ANALYSIS – Iran Likely to Leave New US Sanctions Unanswered in Hopes of Seeing Trump Out in November

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik – 01st August, 2020) Iran is likely to abstain from stoking tensions with the United States over a new batch of metals sanctions, hoping to see President Donald Trump out of the White House in November and having no wish to play into his hands in the run-up to the election, experts told Sputnik.

On Thursday, the US expanded its metals sanctions against Iran to cover 22 additional materials which it says are used in the country’s nuclear, military, and ballistic missile programs. Those who “knowingly transfer” such materials to Iran are sanctionable as well.

‘WAIT AND SEE’ UNTIL AFTER ELECTION

Experts suggest looking at everything currently happening in US-Iranian relations in context of Trump‘s push to get reelected.

“President Trump has not achieved even a single diplomatic victory in any of his foreign policies during the last four years or so, particularly when it comes to Iran and the failed maximum pressure and sanction policy. What Trump is attempting or trying to do is to put even further or more pressure in Iran in order to convince the Iranians to negotiate with the US within the next four months,” Dr. Alam Saleh, a lecturer in Iranian studies at the Australian National University‘s Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, told Sputnik.

Given that such talks are “almost impossible,” the expert went on, what else the Trump administration may do is to step up military tensions with Iran to claim a victory ahead of the election. Trump would then proudly say: “We may not have succeeded in diplomatic way, but we have made so much damage, we have militarily succeeded in hurting Iran.”

“So Iran will not negotiate nor will it go to increase the tension or attempt any type of military action against the United States within the next few months to get rid of Trump in November in one way or another,” Saleh stated.

Another rationale for Iran‘s “strategic patience” is hope for a turnaround in relations should Trump lose the election.

“What Iran also wants to do is to prepare itself for the post-Trump era. It seems that [Joe] Biden may have a better chance to talk to Tehran to agree on issues and return to the nuclear agreement made in 2015. This is another reason why Iran doesn’t want to escalate tension … which would make it difficult for Tehran and Washington to negotiate even in the aftermath of Trump era,” Saleh suggested.

The latest metals sanctions, in turn, may be the White House‘s attempt to avert any normalization with the Islamic republic under next administrations.

“My guess is that American administration has two aims. As we near the presidential election in the US, Americans want to exert more psychological pressure on Iran … The second aim of the US administration is to make the sanctions multilayered or multi-tagged so as to make it difficult or even impossible for future American governments to achieve a deal or agreement with Iran,” Abas Aslani, visiting scholar at the Center for middle East Strategic Studies, told Sputnik.

According to Saleh of the Australian National University, the entire policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran has failed, and the recent metals sanctions are not a game changer.

“We can see that during the last three years Iran‘s policies have not been changed, its military and missile programs have continued. This so-called maximum pressure policy has not been able to achieve their objectives,” he said.

The expert believes that US sanctions have targeted ordinary people in the first place, not Iran‘s military or regional power, to increase public dissatisfaction with the government and encourage a power change.

“It [fresh sanctions] will not change around military or regional policies or behavior. Indeed, it will actually make Tehran even more determined to stay patient until November as they can see Trump likely failing the election,” Saleh added.

His colleague from the Center for Middle East Strategic Studies believes that the maximum pressure policy has actually backfired on the US itself.

“The level of trust in the US in Iran has decreased to a great extent. Accordingly, this has increased the cost of any risk to negotiate with the US administration at the current time. This has also benefited conservatives in Iranian domestic politics; the faction that opposes the talks with the US,” Aslani said.

Secondly, Iran has cut some of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal after the US’ unilateral withdrawal; and, thirdly, it has become more decisive in its regional policies.

“Fourth, the recent military drill near the Strait of Hormuz also showed that Iran will not abandon its defense capabilities, but rather will enhance and promote it. Fifth, Iran will distance itself more from Western countries and will approach Eastern countries such as Russia and China, as well as its neighboring countries,” the expert added.

‘RESTART’ UNLIKELY EVEN UNDER NEW ADMINISTRATION

Tensions thus may only grow as the US election nears. Washington‘s push to extend the UN‘s arms embargo against Tehran is just another ground for tensions.

“It seems that different sides, including the Europeans, Iran and others are in a wait and see mode till the elections. The nuclear deal cannot remain in limbo and in its current status for good. If that survives till after the American elections, different parties to the deal will need to make important decisions,” Aslani went on.

The next US administration, whatever it is, will inevitably have difficulties in dealing with Iran.

“In case a different president is in office in the US, there can be a prospect or some hope for de-escalation. But things will not be that smooth and easy. Given Iran‘s growing distrust toward the US, as well as a likely conservative administration in Tehran next year, return to square one can be somehow challenging. A likely conditional return by future US government to the deal will further complicate this,” the expert concluded.

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