It probably sounds illogical the first time that someone hears it, but Iran should truly be thankful for Trump, and precisely for the fact that he’s slated to be so anti-Iranian. The logic is simple enough – the US never intended to fully normalize relations with the Islamic Republic and has always remained committed to destabilizing the country, it’s just that Obama sought to go about it in a fundamentally new way by tricking the Iranian masses with the nuclear deal (just as he did the Arab masses with his disingenuous 2009 Cairo speech) in anticipation of an accelerated asymmetrical war against their leadership.
Trump, however, is a “straight shooter” that doesn’t deign to such deceptions and says things just as directly as Reagan and Bush did, (international) “political/diplomatic correctness” be damned. Iranians should be thankful that Trump is revealing what America’s intentions have been all along because this signals to their leadership that they must continue taking preemptive action in mitigating these imminently more intense threats and shouldn’t ever let their guard down again like some of the elite did over the past couple of years.
The Western-friendly “moderates” represented by Rouhani were lured by the promises of an economic-strategic partnership with the US, particularly one which Washington hinted could be used to “balance” an “out of control” Saudi Arabia, while the “conservatives” led by the Ayatollah and the nation’s influential security forces knew better than to fall for such a ruse and have consistently remained cautious – if not outright opposed – to the US-Iranian rapprochement.
The article at hand will explain the nuances of Trump’s forecasted foreign policy towards Iran and will argue that it will empower the multipolar “conservatives” by leading to a patriotic backlash in society against the “moderates” and their American “partners”.
Anti-Iranian Doesn’t Mean Pro-Saudi
The first thing to know about Trump is that he has equal disdain for Iran and Saudi Arabia, but that simplifying his policy as being to the advantage of Riyadh just because it’s detrimental to Tehran is inaccurate and doesn’t reveal the full context of how he’s expected to engage the Mideast. Trump dislikes Iran because of the nuclear deal and due to the belief that he and his advisors have about Tehran being an “exporter of terrorism” and a traditional foe of the US ever since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. As for Saudi Arabia, Trump feels very strongly that the Kingdom is also involved in supporting terrorism (specifically the 9/11 attackers and Daesh) and he doesn’t trust its leaders for donating so much money to the Clinton Foundation. Additionally, one of his closest advisors thinks that Hillary’s “second daughter” Huma Abedin is a Saudi agent that has infiltrated the US government.
The key difference between Trump’s approach to each of these two countries, however, is that the US is already nominally “allied” with Saudi Arabia whereas the Obama Administration’s ambitious attempt to ‘pivot’ towards Tehran has turned up short and underperformed in its objectives. It was never meant to be a quick process anyhow, since the whole point in agreeing to certain concessions to Iran during the course of the nuclear negotiations was to “get on its good side” and create a once-in-a-lifetime strategic opening to cooperate with the Western-friendly “moderate” faction publicly in charge of the country’s government. Over time, the Obama Administration and its “deep state” (permanent military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies) thought that a long-term transformational process could be commenced which would lead to the progressive one-sided normalization of ties with Iran just like has happened with Myanmar and Cuba. The grand strategic purpose behind all of this is to both balance Iran and Saudi Arabia and to redirect Tehran’s focus northwards towards the former Soviet domains and away from Riyadh’s “sphere of influence” in the Gulf.
This policy didn’t achieve the desired results for a few reasons. The first and most important one is that the Ayatollah and his fellow “conservatives” tacitly opposed the “moderates” the entire time, with the Iranian Supreme Leader symbolically waiting a full three months (or put another way, a quarter of a year) to tepidly endorse the nuclear deal. Even then, he and his “deep state” supporters remained skeptical that the US could be trusted, with their cautious stance ultimately being vindicated by Trump’s election and the rhetoric of the candidate himself and those chief advisors surrounding him. Secondly, the US “deep state” remained just as divided as the Iranian one has been over Obama’s pivotal outreach policy, with influential segments decrying the Iranian deal as “selling out” the US’ traditional Saudi and ‘Israeli’ allies. Finally, Trump’s rise to power spells the end of the US’ flirty forays in trying to clinch a long-term partnership with Iran, as the President-elect is predicted to return to the US’ ‘traditional’ policy by publicly doubling down American support for Riyadh and Tel Aviv in the face of what he believes is “Iranian aggression emboldened by Obama’s weakness”.
