A sound like rolling thunder shakes the ground. One that reverberates from the banks of the Potomac River to sands of ancient Persia. The drum beats of war.
While the diplomatic relations between Iran and the United States continue to crumble, here is a look at present conditions and what precipitated this dire situation.
Beginning with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (IND) agreed on July 14, 2015.
A wide-ranging denuclearization pact comprising the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom and United States) along with Iran and the European Union.
Terms of the deal were such that U.S. authorities lifted paralyzing economic restrictions in exchange for a reduction in Iran’s nuclear activities. That included limiting the enrichment of uranium which in essence works to decrease their nuclear capabilities. And providing access to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) weapons inspectors as well.
As a change of course, President Donald J. Trump penned an executive order to withdraw the U.S. from this agreement in May of 2018. Trump said the JCPOA did not do enough to curb Iran’s ballistic missiles program or address its support for armed groups in the Middle East.
A brazen unilateral action that elicited ominous protests in the streets of Tehran. Beyond that prior economic sanctions once waived for the accord got reinstated last August. Ninety days later, an expanded list of sanctions were added. They include Sanctions on Iran’s ports, as well as the country’s shipping and shipping sectors. Sanctions on buying petroleum and petrochemical products with a number of Iranian oil companies. Sanctions on foreign financial institutions transacting with the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian financial institutions. Sanctions on the provision of certain financial messaging services to Iran’s central bank and other Iranian financial institutions. Sanctions on the provision of underwriting services, insurance, or reinsurance. Sanctions on Iran’s energy sector.
The impact now leaves Iran with a withering economy.
Ten days ago Iran announced they won’t abide by voluntary commitments made under the agreement any longer as a counter move.
Last month Trump formally designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization. This unprecedented step, led by the Department of State, recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but that the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft.
Fast forward to mid-May. Saudi Arabia told news outlets Monday that two of their oil tankers were attacked in waters close to Fujairah, UAE the day before. That incident took place near the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping route between Gulf of Oman and The Persian Gulf. Up to a third of all oil traded by sea passes through the channel.
But however suspicions are that Iran either may be directly or indirectly involved. Iran previously had warned in late-April they may shut the strait down after the United States declared it would end Significant Reduction Expenses (SRE) waivers on sanctions of Iran’s crude oil shipments. Or the offending countries will soon face new trade restrictions imposed by the U.S. government.
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo even postponed a scheduled Russian visit earlier this week. First going to Brussels, Belgium and conferring with EU leaders over the declining state of affairs with Iran. Following that, Pompeo was off to Sochi, Russia meeting with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and President Vladimir Putin. Both nations supposedly came away fairly optimistic a full scale confrontation with Iran could be averted.
In the most apparent sign of escalating tensions, aircraft carrier U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and amphibious warship U.S.S. Arlington plus Four B52 Stratofortress bomber jets were dispatched to the area in recent days, the Pentagon has confirmed. In conjunction with a patriot anti-missile battery defense system. The jets have already executed strategic warning missions to caution the rival nation.
U.S. military operations were deemed a response to intelligence reports of Iran moving short-range ballistic missiles on boats through the Persian Gulf. The Saudis further disclosed on Tuesday their oil pipelines and energy infrastructure were targeted by drone strikes. Those events would lead to an additional spike in oil prices around the globe.
Also tensions have only been fueled by fiery rhetoric coming from each side. As they assumed hawkish tones and traded menacing threats via major world media outlets. Yet quickly cooled off the next day.
The seeds of hostility were sown as far back as the mid twentieth century. When the U.S. aided by British forces executed a successful coup and toppled Iran’s Premier Mohammed Mossadeq in February, 1953. And reinstalled the moderate Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi in his place. Then a quarter century later saw an uprising and the Islamic Revolution of 1979. As a result Shi’ite leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini would return from exile in Paris and seize power.
The infamous Iran hostage crisis was initiated that November as a band of militant Islamic students hijacked the U.S. embassy in Tehran. They subsequently claimed control and kept dozens of American citizens against their will. President Jimmy Carter authorized Operation Eagle Claw, a tactical effort carried out by the U.S. military hoping to rescue them. Which ended tragically on April 24, 1980 when during the operation, three of eight helicopters failed, crippling the crucial airborne plans. The mission was then canceled at the staging area in Iran, but during the withdrawal one of the retreating helicopters collided with one of six C-130 transport planes, killing eight soldiers and injuring five. The next day, a somber Jimmy Carter gave a press conference in which he took full responsibility for the tragedy.
A fateful mission plagued by communication troubles that eventually led to the formation of U.S. Central Command. The Central Command is responsible for defending and promoting U.S. interests in 20 nations in the Middle East, Central and South Asia, and the strategic waterways that surround them.
Still the final captives did not get released until January 20, 1981. Curiously that was the inauguration day of incoming President Ronald Reagan. The Reagan administration later became synonymous with an ill-famed Iran Contra affair. A covert deal trading American arms for financial gain with a belief that would help to secure the freedom of seven U.S. hostages being held by Lebanese terrorists. Plus appropriating a portion of said funds to aid Contra forces in Nicaragua. A permanent stain left on his presidency.
So that brings us to a pretty precarious position we are in today. Nobody knows exactly what is going to happen. Just hope and pray.