As the first anniversary of the killing of Iranian general Suleimani by the United States approaches, the United States and Israel have recently intensified their military activities in Gulf waters, pointing the sword at Iran.
Analysts believe that with only a few weeks left in the Trump administration, the United States and Israel may try to seize the final “window period” to increase pressure on Iran and create more obstacles for the next U.S. government to return to a comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear issue. This has heated up tensions in the region again.
The three-way game between the United States and Iran
The Iraqi military said on the 20th that unidentified armed men fired several rockets into the “Green Zone” of Baghdad that night, causing no casualties. U.S. President Trump said on the 23rd that the rockets came from Iran.
According to a report by Israel’s Public Broadcasting Corporation on the 21st, an Israeli dolphin-class submarine is sailing to the Gulf region.
The Associated Press reported on the same day that one nuclear submarine and two warships of the U.S. Navy have recently crossed the Strait of Hormuz, and the presence of U.S. nuclear submarines in Middle Eastern waters shows that they are ready to “stand up against any threat at any time”. It is also reported that the U.S. military sent two long-range strategic bombers to the Gulf earlier this month to deter Iran.
In an interview with Saudi Arabian media on the 26th, IDF spokesman Zilberman said that countries should be highly vigilant against Iran’s “threats”.
Iran has toughly fought back against accusations from the United States and Israel. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Khatibzad said on the 24th that Trump’s allegations that the rockets attacking Baghdad’s “Green Zone” came from Iran were groundless, and the United States and its regional allies tried to increase tensions.
Commenting on the recent military deployment of the United States and Israel in the Middle East on the 28th, Khatibzad said that the importance of the Persian Gulf to Iran is well known, and if the security “red line” of Iran is crossed, it will bring great risks.
Focus on the future of the Iran nuclear agreement
On January 3 this year, Suleimani, the commander of the Al-Quds Brigade of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was killed by an airstrike by U.S. troops outside Baghdad International Airport in Iraq.
As the first anniversary of his killing approaches, Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have reiterated their “retaliation” against Suleimani’s death.
However, analysts point out that the current strengthening of military deployment by the United States and Israel in the Gulf region may be partly due to the fear of Iran’s retaliatory actions, but the more important purpose is to try to influence the future direction of the Iran nuclear agreement.
The U.S. government unilaterally withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement in May 2018, and then restarted and added a series of sanctions against Iran. In response, Iran has gradually suspended the implementation of some of the provisions of the agreement since May last year. U.S. President-elect Biden said in September this year that if Iran can resume strict compliance with the Iran nuclear agreement, the United States will return to the agreement.
Israel has always disapproved of the return of the United States to the Iran nuclear agreement. Prime Minister Netanyahu and his advisers have repeatedly said that the return of the United States to the agreement will be “horrible and dangerous” for the Middle East. According to Israeli media reports, Israel and the United States plan to increase pressure on Iran through covert operations and economic sanctions in the last weeks of Trump’s term.
Some Israeli political commentators believe that this shows that the Trump and the Israeli government are working together to block the Biden administration from returning to the Iran nuclear agreement after taking office.
Fan Hongda, a professor at the Middle East Research Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, believes that this is the continuation of decades of struggle between the United States, Israel and Iran, but it is unlikely that the situation will get out of control.
In fact, what Iran is most looking forward to at present is to keep the situation stable, wait for Biden to return to the Iran nuclear agreement after taking office, and then lift or ease sanctions against Iran.
Tehran University in Iran and an expert on Iran at Tsinghua University, said that some hawks in the Trump administration and Netanyahu’s government may attempt to provoke a conflict with Iran in the near future.
However, Saudi Arabia and other U.S. regional allies have begun to prepare for the return of the United States to the Iran nuclear agreement or start related negotiations after Biden takes office.