Even as the Trump administration in the US is trying to work out a solution to North Korea’s nuclear issue, it is already scrapping an agreement with Iran to limit/freeze its nuclear program. It is difficult to understand the logic, if there is any, behind what is going on in Trump land, which is the United States of America. In his first major foreign policy speech in May as the US foreign secretary, Mike Pompeo, in no uncertain terms, laid down what was expected of Iran if it wanted to have normal relations with the US. It was not just that the US was unhappy with the Obama-era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal which was concluded in 2015, between Iran and P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany); demanded a total overhaul of Iran’s foreign and strategic policies to fit into the Trump administration’s overall Middle Eastern blueprint. Broadly speaking, Pompeo listed several demands to cover a whole range of Iran’s foreign ventures, as well as its nuclear and missile programs. And if Iran wouldn’t do the US’ bidding, it would become a pariah state subject to strict US sanctions, as well as measures to roll back its role in the region. Pompeo warned that the US would work with its regional allies, which include Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to “deter Iranian aggression” in the region. To get a sense of what the US would do to Iran, it is relevant to quote Pompeo’s speech. He said, “We will ensure freedom of navigation on the waters in the region”, implying that Iran is interfering with it. Besides: “We [US] will work to prevent and counteract any Iranian malign cyber activity. We will track down Iranian operatives and their Hezbollah proxies operating around the world and crush them. Iran will never again have carte blanche to dominate the Middle East.” Pompeo went on to say, “The Iranian regime should know that this is just the beginning. After our sanctions come into force [from November], it will be battling to keep its economy alive… Iran will be forced to make a choice: either fight to keep its economy off life support at home or keep squandering precious wealth on fights abroad. It will not have the resources to do both.” In this virtual declaration of war against Iran, scrapping an international agreement also signed by the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany, the Trump administration decided to go on its own. It decided to fully back Israel, who had opposed the Obama administration-backed nuclear agreement with Iran. In the process, it sought a domestic political advantage to rally the pro-Israel lobby in the US and a wide array of right-wing elements that underpin the conservative base of the Republican Party. The ongoing ruckus over the murder of the dissident Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi consulate in Turkey, is unlikely to affect the US-Saudi axis against Iran. Saudi Arabia, like Israel, was vehemently opposed to the US’ nuclear deal with Iran. In a sense, there is now virtually a strategic pact between Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran under US sponsorship At the same time, Trump made Saudi Arabia once again the centre of an anti-Iran coalition. (The ongoing ruckus over the murder of the dissident Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi consulate in Turkey, is unlikely to affect the US-Saudi axis against Iran.) Saudi Arabia, like Israel, was vehemently opposed to the US’ nuclear deal with Iran. In a sense, there is now virtually a strategic pact between Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran under US sponsorship. Even though the US has scrapped the 2015 nuclear deal, its other signatories (UK, France, Germany, Russia and China) still stand by it, for the simple reason that Iran has been keeping its side of the bargain as testified by the UN inspectors and the US’ own intelligence agencies. Basically, the US is keen to please Israel, who would like Iran to become another version of Gaza, albeit on a much larger scale by strangulating it economically, politically and, if necessary, militarily. The US and Israel, and for that matter Saudi Arabia, do not realize that Iran is not a political enclave like Gaza and has the capabilities of a sovereign state. The 1980’s Iraq-Iran war showed that despite the US supporting Saddam Hussein with military weapons and treating Iran as an enemy state, it didn’t collapse even after suffering huge casualties. The net outcome of that war was that Saddam’s failure to prevail over Iran led him to compensate for it by attacking Kuwait; which made him the US’ enemy, and resulted in the first Gulf War, followed by the US invasion of the country in 2003, in the name of fighting terrorism and Saddam’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Iran certainly has a lot to lose because of the US ditching the nuclear deal, even though other signatories are committed to stand by it. But with the US threatening to impose retaliatory sanctions on other countries that do not follow the US lead by continuing to do business with Iran, it will not be easy for them to follow an independent course. As Pompeo also said, “But you should know (addressing US’ friends) that we will hold those doing prohibited business with Iran to account.” And since the majority of the global trade is conducted in US dollars, this is a very potent threat. The writer is a senior journalist and academic based in Sydney, Australia Published in Daily Times, October 23rd 2018.