By Arab News
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed*
Everything seems to be going according to plan so far — this is if we assume that there is actually a plan to confront Iran.
The imposition of further US sanctions has now been completed, and Iran is no longer able to export more than half a million barrels of oil per day, when it used to export up to 3 million.
Furthermore, due to the risks and bargains, Iran will sell its oil below market value. Sometimes, shipping the oil costs Iran more too. We have seen this with the discovery and detention of the oil tanker that sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, then through the Atlantic Ocean, until it reached the Strait of Gibraltar, where it was seized.
Had this oil tanker not been seized by the British, it was expected to reach the Syrian coast. True, the shipment was free, being a part of the Iranian support to the Syrian regime, but it was fabulously expensive and clearly reflects the state of frustration and failure of the leadership in Tehran.
Even if China bought a quarter of a million barrels, the quality is still small. Increasing Tehran’s pain is the addition of new sanctions that target its exports of petrochemicals and other products.
The “well-planned scheme” was based on the psychology of Iran. The scheme has predicted well how Iran would react, and has rarely erred. The imposition of the sanctions will push Iran into intransigence, so it threatens and goes back to enrichment. We know that it will go back to uranium enrichment and, thus, lose the support the rest of the states that signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal. These states will also have to stand against Iran and this is exactly what has happened. Instead of negotiating, Iran has gone too far in its threats and announced its breach of the deal, prompting the EU countries, China and Russia to respond with denunciation. The EU countries are now under pressure to join the US in imposing sanctions on Iran.
Moreover, now that Iran has activated its nuclear project, Israel’s role in the crisis has become more central and effective, as it believes it — and not just the Gulf states — is a target for Iran’s nuclear and ballistic weapons.
Before the enrichment move, the dispute over Iraq and Yemen was of less importance to the Israelis. This also applies to Syria. Iran’s situation there is very bad, as Israel continuously attacks its military presence, despite the fact that Iran’s forces and militias have retreated outside of Damascus. The plight of the Iranians has also increased with Russia allowing Israel to target them in Syria without trying to intercept the Israeli missiles with its rocket launchers. By increasing its uranium enrichment, Iran has increased the threat against it, not the other way around.
What about the increasing Iranian hostile activity in the Arabian Gulf region by targeting ships, especially those coming from Saudi Arabia and the UAE? There is also Iran’s aggression through its Houthi agent, which has also increased. The Houthis have been using drones to attack Abha and Jazan airports in southern Saudi Arabia, near the border with Yemen.
There is another expected Iranian development that reflects the regime’s behavior and raises the threat level against Saudi Arabia. But, even if Tehran doubled or tripled its attacks, its effect would still be too small to provoke Saudi Arabia and its allies to go for a direct confrontation with Iran. No one wants to slip into war — not even the Iranians themselves. However, Iran wants to push things toward ending or curbing the US sanctions. This will never happen, with the US administration insisting on the implementation of the majority of its “scheme.” The sanctions will not be lifted, and negotiations are the only solution on the table. Iran has to make the expected concessions.
- 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. Twitter: @aalrashed