The White House plans to unveil its “overall Iran strategy” this week, ending the mystery as to whether U.S. President Donald Trump will decertify an international deal curbing Tehran’s nuclear program, according to officials.
He’ll make that later this week,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters when asked about the certification decision and the administration’s broader strategy on Iran.
Trump, who has called the landmark 2015 accord agreed between Iran and six world powers the “stupidest” and “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into” in history, is expected to announce that he will decertify the deal ahead of an Oct. 15 deadline, a senior administration official said last week.
The former reality television host is also expected to designate Iran’s most powerful security force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, as a terrorist organization as part of a new Iran strategy.
The expected shift in policy has united Iran’s conservative Principalist faction and the liberal “Reformists” who form the main support base of President Hassan Rouhani. The two groups are now making clear the need for national unity against Trump’s menacing threats.
Several Iranian newspapers ran the same photo on the front page on Tuesday: the urbane, U.S.-educated Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif laughing and hugging the commander of the IRGC, Major-General Mohammad Ali Jafari, in a striking display of unity between the two main factions of Iran’s leadership.
“It seems the Trump administration understands only swear words, and needs some shocks to understand the new meaning of power in the world,” said Iranian armed forces spokesman Masoud Jazayeri, who is also a Revolutionary Guards commander. “The Americans have driven the world crazy by their behavior. It is time to teach them a new lesson.”
“We have a similar stance but different ways of saying it,” the papers quoted Jafari as saying.
An early shot across the bow came earlier in the day when U.S. authorities offered multimillion-dollar rewards for two officials of the Lebanese resistance group Hezbollah, a longtime Iran ally and fraternal partner founded shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. Washington is offering US$7 million for information leading to the arrest of Talal Hamiyah, head of Hezbollah’s foreign operations, and up to US$5 million for Fuad Shukr, a top Hezbollah military operative, the State Department said.
Since assuming office, Trump has sought to boost relations with Iran’s regional foes, Israel and Saudi Arabia, which had shown signs of wear under former President Barack Obama. Washington accuses Iran of supporting “terrorism” and says the 2015 deal does not do enough to block its path to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran says it does not seek nuclear weapons and in turn blames the growth of militant groups such as the Islamic State group on the policies of the United States and its Gulf Arab fundamentalist Wahhabi allies.
The hawkish turn in U.S. policy toward Iran has alarmed many of its European allies. British Prime Minister Theresa May told Trump by phone on Tuesday that the deal was “vitally important for regional security.”
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Monday urged the United States “not to call into question such an important achievement that has improved our security.”
France voiced concern on Tuesday that designating the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist group could exacerbate tensions in the region.
If Trump declines to certify the Iran deal, U.S. congressional leaders would have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Tehran suspended under the agreement.
Iranian authorities, who have said Tehran would not be the first to violate the accord, are publicly debating how they will respond if the Trump administration designates the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization. While figures in the military seem willing to greet Trump’s addition of their IRGC brethren to the terrorist list as a declaration of war, the reformists are counseling patience and the need to exploit contradictions among Western allies.
“Unlike the pre-deal era when the whole world was united against Iran, the world is now united against the United States, particularly so because Trump’s measures regarding other international agreements has sparked international opposition,” former Iranian diplomat Javid Ghorban Oghli said in an op-ed written for pro-reform Shargh Daily.
“Even Iran’s rationale of not returning to the table over the nuclear agreement has been welcome by world actors and the U.S. has failed to find company in its position … The recent stance adopted by the Trump administration is driven by rage and absolutely in Iran’s interest.”