United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres meets with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on September 18, 2017 at the United Nations in New York. / AFP PHOTO / DON EMMERT
United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. Will the US be able to keep pragmatism alive in the case of Tehran? Don Emmert / AFP

Far beyond the nuclear deal, a broader regional plan is needed to contain Iran



The decision taken by president Donald Trump last week allowing the exemption on sanctions imposed on Iran to continue provoked new speculation about the United States' intentions towards Tehran. Summing up the mood, David Sanger of The New York Times wrote that the Trump administration was hesitating to withdraw from the nuclear accord with Iran, which could undermine US alliances and allow Iran to forge ahead with a nuclear program. Instead, "administration officials said they were already trying to refocus on using military and economic leverage to counter Iran's growing influence in the Middle East".

If this assessment is correct, it would represent a welcome change from Mr Trump's approach until now, which has been focused on jettisoning the nuclear agreement (which was signed by several other countries that would continue to adhere to it).

In a speech to the UN on Tuesday, Mr Trump called the agreement "an embarassment", keeping his intentions ambiguous. However, pulling out would do little to curb Iranian power in the Middle East and only leave the US on its own.

A broader plan to contain Iran is indeed required. However, what is unclear is whether the US has the staying power to engage in an effective regional containment policy, which would involve more than the military action and economic sanctions that officials are outlining today.

_________________

Read more

_________________

The reasons for this are understandable. Iran already has a string of regional alliances, both with Arab governments, such as Syria, Iraq, Qatar, and more ambivalently Lebanon, as well as with Shiite communities in the Middle East. This would seem to place the US at a disadvantage. However, is that true? Washington, in fact, has a much wider array of alliances in the region, with many Arab governments, and can even rely on ties with large communities in each of the Arab countries in which Iran has influence, be it with Kurds, Arab Sunnis and even many Shiites in Iraq, non-Shiite communities in Lebanon, the Kurds in Syria and those opposed to the regime of president Bashar Al Assad.

In other words, the US still has considerable leverage to limit Iran’s reach.

However, the key to doing so does not involve solely imposing sanctions or going to war, both of which are unlikely to have a major impact. Iran has often faced economic sanctions, which has not deterred it from pursuing its political agenda. As for war, the fact that the American public is profoundly opposed to another conflict in the Middle East would be much more likely to harm the Trump administration than Iran.

What would a containment strategy rely upon? Certainly, sanctions and military options should not be ruled out, if only because they constitute political leverage. So, for instance, the US today has military bases across north-east Syria. Iran is eyeing them with suspicion, as they may hinder cross-border movement with Iraq by pro-Iran militias. They also happen to be valuable bargaining chips.

Like the Iranians themselves, then, the Trump administration must carefully weave together a network of assets – alliances, military bases, relations of dependency – that can be called upon in any confrontation with Iran or simply used to limit Iranian geographical expansion.

The US must also work to reinforce its political alliances around the region, which deteriorated dramatically during the years of Barack Obama. For a start, that means trying to end the rift in the Gulf, which Iran has exploited, by acting much more forcefully to find a solution that brings Qatar back into line with its critics in the Gulf Cooperation Council.

_________________

More on Iran and Hizbollah in Opinion

_________________

It also means, more generally, hindering Iran's desire to open up a passage to the Mediterranean. To a limited extent, Russia was willing to go along with this in agreeing with Washington over a de-escalation zone in southern Syria that excluded Iran and its proxies. But it will also imply, for example, that the US back friendly Syrian Arab groups in eastern Syria as the fighting begins over Deir Ezzor in order to limit Iran's margin of manoeuvre in the border area. It entails ensuring that Iraq's government has firm control over the Iraqi side of the border with Syria.

Indeed, Iraq will remain a major battleground in the effort to contain Iran, which already has great influence there. However, the US has many objective allies even within the Shiite community, from prime minister Haidar Al Abadi to Moqtada Al Sadr to Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Using Iraqi nationalism against Iran is a strong hand the US can exploit.

In Lebanon, some have called for a cut-off of aid to the Lebanese army as a means of harming Hizbollah. That is precisely what should not be done. Lebanon is a complex place in which the US has much latent influence in national institutions. Ending aid would only render the US irrelevant in Lebanese affairs, isolate potential US allies and reinforce Hizbollah.

The administration is formulating its Iran strategy now. As the US learned during the Cold War, containment must be multi-faceted. It takes time, patience and commitment. If the Trump administration is serious about curbing Iran's sway, it should outline such a strategy and stick to it. Mr Trump will not scare Tehran with tweets and vacuous sound bites.

Michael Young is a writer and editor in Beirut

Follow The National's Opinion section on Twitter

Kamindu Mendis bio

Full name: Pasqual Handi Kamindu Dilanka Mendis

Born: September 30, 1998

Age: 20 years and 26 days

Nationality: Sri Lankan

Major teams Sri Lanka's Under 19 team

Batting style: Left-hander

Bowling style: Right-arm off-spin and slow left-arm orthodox (that's right!)

