By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed*
It is the story of the frog that carried the scorpion on its back to cross the water to the other bank. As soon as it arrived, the scorpion stung it. The frog denounced it, prompting the scorpion to say it would not be a scorpion if it did not sting it.
At the end of last week, the USS Mahan came under the risk of confrontation seven times with Iranian Revolutionary Guard vessels in international waters in the Gulf, forcing it to fire warning shots to ward them off. Meanwhile, celebrations in Tehran have been held for what they call humiliating American sailors a year ago. All this embarrassment occurred for President Barack Obama as he is about to end his eight-year term in the White House.
He is the only US president since 1979 to carry the Iranian regime on his back. He abolished the policy of five previous presidents as he negotiated with the regime and struck a generous deal with it after the lifting of economic sanctions. He also turned a blind eye to its crimes in Syria. Tehran has rewarded him before leaving the White House by harassing US forces in Gulf waters and insulting them again, as well as insulting him in official media.
A few days separate us from the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, and we will see how Tehran will treat the new US government. Will it dare intercept American vessels, arrest their crew, or shoot at navy units stationed in Gulf waters?
In Washington, preparations are underway for Trump’s inauguration. All that we have heard so far suggests that the end of Obama’s presidency is the end of his policy in the Gulf, and will be followed by a different era in the Middle East. I do not want to rush and raise our expectations of Trump’s administration, but what was said by senior officials at congressional hearings last week suggests that Trump is not Obama.
These expectations have been confirmed by Trump’s top candidates for secretary of state, secretary of defense and the CIA. The three, conspicuously, accused Iran of being a source of instability in the region, and said the new US administration will face it and not ally with it, without abandoning the nuclear deal.
If they do what they vow against Iran, it will be an important US policy shift in relations with the Gulf and the balance of power in the Middle East. Obama began his relations with Tehran in secret, placing his trust in the scorpion, putting it on his back and betting it would be a regional partner for peace and a key ally in the fight against terrorism.
Because the Obama administration secretly communicated with Tehran for a long time, it was easy to give promises and sign agreements that were bad not just for the US but for the region and the world.
No one in the region rejects US openness toward Iran, or an agreement to stop its nuclear program. However, a number of mistakes by the Obama administration caused the release of regime monsters, which is the main reason behind the disasters in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
This was not necessary, and it is time for Iran to realize it can enjoy its economic capabilities and the world’s open doors for trade, tourism and exchange of knowledge. However, it should not leave its forces and militias to threaten the security of the region, or the security and interests of the whole world.
*Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is a veteran columnist. He is the former general manager of Al Arabiya News Channel, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, where this article was originally published.