By Quentin Choy
July 30, 2021
One of my most popular posts “How We Got Here: An Illustrated Timeline of U.S.-Iranian Relations” went over the last couple of decades of U.S.-Iranian relations. The illustrated timeline showed the events that deteriorated relations to the poor point at which they now stand.
In this post, I’ll discuss what I believe the future will look like for U.S.-Iranian relations based off of current political and diplomatic trends.
Continued U.S. Escalation Through Rhetoric and Sanctions
The U.S. and Iran have engaged with one another in a tit-for-tat fashion over the last few decades, with the C.I.A. coup in 1953 and subsequent Iranian Revolution in 1979 serving as catalysts toward disaster. The kidnapping of American hostages in the Tehran embassy will always serve as a hot point between the two nations as well.
Following attempts to restrict Iranian access to nuclear weapons through the Iran nuclear deal, the United States withdrew from the deal in 2018 with then-president Donald Trump citing that the deal wouldn’t sufficiently ensure that Iran would not gain access to nuclear weapons.
The United States has placed sanctions on Iran for decades, and those sanctions continue on to the present day.
As of now, most signs point to continued uses of sanctions on Iranian officials. Seemingly, the United States does not want to reach peace with Iran, as it actively tries to maintain an adversarial relationship with them.
The U.S. also seemingly doesn’t want to return to the Iran nuclear deal all that much, as Secretary of State Blinken warned that “we are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely,” in reference to negotiations to the Iran deal (JCPOA).
After the U.S. withdrew from the Iran deal, Iran began to proceed in enriching uranium as the deal was off. The United States then cited Iran’s uranium enrichment as Iran violating the deal, even though it was the U.S. who withdrew first.
Following the assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in 2020, it truly seemed like the U.S. and Iran would engage in actual war, leading to antiwar protests in the United States.
It seems that both parties in the United States prefer a state of hostility against Iran rather than one of peace, which is terribly disheartening.
Continued Escalation Through Armed Conflict
Diplomatically, it seems that both nations are actively trying to worsen relations with the other. Following the election of hardliner Ebrahim Raisi in 2021, one of his first statements to international media was that he would not meet with President Joe Biden.
In the U.S., the American government continues to sever channels of communication that could lead to peace.
Several senators wrote a letter to President Biden requesting that he deny a visa to Raisi. This would prevent Raisi from attending the opening of the U.N. general assembly in New York, which serves as the world’s largest diplomatic body aiming toward peace.
If those in American government want to prevent Iran’s new president from even reaching the world’s primary forum for diplomacy, they likely don’t want diplomatic peace with Iran at all.
With continued support in Iraq against an ascendant Iran, it seems like the U.S. wants to engage with the nation, preventing it from gaining influence across the Middle East.
Iran has a population of 82.91 million, over twice the amount of Saudi Arabia’s 34.27 million. With many other Gulf states having small populations, and with Iraq, Yemen, and Syria in ruin, Iran is easily the most populous country in the region, poised to be dominant.
Despite partial withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. likely won’t be able to leave the Middle East alone. I’m afraid the that U.S. won’t be able to distance itself from its perceived role as the “world’s police” and will continue wasting tremendous amounts of resources in the region.
If attempts to “democratize” Iraq and Afghanistan were futile, imagine the futility of trying to prevent the rise of an ascendant Iran! This is what the Iran nuclear deal was about all along.
I believe that Iran’s rise is inevitable, and that there is nothing the U.S. can do to stop it. I would focus on trying to salvage any sort of relationship with Iran despite a rocky past.
There’s no way the U.S. can stop the so-called “rises” of multiple nations around the world. How can the rise of China, the rise of Russia, and the rise of Iran all be dealt with simultaneously by a declining America?
Attempts to Curtail Iran’s Geopolitical Rise
As Iran makes a diplomatic shift toward China, the U.S. will feel even more threatened than it already does. Seeing two geopolitical rivals allied in ascendance will frighten a declining America and a fractured Europe.
This alliance would likely be what pushes many policymakers over the edge, causing them to frantically condemn Iran and hastily run to media outlets to express concern over the threat such an alliance would pose to American national security.
Any incursion in any country by Iranian-backed militias such as Hezbollah would justify armed invasion. The government would be hyper-vigilant looking for anything they could use to spark a war.
The U.S. would continue to target Iranian-backed militias throughout the Middle East, citing potential threats to the U.S. and its allies.
Israel, a U.S. ally in the region would be ultra-fearful of an Iranian rise, having a population of only around 9 million people. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would train rigorously, preparing for attacks from Iran.
Internal Struggles Within Iran
While Iran may be growing closer to becoming a regional power in the Middle East, it must still deal with internal struggles.
Protests raged throughout Iran’s Khuzestan province over a shortage of water. However, the protests shifted to anti-government protests aimed at reforms to the Iranian theocratic government.
Protesters burned a flag of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. They also chanted things like “we don’t want the Islamic Republic,” “death to Khamenei,” and “may your soul rest in peace Reza Shah.”
These chants all express desires from some Iranians to return to pre-revolutionary Iran. They show support for western culture and an opening of democratic reforms within Iran.
The U.S. expressed support for the protests, directly opposing the Iranian government and worsening relations further.
“Protests in Iran that began with a water shortage — owing to drought and governmental mismanagement and neglect — in the Khuzestan province have now spread across various cities including Tehran, Karaj and Tabriz. The Iranian people are now putting a spotlight not only on their unmet needs, but also their unfulfilled aspirations for respect for human rights — rights to which individuals the world over are entitled.”State Department spokesperson Ned Price, July 28, 2021
As more Iranians are arrested for protesting against Iran’s government, the U.S. is likely to use these protests as justification to intervene and “liberate” Iranians from authoritarian theocracy.
Much of future relations between the United States and Iran will be based off of Iran’s status as a rising nation as the U.S. is in decline. Fearful of its ascendance as a regional power in the Middle East despite sanctions and military actions meant to curtail the Iranian rise, the U.S. will be aggressive to prevent its rise.
Iran’s shift toward China will frustrate and frighten U.S. policymakers even more. Despite decades of attempts to prevent Iran’s rise, an alliance with China would undo sanctions and military targeting of Iran by the United States.
Iran will be freed of economic turmoil brought about by U.S. sanctions and will work with China as a new source of economic and regional stability, leaving the U.S. behind and defanged of any influence.Follow WeTheCommoners Blog on WordPress.com