Dengue fever symptoms

High fever (40°C/104°F)
Severe headache
Pain behind the eyes
Muscle and joint pains
Nausea
Vomiting
Swollen glands
Rash

The 10 Questions
  • Is there a God?
  • How did it all begin?
  • What is inside a black hole?
  • Can we predict the future?
  • Is time travel possible?
  • Will we survive on Earth?
  • Is there other intelligent life in the universe?
  • Should we colonise space?
  • Will artificial intelligence outsmart us?
  • How do we shape the future?
EMIRATES'S REVISED A350 DEPLOYMENT SCHEDULE

Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

BULKWHIZ PROFILE

Date started: February 2017

Founders: Amira Rashad (CEO), Yusuf Saber (CTO), Mahmoud Sayedahmed (adviser), Reda Bouraoui (adviser)

Based: Dubai, UAE

Sector: E-commerce 

Size: 50 employees

Funding: approximately $6m

Investors: Beco Capital, Enabling Future and Wain in the UAE; China's MSA Capital; 500 Startups; Faith Capital and Savour Ventures in Kuwait

SPECS

Engine: Two-litre four-cylinder turbo
Power: 235hp
Torque: 350Nm
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Price: From Dh167,500 ($45,000)
On sale: Now

Kill

Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

Day 1, Abu Dhabi Test: At a glance

Moment of the day Dimuth Karunaratne had batted with plenty of pluck, and no little skill, in getting to within seven runs of a first-day century. Then, while he ran what he thought was a comfortable single to mid-on, his batting partner Dinesh Chandimal opted to stay at home. The opener was run out by the length of the pitch.

Stat of the day - 1 One six was hit on Day 1. The boundary was only breached 18 times in total over the course of the 90 overs. When it did arrive, the lone six was a thing of beauty, as Niroshan Dickwella effortlessly clipped Mohammed Amir over the square-leg boundary.

The verdict Three wickets down at lunch, on a featherbed wicket having won the toss, and Sri Lanka’s fragile confidence must have been waning. Then Karunaratne and Chandimal's alliance of precisely 100 gave them a foothold in the match. Dickwella’s free-spirited strokeplay meant the Sri Lankans were handily placed at 227 for four at the close.

Babumoshai Bandookbaaz

Director: Kushan Nandy

Starring: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bidita Bag, Jatin Goswami

Three stars

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

Other promotions
  • Deliveroo will team up with Pineapple Express to offer customers near JLT a special treat: free banana caramel dessert with all orders on January 26
  • Jones the Grocer will have their limited edition Australia Day menu available until the end of the month (January 31)
  • Australian Vet in Abu Dhabi (with locations in Khalifa City A and Reem Island) will have a 15 per cent off all store items (excluding medications) 
Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

The specs

Engine: 8.0-litre, quad-turbo 16-cylinder

Transmission: 7-speed auto

0-100kmh 2.3 seconds

0-200kmh 5.5 seconds

0-300kmh 11.6 seconds

Power: 1500hp

Torque: 1600Nm

Price: Dh13,400,000

On sale: now

Famous left-handers

- Marie Curie

- Jimi Hendrix

- Leonardo Di Vinci

- David Bowie

- Paul McCartney

- Albert Einstein

- Jack the Ripper

- Barack Obama

- Helen Keller

- Joan of Arc

Tips for newlyweds to better manage finances

All couples are unique and have to create a financial blueprint that is most suitable for their relationship, says Vijay Valecha, chief investment officer at Century Financial. He offers his top five tips for couples to better manage their finances.

Discuss your assets and debts: When married, it’s important to understand each other’s personal financial situation. It’s necessary to know upfront what each party brings to the table, as debts and assets affect spending habits and joint loan qualifications. Discussing all aspects of their finances as a couple prevents anyone from being blindsided later.

Decide on the financial/saving goals: Spouses should independently list their top goals and share their lists with one another to shape a joint plan. Writing down clear goals will help them determine how much to save each month, how much to put aside for short-term goals, and how they will reach their long-term financial goals.

Set a budget: A budget can keep the couple be mindful of their income and expenses. With a monthly budget, couples will know exactly how much they can spend in a category each month, how much they have to work with and what spending areas need to be evaluated.

Decide who manages what: When it comes to handling finances, it’s a good idea to decide who manages what. For example, one person might take on the day-to-day bills, while the other tackles long-term investments and retirement plans.

Money date nights: Talking about money should be a healthy, ongoing conversation and couples should not wait for something to go wrong. They should set time aside every month to talk about future financial decisions and see the progress they’ve made together towards accomplishing their goals.

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.


Latest
Most Read
Top Videos