Brink of war: What’s happening between US and Iran, explained

On Monday, US President Donald Trump threatened Iran on Twitter, saying it can’t withstand war with the US. His comments come on the heels of the US imposing sanctions on Iran and other oil importing ally countries; last year, he had withdrawn from the Iran Nuclear Deal 2015, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Trump tweeted, “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran. Never threaten the United States again!”

However, Iran has not backed down and answered the call to posture.

Iran’s Major General Hossein Salami said the US is making empty threats and doesn’t really have the appetite for war.

“The difference between us and them is that they are afraid of war and don’t have the will for it,” the CNBC quoted him as saying.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that, after withdrawing from the nuclear deal, the US has made it “impossible” for Iran to follow its provisions.

“On May 8 2018, US withdrew from #JCPOA, violated #UNSCR 2231 & pressured others—incl #E3— to do the same. After a year of patience, Iran stops measures that US has made impossible to continue. Our action is within the terms of JCPOA. EU/E2+2 has a narrowing window to reverse this,” tweeted Zarif.

Rouhani added that, as of May 8, Iran won’t limit its enriched uranium. He said the EU and France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and China commonly known as the EU+2 have 60 days to come to a compromise with Iran.

Why did Trump pull out of the Iran Nuclear Deal 2015?

Obama orchestrated the JCPOA or Iran Nuclear Deal in 2015, which lifts sanctions on Iran as long as the country ensures that its nuclear programme is “exclusively peaceful”. China, Russia, the UK, France, Germany, and the EU signed the deal.

Saudi Arabia and Israel protested against it, claiming that Iran cannot be trusted to adhere to the agreement.

During his 2016 campaign, Trump had taken a hard line against the deal, calling it “a catastrophe” and promising to withdraw the US from it, if elected. He believed that Iran’s “murderous regime” would use nuclear weapons against the US regardless of signing the deal.

Hence, in 2018, he announced that the US would withdraw from the deal and reimpose sanctions on Iran. He also said that he was open to re-negotiating a deal that he felt did not adversely impact American interests; Trump, however, did not give any details on that.

Iran did not agree with the US at all. It said the US has violated international law by withdrawing from a signed agreement. Rouhani added that he would start an “economic war” with the US.

Trump has now imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil exports to pressure it and block its revenue. He has said that companies that work with Iran will not do business with the US. The sanctions have also impacted US allies. As of now, Italy, Greece, and Taiwan have ceased Iranian oil imports.

However, China, India, and Turkey have not.

Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said India only abides by sanctions imposed by the UN, not singular countries. India has continued to import oil from Iran.

Developments in the Gulf

The BBC reports that the US has deployed more military to the Gulf. USS Abraham and Lincoln warships and possibly about 120,000 troops are on their way to the area, after the US increased the threat level and asked diplomatic staff to leave consulates in Iraq.

Other countries with a stake in the Gulf have also been making proactive moves after the recent escalation of tensions between the US and Iran.

Days ago, the Netherlands and Germany halted military exercises in Iraq, says Reuters. German forces are training Iraqis to fight ISIS, while Dutch troops are working with Kurdish soldiers.

Neither country confirmed any credible threats by Iran, but Germany said the training would resume in a few days; the Netherlands, on the other hand, said it was responding to a security threat.

Iraq reported that a rocket was fired into Baghdad’s Green Zone, a heavily guarded area that is home to international diplomats. There were no casualties, and no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, says AP News.

However, the rocket landed close to the US embassy and is believed to have been fired from east Baghdad where Iran-backed militias operate. This is likely to create further antagonism between the US and Iran.

Saudi Arabia has also alleged that a drone attack carried out on May 14 on its pipelines in Riyadh came from Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Al Jazeera reports that the Houthis released footage of a drone flying past a Saudi water treatment plant situated close to Yemen’s border. This was meant to be a sign of the Houthis’ military capability and warning if tensions escalated.

There is no confirmed security threat from Iran yet. Zarif has also said that Iran is not interested in pursuing a war with the US.

“There will be no war because neither do we want a war, nor has anyone the idea or illusion it can confront Iran in the region,” said Zarif.

Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius

Donald TrumpRouhaniUS-Iran