With focus on Trump impeachment hearings, Iran ramps up nuclear activity

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By Marah al-Bekaie

Source: The Arab Weekly

The revolutions in Lebanon and Iraq are deep-rooted movements that trace to years of rejection of Iranian hegemony over decision-making and governance in the two countries.

In this file photo taken on October 21, 2019, US President Donald Trump (L) listens to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a Cabinet Meeting at the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)
In this file photo taken on October 21, 2019, US President Donald Trump (L) listens to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a Cabinet Meeting at the White House in Washington, DC. (AFP)

Tehran is taking advantage of the United States’ preoccupation with the Democrats’ effort to impeach US President Donald Trump and the fact that the concerned European powers are ignoring Iran’s abuses of the 2015 nuclear deal to engage in very dangerous pre-emptive moves in anticipation of its deliberate confrontation with the international community.

The United States unilaterally withdrew from the nuclear agreement with Iran and slapped it with extremely severe economic sanctions. Tehran is reeling from those sanctions, which have affected the daily lives of the Iranian people, who find themselves footing the bill of their rulers’ hegemonic lust for dominance in the region and the world.

The Iranian Nuclear Energy Agency announced an additional 60 advanced centrifuges had been started to enrich uranium used in the manufacture of reactor fuel and nuclear weapons. Although the number of the devices is far from the thousands needed to obtain material used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons, the effort represents a blatant transgression of all red lines.

This puts Tehran in direct confrontation with Washington, knowing that the latter is too busy with its internal problems to pay attention to the former’s violations of international rules.

It is, however, a fact that playing with fire will eventually burn one’s fingers. Washington will never allow the breach to go unpunished and will increase the pace of sanctions on Iran, especially since Tehran recently prevented an International Atomic Energy Agency inspector from entering the Natanz nuclear facility. This move, too, is unprecedented since the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the nuclear deal is formally known, in 2015.

This deliberate provocation by Tehran’s hardliners may signal more to come, of the type of the attacks on Saudi oil facilities. The regime’s hawks will not be deterred by US troops sent by Washington to the Gulf. The reason is simple: They have nothing to fear as long as US policymakers are busy impeaching their president based on a misguided plan that Democrats resorted to in what can be seen as an effort to prevent Trump from competing in the 2020 elections.

The Democrat-dominated US House of Representatives is not paying attention to what is going on in Iran and deliberately ignored US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s warnings. He predicted that the recent Iranian violations would lead to an ominous military confrontation but, despite the intense internal political rivalry between the Democratic and Republican parties ahead of next year’s presidential elections, Washington will not allow Tehran to sneakily twist its arm.

Trump, known for his ability to change direction 180 degrees when his political interests are at stake, will not hesitate to resort to a military strike against Iran, especially that it is weakened by US embargoes and economic sanctions. If he chooses to move in that direction, he would kill two birds with one stone.

The first would be to divert attention and political pressure from the hearings in his impeachment procedures and refocus the American public opinion on the battle to discipline Iran, which is, after all, a European, Arab and US demand. By doing so, he would make his hawkish supporters in the Republican Party happy and thus secure their support in the US Senate should there be an impeachment trial.

The second would be to satisfy and reassure US allies in the Middle East. The United States has stuck to a position of the angry spectator who is happy with denouncing and deploring Tehran’s attacks, first on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and then on Aramco oil facilities on Saudi territory, which resulted in a 5% drop in the global oil supplies.

By deciding on a military confrontation with Iran, Trump would address the declining confidence in Washington’s ability to stand by commitments to its allies, recently worsened by the US position with respect to the Kurds in Syria.

The massive and simultaneous popular revolutions in Lebanon and Iraq are deep-rooted militant movements that trace to years of rejection of Iranian hegemony over decision-making and governance in the two countries, whether through sectarian parties or sectarian militias or direct intervention in state affairs.

This intervention is the primary mission of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ al-Quds Force, who has been conducting a tireless shuttle policy between Sana’a, Baghdad and Beirut to secure the control of the cross-border militias under his command over the hybrid governments of his own making in these countries.

Wherever he goes, Soleimani is keen on killing the voices of Arab populations in their own countries. Still, the popular uprisings may become a legitimate source of support for Trump’s eventual actions against Iran by preparing the ground for Zero Hour.

The US media, which have tremendous influence on the domestic and international public opinion, are focusing on the impeachment drama. For Iran, this lull in the world’s attention represents an opportunity to engage in arm wrestling between the two arch-enemies: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Trump.

The million-dollar question is whose arm is going to be stung first by the awaiting scorpions on the table.

 

 

 

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