing, unless one counts being treated as a joke on the Libyan issue.

It looks like we are third-rate even at being sovereignists: witness our media these days, all too willing to butcher the truth with each headline proclaiming that “Iran is defying the United States.”

Actually, there are at least a dozen reports by the IAEA in Vienna, issued from 2015 to the present day, which certify that Iran has complied with the nuclear deal signed in 2015, negotiated with the Obama-led United States and the “5+1” countries, then ratified as an international treaty by the United Nations. Tehran’s decision to suspend certain sections of the deal regarding uranium enrichment if no way can be found to circumvent US sanctions within 60 days is actually a highly predictable move: Trump was the one who decided a year ago to withdraw unilaterally from an agreement which was the result of a long process of negotiations. By imposing new sanctions and an embargo on oil exports, Trump is practically trying to starve Iran out.

According to the Financial Times, Trump has not only destabilized the international order by withdrawing from previously signed commitments, but is now pushing Iran toward a slippery slope: “the ratcheting up of pressure looks deliberately designed to destabilize Iran, rather than bring it back to the negotiating table.” Let’s be frank here: if Iran actually had the bomb, we wouldn’t have reached this point. It’s enough to look at how Trump was willing to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who actually has nuclear weapons. The policy adopted by the US reinforces the belief by middle-sized powers that you need to have nuclear weapons in order to avoid being attacked and to get to the negotiating table. Thus, the nuclear race will not slow down, but will only accelerate.

However, Trump prefers Israel and Saudi Arabia, the two major opponents of Tehran, to legality and peace. Both countries regularly violate UN resolutions, but no one even thinks of imposing sanctions on them. The Jewish state enjoys a sort of “immunity,” and the United States has gone as far as recognizing Jerusalem as its capital and blessing its annexation of the Golan Heights. Only feeble voices have raised objections against these decisions, and the weak criticism has shown the people of the Middle East that a double standard is now the rule: Israel is legibus solutus (above the law), while others must be punished, and, if necessary, bombed.

Not to mention the hypocrisy that surrounds Saudi Arabia, which keeps massacring civilians in Yemen. We are resupplying it with Western weapons and Italo-German bombs without the slightest pang of conscience. We have already forgiven Prince Mohammed bin Salman for being the man behind the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Simply put, we are tolerating a Mafia state, a Gomorrah no longer set in Naples but in the Middle East, because they’re buying what we want to sell them.

Thanks to the US, and to us, Israel has seen its adversaries, the Arab powers, crumble one by one, from Iraq to Syria, while the Saudis, generous funders of terrorism and the most retrograde version of Islam, have managed to keep the “Arab Spring” far away from their shores. Now, along with the US, Egypt, France, Russia and the UAE, they’re trying to remove the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Tripoli, together with the form of political Islam which is challenging them. And there are even some who still believe in their good intentions.

The Western and American perspective is the mole’s eye view. When I went to Iran for the first time in 1980, the country was already under sanctions because of the hostage crisis at the US embassy. During that hot summer, Saddam Hussein attacked Iran, with the encouragement of the West and money from the Gulf monarchies. Everyone thought they could score an easy win against the Shiite Islamic Republic—but they were wrong. That was when an endless war began, which has lasted to this day—which includes what happened in Afghanistan ever since the jihad against the Soviet occupation—and we can rest assured that there’s no end in sight. The only noose is the one we’re tying around our own necks.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Your weekly briefing of progressive news.

You have Successfully Subscribed!