U.S. And Iran Again on Brink – and for Good Reason

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The cat is finally out of the bag. Despite Iran’s repeated and vehement protestations to the contrary in the face of Bahrain calling it the source of spreading all the mischief and terror in the Arab Gulf region over the years, the foremost First World country seems to have agreed with the label. US Defence Secretary James Mattis last week called Iran “world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism.” There are also reports that US President Donald Trump is considering adding Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp to the list of prohibited terrorist organizations.

Tehran has been running amok with a range of activities in the region ranging from espionage in Kuwait to arming and funding anti-government thugs in Bahrain and anti-Saudi arsonists in Iran. They also supplyed sophisticated weapons and training to rebels in Yemen and backed Hezbollah in Lebanon. The laundry list of their malevolence is endless. Most of it in the name of exporting its own brand of Islamic Revolution which has the sanction of its Parliament and backing of its spiritual leaders.

The Obama administration threw Iran a lifeline by leading western countries to enter into an agreement with Tehran vis a vis its nuclear programme. That action gave it respite even as it was bleeding on account of years-long sanctions.

Iran’s powers-that-be chose to misinterpret the gesture as an open door to indulging in its old game of again testing its weaponry, apparently without taking into account the new mood in America post the regime change there. The new White House occupant would have none of it.

Mattis Speaks about Iran.
Mattis Speaks about Iran.

In the wake of its ballistic missile test last week, Iran was hardly expecting the kind of riposte it got from the US. The Trump administration immediately imposed sanctions on it. And as if to underline the harsh stance, it also placed Iran among the seven countries whose citizens were barred from obtaining a US visa. [It is another matter that the US courts overturned the order].

The US sanctions cover 13 people and 12 companies in response to Iran’s “continued support for terrorism.” According to the BBC, Mr Mattis had more strong words for Iran while visiting Japan. “As far as Iran goes, this is the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world,” he told reporters. “We have seen their [Iran’s] misconduct, their misbehaviour, from Lebanon and Syria to Bahrain and to Yemen and it’s got to be addressed at some point,” he added.

The US has threatened even more action to chastise Iran. Trump has been a vocal critic of the nuclear accord under which Iran agreed to curb its sensitive nuclear activities in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. It looks like Iran is all set to meet its comeuppance, something which was overdue.

The Trump move also vindicates Bahrain’s consistent stand that the West needs to curb Iran’s nefarious expansionist plans, a far cry from the days when the American ambassador in Bahrain would himself hobnob with the recalcitrant opponents of the government.

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.