Professor comments on tensions between Iran and US

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January 17, 2020

Tensions between the United States and Iran have been escalating after a series of airstrikes killed both Iranian and American people. Brandeis Professor Nadar Habibi (ECON) commented on the current situation in an article from Sputnik News where he assessed the manner in which the Trump administration is handling the situation. Habibi also provided potential solutions to the issue. 

In December 2019, the U.S. led an airstrike which killed members of an Iran-backed militia. This then caused Iranian demonstrators and militia members to set fire to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The U.S. then launched an airstrike on Iranian military commander, Qasem Soleimani, in early January, killing him and causing backlash from the Iranian public and government, according to another Sputnik News article

The Trump administration justified the killing of Soleimani because the administration thought Soleimani was planning an “imminent” attack, according to an article by The New York Times. However, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said he was never shown evidence of an attack planned by Iran on any U.S. embassies, let alone the four which the Trump administration had claimed, according to the article

“But what we can see is that on one hand, the Trump administration might want to escalate the situation,” said Habibi in the Sputnik article. He added that Congress is attempting to prevent escalation that may lead to war, which opposes the actions of the Trump administration. U.S. policy with Iran is not clear and holds contradictions, according to Habibi. 

Habibi further explained in the article that President Donald Trump’s tweets about his position on war with Iran has strong contradictions. “Some tweets say they are ready to initiate,” said Habibi. “Some of them say we don’t want war. In some tweets by him and his administration members we see that they call on Iran to negotiate.” 

Habibi believes that the U.S.’ current policy is “to use economic pressure and diplomatic pressure on Iran without allowing the tension to escalate into a direct confrontation with Iran,” he told Sputnik News.

He also noted that, based on recent polls, there is a division among Trump supporters about whether they support his policy. There is also significant opposition to Trump’s policy among independents and supporters of the Democratic Party since Democrats have opposed Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement from the beginning, according to the article. Habibi added that Trump will claim victory if Iran agrees to negotiate with the U.S.  

Diplomatic measures are being launched by several countries to try to deescalate the current situation in the Middle East, said Habibi, since it is so unpredictable. 

Habibi does believe that if there is any improvement in the relationship between Iran and the United States, “then there could be another round of negotiations for perhaps a new nuclear deal between Iran and the five major negotiating power countries that have been dealing with Iran,” he said in an article by Sputnik News. 

In May 2018 the U.S. pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA.) President Emmanuel Macron of France and President Vladamir Putin of Russia said they would want to keep the JCPOA, with similar statements also made by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. These European nations had always been opposed to the U.S. leaving the JCPOA. The repercussions of the U.S.’ withdrawal have increased the economic pressures put on Iran.   

Habibi is the Professor of the Economics of the Middle East for the Crown Centre for Middle East Studies and a senior lecturer in the Department of Economics.

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