“Balancing” Riyadh And Tehran:
Therefore, despite Trump’s intense dislike for the Saudis and everything related to their monarchy, he’s not anticipated to work against the decades-long US-Saudi alliance because he understands that this is the only thing standing in the way of Iran’s regional hegemony, which he sees as a more pressing threat to American grand strategic interests. The continuance of lucrative arms deals with Riyadh and its GCC underlings form the structural basis of Trump’s Mideast agenda, though it should be noted that his embracement of fracking will predictably lead to loud Saudi criticism both because it depresses worldwide oil prices and diminishes the Kingdom’s primary lever for reversely influencing the US. By pursing his “America First” brand of international politics, Trump will upset the strategic equilibrium between Washington and Riyadh by making the Saudis much more dependent on the Americans than vice versa, which plays into his and his advisor’s vision of “balancing” an assertive Iran with a much more US-dependent Saudi Arabia.
For as “pro-Saudi” as Trump’s military overtures might come off as being, his energy policy is decisively anti-Saudi, but the Pentagon will probably continue to build Saudi Arabia up because of the Commander-in-Chief’s even more passionate detestation for Iran, with this dangerous “balancing” act ultimately being to the supreme benefit of the US’ ‘Israeli’ ally.
The Ayatollah’s Last Laugh
This brings the analysis back around to discussing how any of this could be to Iran’s benefit. From Tehran’s ideal perspective, it would be best if the US did not support Saudi Arabia against it and pulled out of the Mideast entirely, but this is unrealistic and will never happen. Not even Obama and his strategists had this in the cards, as evidenced by the $1.15 billion arms deal that was concluded a few months ago which itself is part of the larger $60 billion’s worth of weapon sales agreed to in principle back in 2010. Therefore, it’s highly misleading for anyone – whether an American domestic critic, a native Iranian supporter of the “moderate” Rouhani, or other – to allege that Obama is/was “good” for Iran, as this displays either an ignorance of the facts or overly wishful optimism that doesn’t correspond to reality.
The “Green Revolution”:
Moreover, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the failed “Green Revolution” broke out in the streets of Tehran in 2009 after the first few months of Obama’s Presidency. Even though this Color Revolution attempt was planned long ago by Bush and his ilk, it was Obama who gave the go-ahead for it to happen. This regime change gamble was a failure for many reasons, but mostly because the US didn’t put all of its time and effort into it. The whole point was to probe Iran’s response to such an asymmetrical destabilization and scare its “conservative” elite into peacefully ceding some symbolic elements of their leadership to the upstart “moderates”, which in fact happened when Rouhani won the election in 2013 and gave off the impression that a “positive” “changing of the guard” was finally beginning after the “unconstructive” Ahmadinejad years. It also had the purpose of fine-tuning the US’ Hybrid Warfare techniques in anticipation of the oncoming “Arab Spring” theater-wide Color Revolutions which would hit the region a year and a half later.
“Conservatives” Know Best:
Throughout all of this, the “conservatives” warned that the US was not to be trusted, even though the Ayatollah did give his approval to have Rouhani and his team secretly negotiate with the US. Still, judging by how long it took for the Supreme Leader to give his public approval of the July 2015 agreement – and an unconvincing lackluster one at that – it’s clear that he wasn’t satisfied with the results and feels that a betrayal is imminent. He even said so himself on several occasions, once even remarking over this summer that “America has continued its enmity towards Iran since (the 1979 Islamic) revolution…It is a huge mistake to trust evil Britain and the Great Satan (the United States).” Even though the Ayatollah has been discretely criticized by some of his countrymen for being too much of a “hardliner”, his doubts proved to be profoundly prescient because Trump was eventually elected and he’s pledged to renegotiate or scrap the nuclear deal, thus giving the religious chief the last laugh in the face of his opponents.
The Ayatollah and his military-security “deep state” supporters know trouble is on the way, which is why they recently concluded a military deal with China and are mulling $10 billion worth of arms purchases from Russia. Part of this is obviously in response to the Saudi and Gulf arms buildup that Obama accelerated and which Trump is expected to continue with determined resolve, and the other half was in prudent anticipation to counter the Trump team’s previous “regime change” threats against Iran. To be fair, Hillary is also on record speaking about her desire to wage a war against the country too, so the Ayatollah wisely initiated this policy well in advance of the presidential election and with the expectation that both candidates would be harmful to Tehran’s overall interests, no matter what their rhetoric was about the deceptive nuclear deal which he never even fully trusted in the first place.
Trump Proves The Ayatollah Right:
With Trump in office, however, it’s likely that the blustering rhetoric emanating out of the White House will undo all of the meticulous diplomatic and soft power deceptions that Obama’s Administration tried so hard to pull off, thus revealing the US’ grand strategic for what it really is – essentially, the same policy of regime change and anti-Iranian hostility that it’s always been since 1979, just undisguised and reveling in its “pure unadulterated form”. Trump’s “tough” approach towards Tehran shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, and the fact that it’s being interpreted as such by some people indicates that the Western-friendly “moderates” naïve narrative that the US could be reliably trusted gained convincing momentum in the country and abroad, thus pulling the wool of many future victims’ eyes and rendering them completely unprepared for the Hybrid War destabilizations that the US is planning (and which will be discussed soon enough).
