Last month, the U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the United States was withdrawing from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Iran was supposed to curb its nuclear program and the crippling economic sanctions that were in place were lifted.
However, Trump was not satisfied that the nuclear threat has been curbed and he listed a number of Iran’s belligerent acts as his justification for exiting the deal.
Earlier this month, Ali Khamenei, the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader, addressed a crowd at a commemoration event marking the anniversary of the death of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ruhollah Khomeini. He said that to make Iran endure sanctions while living with “the [nuclear] restrictions already imposed” is a “disturbing dream”. He emphasized that this will not be accepted by Iran.
No doubt this was a warning to the EU that it must ensure a work-around to the sanctions and that it must get Trump to soften his stance, otherwise Iran will pull out of the deal too and resume its nuclear activities.
The regime’s Supreme Leader has said on a number of occasions that he does not think war is an option for the United States. It seems that he is under the impression that the US would not attack Iran. Firstly, he believes that the U.S. personnel in the region are vulnerable and don’t have very much intelligence on Iran. Secondly, he believes Israel is vulnerable. Finally, he thinks Iran can close the Strait of Hormuz – an extremely important choke-point with regards to oil transit.
The Supreme Leader clearly has not looked into history to see that wars have been started for far less. Furthermore, President Trump is different to his predecessors in that he is not scared of making decisions that may seem illogical to most. He is not following conventions or international norms and his presidency, so far, has been full of unpredictability.
More importantly, the people of Iran need to be taken into account. At the end of last year, a major uprising started and protests have continued ever since. The discontent sweeping across Iran is not temporary – the people are adamant that regime change needs to happen. They are supported by the the main Iranian opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in their desire for freedom from the grip of the mullahs.
It is certain that Khamenei’s efforts to predict the evolving situation and respond accordingly to save his regime will be a failure.
The Supreme Leader seems to be miscalculating Trump Administration’s moves thinking the U.S. will just bow down to the regime to avoid a war. But more importantly, Khamenei is completely underestimating the biggest threat to his regime’s survival: The people’s discontent and resistance.