Iran’s malign activities in region must be confronted


US President Donald Trump slapped sanctions against Iran in retaliation to Tehran’s recent ballistic missile test. More than two dozen people and companies from the Persian Gulf to China face new restrictions for supporting the missile program and providing support for Iran’s hard-line Revolutionary Guards Corps. They are now prohibited doing any business in the United States or with American citizens. They are also subject to ‘secondary sanctions’, which means foreign companies and individuals are prohibited from dealing with them, or risk being blacklisted by the United States.
Trump tweeted Iran was playing with fire. And on being asked if military action was off the table in terms of Iran, Trump answered “nothing is off the table”. US Secretary of Defense James Mattis labelled Iran as the single biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East. Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, said the days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions towards the United States and the world community were over. Iran continues to send Shiite fighters to, and supports militias in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Bharain. Iran defends these actions.
The sanctions, which were swift and decisive, came in the wake Iran’s recent missile test and Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen firing on a Saudi naval vessel. It reflects Trump insistence on a tougher stance towards Tehran.
On the other hand, Iran insists the missile test didn’t violate the 2015 nuclear accord it reached with United States and five other world powers, or a subsequent UN Security Council resolution extending an eight-year ban on ballistic missiles. Iran urged the US not to overreact to the tests. Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan insisted they were part of Iran’s ongoing defense program and were not illegal.
In Iran, the sanctions could unsettle domestic Iranian politics as President Hassan Rouhani seeks re-election in May. Trump policies will certainly erode the popularity of Rouhani and the part of the Iranian leadership. The perception that the US might be rolling back on the Iran deal will further empower hardliners in Iran.
Iran’s foreign ministry decried the new US sanctions as illegitimate and vowed counter-sanctions on American companies and firms. The ministry said Iran would take action against a number of American individuals and companies that have played a role in generating and supporting extremist groups in the region and have helped in the killing and suppression of defenseless people.
In Washington, US lawmakers in both parties applauded Trump’s decision to take action against Tehran. Bob Corker, Senator of Tennessee and Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said it was a new day in US-Iran relations. It reflects the United States’ commitment to punish Iran with respect to its ballistic missile program and destabilizing activities in the region.
The sanctions could also target sectors of Iran’s economy that support its missile program and foreign firms that supply the missile program. Those segments include Iran’s mining, metallurgy, petrochemicals, construction, telecoms, computer science and electronics industry.
The new measures against Iran imply that Trump administration is conducting a larger strategic review of its approach to Tehran and that the new sanctions were just initial steps in a more confrontational policy. And it is a step in right direction as Washington must continue to confront Iran’s malign activities in the region.

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