Trump’s “honesty”, however, proves that the Ayatollah and his military-security “deep state” “conservative” allies were right all along when they said that the US will always remain Iran’s enemy, and the Trump Administration’s actions will probably play a strong influence on determining the course of the 2017 presidential campaign in Iran. If the nuclear deal becomes discredited because Trump attempts to pull out of it or continues to flirt with doing so, and/or if the US repeatedly violates it, then the “conservative”/patriotic reaction that will inevitably result in Iranian society would probably force Rouhani to more enthusiastically break with his “moderate” camp and embrace the “conservatives” or result in this latter faction pushing ‘one of their own’ to run and hopefully win. Either way, the Ayatollah will have the last laugh by reversing the “moderates’” gains, though the burgeoning split in society between the youthful “moderate” supporters and the comparatively older “conservatives” might eventually deepen as a result and set the country up for an eventual political crisis much more severe than the failed “Green Revolution”.
Trump isn’t going to direct the US to engage in a conventional regime change operation such as the ones disastrously waged against Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, but will instead capitalize off of Obama’s legacy in promotinga multifaceted Hybrid War towards this end. All of the military maneuvering and arms sales are just posturing designed to obfuscate the real methods of destabilization that the US is advancing. Take for example, Daesh, which is commonly regarded in the Mideast and all across the world for that matter as being under the subtle influence of the US. Trump has proclaimed his hate for this terrorist organization on many occasions and even publicly blamed Obama and Hillary for creating it. Plus, his closest advisors and those who he’s considering for top national security roles are totally opposed to Daesh as well.
Provided that they carry through on their words, this makes it unlikely that the US will continue to indirectly support Daesh in the same manner as it previously did, such as by “corralling it” in certain directions with “inaccurate” bombing campaigns that coincidentally never really end up killing any terrorists but just push them closer to the US’ intended targets (like the Syrian Arab Army). Trump wants to obliterate Daesh, but this will of course deprive the US of a valuable tool for destabilizing its Iranian enemy, though not if he exploits the War on Daesh to move American military hardware, soldiers, and proxies all the way up to Iran’s Western and Eastern borders.
The Daesh Distraction:
Trump doesn’t want to engage in indefinitely sustained overseas military adventures like Bush and Obama did because they’re costly, strategically ineffective, and detract from his desire to redirect Washington’s focus back to rebuilding the neoliberal-ravaged American Heartland, but he might prolong low-scale anti-terrorist deployments under the Daesh aegis as a cover for tightening the encirclement of Iran. This could first of all take place in Iraq, especially if the US ends up becoming an even more important kingmaker in post-Daesh Iraq’s fractured political future by basing troops in an “Identity Federalized” (internally partitioned) or outright independent “Kurdistan” and “Sunnistan” in order to guard against a “catastrophic repeat” of Obama’s clumsy withdrawal (which Trump and his team blame for the rise of Daesh in the first place). As for Afghanistan, the terrorist group has been making inroads across the past year and are poised to continue gaining ground if they’re not stopped, whether by the Afghan National Army, their US/NATO patrons, and/or the Taliban, so the same scenario of decisive anti-terrorist military intervention and post-conflict limited deployment could also take place under various scenarios in the provinces abutting the Iranian border.
The other threat facing Iran comes from the US’ ambition to carve out a “second geopolitical ‘Israel’” of “Kurdistan” out of Northern Iraq and Syria, one which could be used as a terrorist safe haven for sheltering anti-Tehran Kurdish fighters. The author wrote about this at length in a previous Katehon article titled “The US-Saudi Plan To Prompt An Iranian Pullback From Syria”, but the main point is that the “Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran” (KDPI) and other allied terrorist groups are interestingly fighting for an “Identity Federalized” (internally partitioned) Iran which would divvy up the country based on ethno-territorial groupings and utterly destroy the centralized state that’s historically kept the diverse civilization together. The very real threat that this poses explains why Iran turns a blind eye to Turkey’s War on the Kurds in southeastern Turkey and is also fiercely opposed to Kurdish “autonomy” in northern Syria. Iran does not want to see an independent terrorist-hosting “Kurdistan” rise out of the post-Daesh ashes of the Mideast and become a dangerous American- and ‘Israeli’-aligned neighbor, though this is precisely what the US is attempting to do, and Trump will foreseeably be favorable to this because it would be a “just reward” for the Kurds’ “brave anti-Daesh fight” and “defense of Christians”.
