The appointment of Michael D’ Andrea, a professional CIA field operator, is certainly a bad news for US-Iran relations and signals a determined shift in Washington D.C. towards regime destabilization and possible change in Tehran.
US President Donald Trump himself was not originally for regime change in Iran but the team he has created in CIA, National Security Council, Pentagon, and to some extent in the State Department, is all extremely hawkish towards Iran.
Mr. Trump is now following their lead rather than leading them. The president’s trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel further convinced him that toughening to Iran in the region and forcing it to pull back from its involvements in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere may not be possible as long as decision makers for such involvements rule in Tehran.
Riyadh also solved the financial concern that Trump had regarding his further involvement in Iran. Now he has all the money he needs for his hawkish people and their plans to take on Iran in the region and inside the country. The Saudis were instrumental in this shift from just toughening policy to initiating field operations that will directly destabilize Iran.
The new field approach plans to organize and put in operations the Islamic Regime’s enemies outside and inside Iran at a larger scale that hitherto was in place. The emerging field front will be much tougher for Tehran to confront with means it has traditionally used to counter such threats.
Now Tehran has to face a larger army of visible and invisible enemies in and outside the country, unlimited funding, many hawkish policy makers and tougher field operators as well as an international alliance that extends from Washington to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Israel.
The Islamic Republic’s hope that the nuclear deal would lessen tension with the US and the states in the region has produced its exact opposite result. The negotiations isolated the deal’s enemies to seal the deal. Now the deal makers in Washington are no longer in power; instead, their enemies are, including the US Congress.
A second trick of the Islamic Republic to get the US off its shoulder, namely the fixing of Hassan Rouhani, a “moderate” cleric for a second term through an engineered popular presidential election, seems to have also produced its opposite result.
Just as in the case of the nuclear deal, Tehran was again made to believe that moderation will help reduce tension. Just before the election, the US Congress stopped a bill that would impose non-nuclear sanctions on Iran to help Rouhani be re-elected. Now that the moderates are in charge again the sanction bill is back in with an even tougher field approach.
The next few years are going to be the toughest time ever that the Islamic Republic has had in its 40-year existence. In Washington, the hawks want to inflict the most damage on Tehran they can using the opportunity that M. Trump’s presidency has created.
In the Middle East, regional states are also determined to use the same opportunity to punish Tehran for extending its “strategic depth” to the Arab world and Israel’s neighborhoods in an effort to keep the regime’s enemies beyond Iran’s own borders.
The desperate opposition forces to the Islamic Republic inside and outside the country also hope to better organize and more effectively operate with new and increased financial and logistic support that is now becoming available to them.
Meanwhile, the Iranian economy remains the most intractable domestic issue that the government of Rouhani faces. Under the widespread official corruption, youth unemployment of about 30 percent, an inflation that is soaring again, a widening income gap and declining production, there is little hope that the situation can improve.
The president is also handicapped by his own neoliberal economic policy and “moderation” in the face of a hawkish external threat and a domestic hawkish opposition that lost the presidential election last May. It is under this condition that the appointment of Mr. D’ Andrea, a pro-Saudi convert Muslim, must be viewed.
By Hooshang Amirahmadi, who is president of American Iranian Council and a professor at Rutgers University