Iran is curbing its aggressive tendencies and beginning to take small steps toward cooperating with the United States in the Middle East.
Tehran is taking intentional steps to avoid further conflict with the United States in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election in November. Iranian leaders are afraid that aggressive action on their part could benefit President Trump in the election, according to The New York Times.
Years of intense pressure by the United States to curb Iranian aggression in the Middle East is beginning to pay dividends, the State Department said.
“Pressure works,” U.S. special representative for Iran policy Brian Hook told the Times. “For over three years we have contained and countered Iran through deterrence and diplomacy. The regime is also broke because of our sanctions. Iran’s leaders today face a choice: either negotiate with President Trump or manage economic collapse.”
Trump has ramped up pressure on the Iranian regime since pulling the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and reasserting strict sanctions on Tehran. Iran is now facing political upheaval at home because of worsening economic conditions, as well as the outbreak of the coronavirus.
To ease tensions in the lead-up to the U.S. election, Iran has largely stopped using proxy militias and terror groups across the Middle East to launch attacks on U.S. forces. Iranian naval forces in the Strait of Hormuz, a key shipping lane, have cut down attacks on shippers and are staying away from U.S. military vessels after threats from Trump.
Tehran has backed off its influence on Iraqi politics, choosing not to interfere against the election of a U.S.-backed prime minister to lead the Iraqi parliament earlier this month. Last month, Tehran negotiated a prisoner swap in the U.S., offering an imprisoned U.S. Navy veteran for an Iranian-American doctor who U.S. forces were holding.
Analysts say that Iran’s new tactics should not be misinterpreted as a change of its overall strategy and ambitions. The loss of General Qasem Soleimani, who was responsible for coordinating Iran’s various militias and terror groups, was a blow to Tehran’s influence throughout the Middle East. That, along with increasing pressure from U.S. sanctions, has forced Iran into a defensive position.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington reached a boiling point around the start of the year when Trump ordered an airstrike that killed Soleimani, Iran’s top general and terror leader.
In late December, Iranian-backed militia launched rockets into an Iraqi airbase, killing several Iraqi soldiers and one U.S. contractor. The U.S. military responded with airstrikes against several militia targets in the region that killed at least two dozen militia members.
On December 30, Iranian officials inspired a violent mob to attack the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, prompting Trump to approve a Jan. 3 drone strike that killed Soleimani. Fearing open conflict with the U.S., Iran responded to Soleimani’s killing with several rocket strikes against an Iraqi military base where U.S. troops were sanctioned. No U.S. or Iraqi soldiers were killed in the attack, and the U.S. declined to respond as Trump’s red line – no more dead Americans – was not crossed.
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