Trump’s strategy toward Iran at expense of US credibility: Costello

.jwplayer{ display: inline-block; } TEHRAN, May 27 (MNA) –Ryan Costello NIAC assistant policy director is of the view that Trump’s apparent strategy is to punish Iran at the expense of nonproliferation, security in the Middle East, relations with European allies, the efficacy of future sanctions and the diplomatic credibility of the US.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo laid out the Trump administration‘s new strategy for Iran on Monday two weeks after the US President Donald Trump walked away from the Obama administration‘s Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA).

Repeating lots of baseless accusations against Iran, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his speech at the Heritage Foundation on Monday made 12 demands on Iran including to:

-Declare to the IAEA a full account of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear program and permanently and verifiably abandon such work in perpetuity.

-Stop enrichment and never pursue plutonium reprocessing, including closing its heavy water reactor.

– Provide the IAEA with unqualified access to all sites throughout the entire country.

– End its proliferation of ballistic missiles and halt further launching or development of nuclear-capable missile systems.

-Release all US citizens as well as citizens of US partners and allies.

-End support to Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Just hours after Pompeo’s speech many EU officials and international figures rejected his demands on Iran as unrealistic and futile.

Some experts from CNN and FT called the Pompeo’s demands “pipe dream” that indicates the US administration has not any new strategy towards Iran after its withdrawal from the JCPOOA.

To discuss the issue we reached out to Ryan Costello NIAC assistant policy director.

Here is the full text of interview with him:

He has promised very tough sanctions on Iran. Considering the fact that even the US closest allies in EU have announced they will be committed to the JCPOA and will keep on business and trade with Iran, how realistic and feasible are Mr. Pompeo’s promised  sanctions?

U.S. sanctions have tremendous power, particularly over European businesses with ties to the American economy. If fully implemented, as the administration has vowed, European companies will be forced to choose between doing business in Iran or the United States. The Obama administration brought Europeans on board with sanctions previously, though that effort was eased by shared concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program. This time, the Trump administration will be attempting to use brute force alone to enforce sanctions, which will have bite. The main question is how far Europe can go to protect its companies in order to try to sustain relief under the JCPOA.

Will other global powers like Russia and China follow up possible US unilateral sanctions against Iran?

Russia and China seem well positioned to swoop in and take business from European companies forced to depart Iran as a result of U.S. sanctions. Russia, in particular, is likely watching happily as the U.S. targets its European allies over sanctions – weakening the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) and the future efficacy of U.S. sanctions in the process, and potentially paving the way toward another disastrous war of choice in the Middle East.

How do you assess the consequences of Trump’s unilateral policies? What can his policies lead to consequences for the US and the world?

Trump’s apparent strategy is to punish Iran at the expense of nonproliferation, security in the Middle East, relations with European allies, the efficacy of future sanctions and the diplomatic credibility of the United States. The Iranian people are likely to once again bear the brunt of the sanctions, not the Iranian government or the Revolutionary Guard Corps that are the supposed targets. I’m also deeply concerned that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton will be pushing Trump for military confrontation, as they’ve advocated in the past.

He has talked about forcing Iran to accept a new security architecture for the region. what kind of architecture possibly he means and aims for?  

The idea of a new security architecture for the Middle East is a good idea. For it to be sustainable and inclusive, Iran would need to be a participant and not a subject. President Obama hinted his preference for such an arrangement, indicating that Saudi Arabia and Iran need to learn how to share the region and make some sort of cold peace.

The problem is this isn’t the sort of security architecture that Trump and his team are looking for. After reneging on America’s word on sanctions relief under the nuclear deal, Pompeo demanded additional Iranian concessions well beyond what nations endorsed under the JCPOA in addition to far-reaching concessions on regional security concerns and the release of imprisoned dual nationals in Iran. In return, Pompeo offered relief from all sanctions. However, given Iran’s experience under the JCPOA and the hawkish delivery, this was an almost impossible speech to take seriously. It is a shame, as well, because the release of imprisoned dual nationals should not be tied to the resolution of all geopolitical disputes between the U.S. and Iran.

 I would, however, caution that nothing is ever preordained under the Trump administration. Advisors are hired and fired on whims, and Trump clearly wants a big foreign policy win that he is willing to re-write the political rule book in order to get. Even though his administration has done everything possible to alienate Iran away from the negotiating table, I wouldn’t rule out engaging the Trump administration at some point to see if they’d be willing to meet in the middle on some of their demands. We’ve already seen Trump go from threatening “fire and fury” on North Korea to praising Kim Jong-Un as “honorable.” It’s not impossible that Trump could similarly flip if he perceived engagement with Iran to be politically beneficial.

Some believe what Mr. Pompeo asked for yesterday somehow is declaration of war against Iran. What do you think of this?

 Pompeo and Bolton appear ideologically inclined to use force against Iran. Pompeo was careful to demand almost everything conceivable from Iran, thereby making a deal on any issue almost impossible, while also stopping short of openly calling for war or regime change which would be politically toxic. Their goals appear to be to limit diplomatic prospects and provoke Iran into actions that will help justify their disastrous policies.

 Where Trump stands, however, is anyone’s guess. He clearly has internalized antipathy toward Iran, as has been made evident through his Muslim ban and his repeated attacks on the deal. The danger is that even if he wants to avoid war in the Middle East, at least in theory, he is surrounded by hawkish advisors who are trying their hardest to push him toward military confrontation.

Interview by: Payman Yazdani