On June 27 and June 28, in a series of tweets from his official account, the US secretary of state Mike Pompeo went out of the way to praise protests in Iran, calling it a backlash against the “corruption, injustice and incompetence of their leaders.” It was no surprise to see Israel’s Netanyahu also praising the Iranians, asking further as to “why is Iran so poor? Why is unemployment so rampant? The answer is in two words: the regime. Iran’s dictators plunder the country’s wealth… The Iranian people are the ones that suffer.” Clearly, both the United States and Israel are, if not directly fuelling the protests, certainly involved in an active encouragement of the crisis, an indication of how desirable the goal of regime change in Iran remains. Their encouragement isn’t simply restricted to social media. In fact, the US withdrawal from the Iran deal despite the EU’s opposition and the IAEA’s confirmation of Iranian compliance is also a part of their policy of regime change. Withdrawal has rather expectedly been followed by resumption of sanctions, a step that has always been taken with one cardinal objective in mind: forcing the country into an economic crisis so that wide spread protests may take place, leading to an overthrow of the undesirable regime. Above mentioned tweets and video messages confirm this undoubtedly, also confirming how the Trump administration has ‘pivoted’ to an Israeli agenda, totally scrapping the Obama administration’s legacy of a hard negotiated settlement with Iran.
Clearly, a joint US-Israeli plan against Iran is working, indications of which had already started to come as early as December 2017 when, as a senior US official said, after two days of talks at the White House, US and Israeli officials had reached an understanding, signing a secret pact, to counter Iranian actions. Several working groups, in this behalf, had also been established with an explicit purpose of targeting Iran’s nuclear and missile programme, Iran’s actions in Syria and its support for Hezbollah.
While the reported signatory to this document is the ousted national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, the appointment of John Bolton, the confirmed paid speaker for an Iranian militant group, does also confirm, as we have previously pointed out, how regime change agenda is absolutely back on Iran.
John Bolton, as could be expected, is now already deeply involved in setting up task forces to unsettle Iran in a big way. The purpose of this force is—again unsurprisingly—to exploit protests in Iran to the advantage of both the US and Israel.
The task force, with its world-wide anti-Iran mission, has been established at a time when the remaining signatories of Iran-nuke deal are trying to persuade Iran to stay in the deal. According to Iran’s IRNA news agency, Iranian officials will be meeting EU officials in Vienna on Friday, July 6, to discuss the new “incentive package” the EU has prepared to preserve the deal.
Israel, however, has other plans. According to the reports, the purpose of the task-force is also to use Iran’s internal crisis to build international opposition against the regime. As such, Israel will be sending diplomatic missions to EU, the UNO and even the World Bank to build pressure on what the Israeli officials call the “ayatollahs” in Iran to globally isolate them, put them under sanctions, heat things up in Iran and thus force them out of power.
The plan is also a clear manifestation of what Saudia’s Muhammad Bin Salman, a partner of the US and Israel against Iran, had said a year ago about fighting the war between the Sunni and the Shia not anywhere else, certainly not in Saudi Arabia, but within Iran itself.
Planning for this is already underway. And, an important aspect of this is, apart from encouraging internal crisis by strangulating its economy, is also to stir up Baloch insurgency in Iran by building Arab support for the Baloch against Iran. A Saudi funded think-tank, Arabian Gulf Centre for Iranian Studies, said in one of its 2016 report that the Saudis could “persuade Pakistan to soften its opposition to any potential Saudi support for the Iranian Baluch”, arguing further that “Arab support for the Iranian Baluch is a matter of strategic necessity in confronting the Iranian hegemony in the region.”
By thus heating things up, it is clear that the US-Israel and Saudia are not avoiding a war with Iran; they’re actually preparing the ground for it as Iran has already warned to increase the enrichment level to 20 per cent if the agreement falls apart.
And, If push comes to shove, this would be a win for the hawks in both the US and Israel, who have long been advocating to scrap the deal and have completely ignored sane voices within the same administration. For instance, within the US even, a number of still serving officials from the military and defence establishment had warned against and opposed the US decision to withdraw from the deal.
Even the defence secretary James Mattis is on record to have said that he has read the agreement thrice and found it to be “pretty robust”; Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford says, “Iran is adhering to its JCPOA obligations” and that quiting the deal “would have an impact on others’ willingness to sign agreements”; the head of US Strategic Command, Gen. John Hyten says, not only is Iran in compliance with JCPOA” but also “it’s our job to live up to the terms of that agreement”; and the head of US Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel says the nuclear deal is “in our interest” because it “addresses one of the principle threats that we deal with from Iran.”
With the latent reasons for withdrawing from the deal thus now in the limelight and certainly not unknown to any observer of geo-politics, one can certainly expect that a US-Israeli-Saudi effort to topple the Iranian regime from within is in its practical phase, which means that the nexus is shifting its geo-political chessboard from Syria to Iran. How long before we would start hearing people from within Iran, gaining foreign support, and chanting such slogans as “Ayatollahs must go”!
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.