The final way in which Trump is poised to continue Obama’s Hybrid War on Iran is to advance the cause of Baloch separatism in Pakistan and Iran. As the author has explained on numerous occasions and in several videos, the US and India have joined forces to bring down the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), and one of the methods for achieving this is to support separatist groups in Pakistani Balochistan which could thus destabilize the project’s terminal port of Gwadar. This is very dangerous not just for Pakistan and China, but also for Iran, since a significant territorial portion of “Balochistan” also lies inside of the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan. There’s no way that Iran can escape the spillover effect of the US-Indian intrigue in Pakistani Balochistan, so this presents yet another asymmetrical threat that the Islamic Republic will be forced to contend with. Taken together, the Kurds in the West, the Baloch in the East, and Daesh in both directions constitute a veritably threatening situation whereby Iran has suddenly found itself to once more be surrounded by hostile actors, to say nothing of the Color Revolution threat that’s slowly taking shape inside the country itself as “moderate” youth passively reject the “conservative” religious patriotism of their forefathers and become more self-confidently “aware” (through American indirect guidance and social-structural preconditioning) of their “political rights”.
Donald Trump is America unmasked – brash, bellicose, and full of bluster. He doesn’t hold back from saying what he genuinely thinks about something, and this includes international politics and especially Iran. The citizens of the Islamic Republic should be thankful for Trump because he’s not going to dramatic and insincere lengths to flatter, deceive, and strategically disarm them like Obama has been doing and Hillary was poised to do. One of the most responsible things that Iranian patriots can aspire for is to become aware of the true nature of the threats facing their country, and Trump doesn’t hide his antipathy for Iran behind high-sounding rhetoric and false promises. They know that he doesn’t like their country and is prepared to act on his beliefs, which is a wake-up call from the strategic slumber that Obama-Hillary had put them under. After snapping back to reality and becoming cognizant of the very real asymmetrical threats that the 45th President is planning to unleash against them (which were cultivated during the Obama years conceived of during Bush’s), they can now take preemptive action in better defending their homeland.
The honesty of Trump, his advisors, and rumored Cabinet picks in openly declaring their hostility towards Iran should be commended because it’s better to know that a wolf is circling than to be deceived by a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as was what Obama was attempting to do. Reality isn’t about idealism but cold, hard facts – it would be ideal if the US didn’t harbor any regime change hostility towards Iran, but the reality is that it never abandoned these intentions and only changed the form of its aggression from the conventional manifestation of Bush and his aircraft carriers to Obama’s Hybrid War terrorists. Trump wouldn’t have the opportunity to utilize this diverse set of unconventional warfare tools had it not been for Obama bequeathing them to his successor, despite publicly intimating that the US was no longer interested in destabilizing its new Iranian “partner”.
Trump dispels the myths that Obama had worked so hard to build over the past 8 years in pretending that the US had finally turned a new leaf and playing into the naive fantasies of many multipolar supporters. The reality could never have been more different, but the ugly truth is exposed for what it always has been now that Trump is elected. Those Iranians and their international supporters who had earlier fallen for this ruse can belatedly refocus on the myriad threats that have come to progressively surround and occasionally even infiltrate into the Islamic Republic over the past year.
The heightened awareness that Iranians are now experiencing in regards to American hostility will probably produce a “conservative” backlash that bodes negatively for the Western-friendly “moderates”, so it remains to be seen what Rouhani’s political future will be come next year’s presidential elections, especially since the Ayatollah and his military-security “deep state” supporters seem keen on regaining full symbolic control over the government in order to best mobilize society in countering these threats.
It’s ironically a gift of sorts that Trump and his supporters have been so loud about their intentions because it gives Iran an early warning signal of what’s to come in the next four to eight years and allows them time to sharpen their defenses before the President-elect enters into office. Iran needs to be on guard against Daesh, not just from the Western direction, but also from the Eastern one too, and it has to keep an eye on the Kurds so that they don’t get too out of control in the near future. The seemingly unavoidable fragmentation of Iraq is another impending crisis that’s sure to heighten American-Iranian rivalry in the Mideast, to say nothing of the US- and ‘Israeli’-fomented Saudi-Iranian competition and Riyadh’s monumental American-supplied arms buildup. But intriguingly, the center of geostrategic gravity in the New Cold War is progressively shifting eastward in the direction of the Indian subcontinent, and it’s here where the US-Indian clandestine support for militant Baloch separatism against CPEC will destabilize Iran as well, perhaps setting the stage for eventually turning the Arabian Sea/Gulf of Oman into as hot of a proxy conflict zone as the Persian Gulf has lately been.
By Andrew Korybko