Did the “great coup” program that Iran launched four decades ago clash with the international and regional reality? Is it imperative for the current Iranian regime to bitterly reconsider the big dreams that it engineered and promoted? Can Tehran accept the fact that the cards it can manipulate today are fewer than those it possessed years ago? Should it admit that the Donald Trump era brought about irrefutable change in the issues concerning it?
The Middle East is a field of questions that does not always find answers. Can we wake up one morning to the news of a pro-Iranian suicide bomber plunging into an American embassy or site and causing dozens of casualties similar to what happened previously on Lebanese soil? Can Iran bear the consequences of an act of this kind? Can we say that the rhetoric that Trump adopted in addressing Iran deprived it of the ability to direct such strikes at the US even if Trump is gone?
The power equations at the end of Trump’s term look different than they were before he entered the Oval Office. Has something changed or did the rules of the game change? Can Iran fire its missiles at Haifa port, and can its allies bear the consequences of such an attack?
It is clear that the situation in the region today is completely different from the circumstances that allowed Iran to bomb the US embassy in Beirut or the Marines headquarters there. The situation is different for Israel as well. Can Iran today, for example, order Jihad and Hamas to launch a wave of suicide attacks inside Israeli agglomerations? Can Lebanon, mired in collapse, endure a new war with Israel, and can the Syrian regime bear the firing of missiles from its land?
It is too early to say that Iran has lost all of its cards. But it is clear that something has changed in the region. Israel has noticeably abandoned the caution it had been sticking with for years in its strikes against Iranian targets on Iranian soil. The circumstances of the assassination of the prominent nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, are more dangerous than exciting... Dangerous because it is a strike that deserves to be responded to, especially in the club of countries that bet on their force and prestige. It is far beyond proving the penetration ability of the Mossad. It is like a call for an open duel, which means war.
Israel chose this dueling call at a very difficult time for Iran. The broad confrontation between Iran and Israel with Trump’s presence in the White House involves many dangers for Tehran. Trump is the maker of games and surprises. He may choose his last weeks in office to turn the tables if he finds the right excuse. Iran wants to stay on the brink of war with America, but does not want to slide into it.
The Iranian regime knows that an open military confrontation with the US “means that America will take us decades back and destroy part of the revolution’s achievements. This is why, let me tell you, that the war you are asking about will not take place,” an Iranian official once said.
Iran has the ability to shower Israel with missiles. It has missiles under its command in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. But the order to launch the rockets raises the question about the next hour. It is hard to believe that America, regardless of the name of the White House resident, could sit idly by in a conflict of this kind. In addition, the war that Israel is waging against the Iranian “positioning” on Syrian soil demonstrated the extent of the Israeli aircraft superiority. This means that it is not just a question of the first strike, but of the ability to maintain the attacks and to bear the losses.
The Israeli air force would not have appeared in this picture if Russia had chosen to close the Syrian airspace to it. Russia’s acceptance of the war that Israel is waging against Iran inside the Syrian territories, in turn, indicates that the Iranian deployment in the region is not necessarily welcomed by the major countries, even those that contradict US policies or compete with America.
This tense situation is likely to continue. It is not enough for Trump to leave the White House for Iran to be reassured. The issue is more complicated. Trump’s approach will have lasting effects on the Iranian issue. By withdrawing from the nuclear deal, Trump raised the issue of the Iranian behavior, including its nuclear goals.
The results of Trump’s decisions are evident in the French and German approaches to the issue. We are talking here about two countries that opposed the US exit from the agreement and tried to adhere to it by all means. Today, the two countries stress that any resumption of the agreement necessarily involves discussing Iran's ballistic missiles and Tehran’s sponsorship of the militias on several maps.
Iran’s call on Biden to return to the nuclear agreement, while rejecting any new negotiations over it, will not yield results. Biden himself knows that the participation of countries in the region, mainly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, is necessary in any comprehensive negotiations with Tehran.
If we take into account the relations that were established between Israel on the one hand, and the UAE and Bahrain on the other hand, we realize the extent of the change that has occurred in the region. A change that is not in Iran’s interest.
Trump has done great damage to the Iranian regime. The issue of Iranian behavior in the world and the region has become an explicit item in any future negotiations.
His sanctions have clearly damaged the Iranian economy and exposed its fragility.
He changed the rhetoric, announcing that Iran would pay the price for any military harassment against America. The Trump administration has demonstrated that Iran does not have solutions to offer to countries that are falling under its influence, as is the case in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
It seemed obvious that the policy of manipulating the Houthi proxy also increased anxiety about the Iranian coup program. Only the coming months will reveal whether Tehran will accept the change in the rules of the game.