The United States launched an airstrike on Thursday evening against a border crossing point on the Syria-Iraq border that has been utilized by a Iranian-supported militant groups in the past. The attacks came in response to recent rocket attacks against US and coalition personnel in Iraq and the continued threat that Iranian proxy groups pose to them and their operations. This was the first US military action taken under the direction of President Biden. The decision for the attack was made after the Biden administration consulted with US allies. Shortly after 6 PM Eastern Time two F-15E Strike Eagles dropped JDAMs on multiple targets at the border crossing point.
The United States has stated it ultimately holds Tehran responsible for the actions of Iranian proxies. Thursday’s airstrike is proof that the Biden administration plans to hold firm to this policy. At least on the surface. A single US airstrike against a target with no viable connection to the recent rocket attacks in Iraq gives the impression of being little more than a slap on the wrist, as well as a message to Iran at best. These renewed attacks are a tactic being used by Tehran to increase pressure on Iraq’s government and simultaneously seeking leverage over the new US administration. After a brief period of calm late last year, the situation in Iraq returned to one more reminiscent of earlier in 2020 with regular attacks being made against Iraqi government and US military targets.
Practically speaking, last night’s airstrike should have no effect on US attempts to negotiate with Iran over the future of JCPOA compliance. Of course, should Tehran find it in their best interests to use the attack as a bargaining chip, it will. The White House needs to keep that in mind.
Iran has increased pressure on the European Union to help find a way around the strict US economic sanctions in place against it. Today, Iran announced it was knowingly violating more limitations set on its nuclear research by the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). A spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy agency announced that his nation is resuming work on advanced centrifuges despite the fact such activity is prohibited by the agreement. This is the third time in 2019 that Iran has broken the limits imposed in the agreement. Tehran claims the United States has violated the JCPOA by imposing sanctions on Iran. As a result, Iran is no longer abiding by the agreement. Tehran fails to mention the fact that the US renounced the agreement and walked away in 2015 and is no longer required to respect its terms.
Iran has been hoping European pressure on the US might help to lighten the sanctions which the Trump administration has levied. French President Emmanuel Macron had made a sincere effort to bring Iranian and the US leaders together to create a dialogue and reduce the current level of tension. However, President Trump has made it clear that the sanctions now in place will not be removed at the present time. Iran has responded by resuming work on centrifuges and announcing it publicly. Some observers, and analysts call it an attempt at blackmail, others view it as hardnosed diplomacy. The overall consensus seems to be that Iran’s primary concern is relieving the economic stress caused by sanctions, not resuming its nuclear program.
The Iranian position continues to deteriorate. The nation is voluntarily backing itself into a corner as its leaders push forward with a quasi-brinkmanship strategy which holds little prospect of bearing fruit anytime soon. Tehran’s diplomatic missteps and excitable rhetoric are adding fuel to a fire that is on the verge of becoming an out of control conflagration.
Iran’s military vows retaliation against the British for the seizure of an Iranian oil tanker off Gibraltar by British forces last week. The tanker was transporting the oil to Syria in violation of EU sanctions in place against the Assad regime. British Petroleum (BP) is holding one of its oil tankers inside of the Persian Gulf amid fears that Iran could attempt to seize the tanker as it passes through the Strait of Hormuz. The prospect of this, as well as worries that Iran will move forward with plans to charge foreign ships a toll for passage through the Strait of Hormuz, are prompting concerns that a military confrontation between Iran and the West is imminent.
Iran’s premeditated violation of the 2015 nuclear agreement is not helping matters. The foreign ministers from Germany, France, Great Britain, and the European Union have officially acknowledged that Iran is pursuing activities in direct contradiction to its compliance responsibilities under the agreement. A commission of the signatories is expected to be convened in the near future and could lead to international sanctions being placed back on Iran. However, given that China, and Russia are also signatories of the nuclear agreement, a snapback of sanctions is not guaranteed.
With US sanctions crushing Iran’s economy, the expectation was that Iran would give a little leeway by now. The hardliners in Tehran, have seen fit not to budge an inch though, and continue to move the crisis in a dangerous direction.
Apologies for being out of the loop over an extended holiday weekend, but I’m gradually getting back up to speed now. I will post more tomorrow, and in the coming days.
Tehran appears set to honor the 7 July deadline it put in place regarding increased uranium enrichment. The Iranian government has said repeatedly it will no longer honor the enrichment restrictions in the 2015 nuclear deal unless European nations can provide relief from the stringent US economic sanctions now in place. It is becoming apparent that the European effort has failed and come Sunday Iran will begin enriching uranium in any amount it sees fit. Iran has stated the enrichment level will be below the 90-percent purity necessary for uranium to be considered weapons grade. Given Iran’s penchant for misleading statements and outright lies in the past, this claim is circumspect to say the least.
The United States is not taking chances. The Trump administration regards Iran’s statements as threats and has made subtle hints about possible retaliation. Given the fact that President Trump cancelled retaliatory strikes on Iran after a US drone was shot down by Iranian forces last month, Tehran is probably not too concerned by Washington’s rhetoric.
Disregarding the Trump administration’s warnings would be a monumental mistake. The US had made it clear it will not stand by and allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. This position is nothing short of a red line and the US is not going to budge.
We’ll discuss this more after the deadline passes on Sunday.
Apologies for being radio silent since late last week, but sometimes life and work get in the way unfortunately. I’ll start off with a brief update on Iran and then delve into more detailed postings tomorrow and into the weekend.
Tomorrow, Iran is expected to announce that the size of its uranium stockpiles have exceeded the limits set by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which is more commonly known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. The uranium limitation level is considered to be a key component of the deal. A red line which, if crossed, could nix the entire nuclear deal. The root purpose of the deal has always been to limit the size and scope of Iran’s nuclear program and prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Once Iran makes the announcement and takes this step it places the remaining members of the JCPOA in a difficult position. Iran has given the European nations in the deal until 7 July to offer a better nuclear deal, or relief from the US economic sanctions now in place, it will begin enriching its uranium to weapons-grade levels. This is the real danger at the moment. Thus far, every Iranian move has been calculated to help bring about the end of the economic sanctions now strangling its economy. Tehran has miscalculated more than once, as is evident by fact that the sanctions not only remain in place, but by the reality that the Trump administration is piling on additional sanctions.
Iran’s brinkmanship strategy is failing and its causing the leadership in Tehran to become more desperate. It is in situations like this where miscalculations become more probable, and it goes without saying that an Iranian miscalculation at this point could have disastrous consequences.