The Trump administration created multiple waves in the Middle East and Europe when it pulled the U.S. out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). While Europe is trying to mitigate the impact of sanctions on their companies, many companies are reducing or simply pulling out of agreements with the Iranian regime. Simply put, they want to avoid the risk of losing access to the U.S. market and financial systems, which are significantly larger than Iran.
The shift in U.S. strategy when it comes to dealing with Iran has gained support throughout the Middle East. The Kingdom of Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, received ambassadors from Germany, Britain, and France in the first week of June. During that meeting, the ambassadors presented a joint statement issued by the parties involved in the JCPOA, explaining that their countries are actively working to preserve the agreement and the progress made to date.
Al Khalifa noted that Bahrain supports the U.S. strategy, noting that it is aimed at addressing the danger of Iranian policies, which are negatively impacting the security and stability of the region, as well as addressing the shortcomings that President Trump pointed out in the JCPOA.
This shift back to sanctions is going to have a dramatic impact on the Iranian economy, which has already been struggling, despite the lifting of various sanctions through the JCPOA. The Iranian people are actively speaking out against the regime, despite its measures of repression meant to keep the regime in power and to keep protests and uprisings tamped down.
The new round of sanctions from the U.S., in addition to the reinstatement of previously waived sanctions, means that the regime is going to struggle to meet its obligations. Systematic corruption is also playing a part in the growing distrust of the Iranian people.
While the U.S. claims that it just wants changed behavior from the Iranian regime, their actions appear to be supporting the Iranian people in their protests and demonstrations. Simply put, you cannot change the behavior of a totalitarian government without bringing down the regime itself.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “We want them working on behalf of the Iranian people, …who want nothing more than to live their lives, to be able to take their hijab off, to be able to go to work and raise their families and worship in the way they want to worship.”
He also noted that the U.S. would work with Iranian opposition groups, ones that are focused on changing the behavior of the Iranian leadership. Yet, all the demands of the U.S. seem to indicate that regime change is really what they are after, even if the official statements try to point away from that eventuality.
If human rights are respected in Iran, then it will mean the end of the regime. The theocratic regime is not capable of allowing other religions to practice their faith unobstructed or abandon its repressive codes against women without abandoning what they believe to be divine.
Within this atmosphere, one where the Iranian people are feeling international support for change in Iran, and the regime materially weakened by its own actions, the Iranian opposition is holding its annual meeting in Paris on June 30. During this meeting, Iranians, members of the opposition coalition known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and supporters will gather to discuss the future of the regime, as well as the opportunity for a democratic Iran to evolve during this period. At the same time, they will be showcasing an alternative to the repressive regime.
For many in the international community, there is a sense that the U.S. strategy could reshape the Middle East by reshaping Iran, while addressing the concerns of the global community about the threat that the regime poses.