German expert: "U.S. policy towards Iran is inconsistent and illegitimate"
Well-known German expert on Iran Cornelius Adebahr, who has lived in this country for several years and seen its domestic politics up close, commented to Capital on the "neither war, nor peace" situation in the Persian Gulf. Vestnik Kavkaza presents its readers with the main excerpts from the interview with the expert.
Speaking about the impact of U.S. sanctions on Iran, Adebahr noted: "Even though the purpose of the sanctions is not completely clear (whether is it an attempt to change the regime or some political changes?), they have direct consequences. Oil trade, which is the most important source of income for the Iranian economy, collapsed during the year. If after the nuclear deal was signed, Iran sold 2 million barrels daily, today it is less than one million. According to estimates from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Iran’s GDP fell by 4% last year, and this year the Iranian economy is expected to shrink by 6%. At the same time, the rates of unemployment (officially 16%, the youth unemployment - 30%) and inflation (more than 50% in 2018) are increasing."
According to the expert, the Iranian leadership, in turn, is preparing the population for the "economy of the struggle" - obviously, it is trying to draw a parallel with the 1980s Iran-Iraq war when Iran faced Iraqi aggression, supported both in Western Europe and U.S.
Commenting on Europe’s position on the Iranian issue, Cornelius Adebahr noted that Instex, a mechanism that will allow to trade with Iran despite U.S. sanctions developed by Germany, France and the UK in early 2019, is operating: "Three countries should now try to fill this trading platform with economic life. Initial restrictions to solely humanitarian trade (medicines, food, agricultural products) are linked to U.S. sanctions, although Europeans do not officially recognize them. For Iran, on the contrary, oil trade is the most important, although Tehran has not sold oil to European importers for a long time. Perhaps, Russia and China could join this mechanism as partners, or at least support it."
The German expert believes that, despite the well-known role of sanctions in signing the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement , in general, their effectiveness is still a matter of argument. This is also confirmed by the current U.S. policy, which has resulted in the 'hardliners' - those preferring hardline policy in the international arena - being intensified in Tehran. Cuba, which is much smaller than Iran, still stands ground, despite Washington’s many years of penalties. In this sense, sanctions are often also symbolic.
When asked if the EU would join the new U.S. sanctions against Iran, Adebahr noted: "The new European sanctions against Iran would have a symbolic meaning, marking the end of thaw in relations that has been observed since 2015 - even if these sanctions were directed against other areas of Iranian activity, for example, the missile program or boat traffic. Against the backdrop of EU efforts to save the nuclear deal from U.S. sanctions, European countries are betting on diplomacy."
The expert believes that the U.S. policy towards Iran is not only inconsistent, but also illegitimate. "Thus, Washington condemns Iran’s occasional violations of the nuclear deal, which the United States itself has violated for more than a year already. After the danger of a military conflict in the Persian Gulf increased after sabotage attacks and the downed drone, even the U.S. allies in the region - Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE - became noticeably calmer towards Iran."
"The international community has created a functioning monitoring tool for the Iranian nuclear program, confirmed by the UN Security Council. Now Washington wants to destroy this tool, without offering an adequate replacement. The accusations against Iran should be discussed in the framework of the regional dialogue, not through the pressure of one separate power, especially since such pressure violates the pillars of the existing global order," the analyst noted.
"After a year of silence, the Iranian government issued an ultimatum to the remaining parties to the nuclear deal in May 2019. Thus, it is trying to force them to be more active, for example, in the issue of oil trade and banking restrictions. At the same time, Tehran, led by 'hardliners' inside the country, stands in opposition to the United States in the Persian Gulf. The Iranian leadership expects that the U.S. president, in spite of his harsh rhetoric, does not want a classic war, or is even afraid of it. The rejection of the planned 'retaliatory strike' by the U.S. after the American drone was shot down at the end of June seems to confirm this calculation. Iranians strike differently, be it drone attacks on Saudi Arabia by Houthis or the capture of a British tanker as a direct revenge for the confiscation of an Iranian cargo ship in Gibraltar. So far, the Iranian escalation has not touched Israeli and American targets, since in both cases it would cause a massive and disproportionately powerful response," Cornelius Adebahr believes.
According to the expert, in today's situation, it is Iran that is on the long side of the lever. "The U.S. presence is spread across the region after its troops were sent to Iraq in 2003. Now, Washington is withdrawing troops. The importance of other powers, for example, Russia and China, with which Tehran can agree in the medium term, is growing. One of the main points of the foundation of the Islamic Republic was independence from the 'imperialist forces'. The Iranian leadership cannot succumb to U.S. pressure without betraying its own fundamental ideas. And despite the population's grievances against the current government - it supports the government on this issue," the expert on Iran concluded.