11:21 GMT26 October 2020
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    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo unexpectedly decided to attend an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels to discuss Iran. During the talks, the sides appeared to sharply disagree on the matter, with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini urging Washington to exercise restraint amid the recent escalation of tensions.

    Pompeo, for his part, shared information about "escalating" threats from Iran at the meeting in Brussels, according to his representative. Sputnik has discussed the meeting in the wake of the escalation between Iran and the United States with Sami Hamdi, Editor-in-Chief of the International Interest and geopolitical risk consultant.

    Sputnik: The foreign ministers of France, Germany, and the UK have discussed Iran’s recent decision to stop implementing parts of its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal. What could the EU response be to the deadline Iran gave Europe to implement their commitments under the deal?

    Sami Hamdi: The EU is likely to ask for more time. By more time, they will openly reject Iran’s deadline but privately express the view that as US elections are not that far away, it is worth waiting to see if Trump wins another term or not. If he does, then serious discussions about the future of the nuclear deal will take place. If he loses, then it is likely that a Democrat president may restore the deal and lift some of the added sanctions on Iran.

    READ MORE: US Officials Claim Iran or Iranian Proxies Damaged Ships in UAE Waters — Report

    Iran will want more than that. The EU may make promises to develop its "clearing house" designed to circumvent US sanctions. Iran is unlikely to buy into that. However, Tehran’s options remain very limited and they may well accept the option to wait until the US elections.

    Sputnik: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has cancelled his trip to Moscow to participate in talks with European officials on Iran in Brussels. Over the weekend the Pentagon deployed an aircraft carrier strike group and bomber task force to the Persian Gulf. How serious is the risk of escalation? If so, what could the long-term consequences be?

    Sami Hamdi: Trump’s military policy is to get allies to do the fighting, not American troops. Trump has sought to wind down the conflict in Afghanistan through peace talks in a clear sign that his approach to foreign policy is a lot of bluster while committing as few resources as possible. 

    Trump cannot rely on Saudi Arabia or the UAE or Qatar to do the fighting. Saudi Arabia is already struggling against the Houthis in Yemen. The UAE lacks the capabilities to be effective on its own. Qatar is not convinced that Iran is truly an enemy. Moreover, Iran's militias are adept at fighting as an insurgency and do not necessarily fight like a regular army. In other words, the US may well fear becoming embroiled in another "Vietnam".

    It is also worth remembering that Trump invited Iran for talks again regarding the nuclear deal and easing of sanctions while escalating the US military presence at the same time. 

    In light of the above, it is more likely that the deployment of forces is a show of force to push Iran into new talks. 

    READ MORE: Pompeo Says Iran is 'Major Destabilizing Influence' the US 'Aims to Fix'

    The deployment may also be directed at other countries in the region. In other words, it may well be that the deployment is designed to put pressure on the Iraqi government to ditch plans for greater cooperation with Iran and return to the US fold, and reassure Gulf allies that US is committed to their protection. Iraq has been an Iranian stronghold for a while and Tehran wields significant influence through numerous militias. Moreover, following the US refusal to back Kurdish independence, the US has no dependable ally it can rely on in Iraq to act as a counter-balance to Iran’s numerous allies. As a result, the US has been seeking to strong-arm Iraq over the last few months into tempering relations with Tehran; with little success.

    Sputnik: Pompeo said in a statement on Thursday that Washington was ready to hit back fast and hard in retaliatory strikes against any attacks carried out by Iran or its regiional allies. Is there a real threat of a pre-emptive strike by the US or Iran amid bilateral threats? 

    Sami Hamdi: Iran is not in a position to risk war and will likely have ordered its allies to avoid confrontation with the US. Trump benefits from the posturing but will not risk a war he is not certain to win. Moreover, Trump will be well aware that there is no international appetite for the war even among his own allies.

    I do not think there is a real threat of a pre-emptive strike.

    Sputnik: How do you assess the EU's efforts to ensure that trade with Iran will continue despite the US sanctions against the Islamic Republic?  

    Sami Hamdi: The EU believes in the nuclear deal. However, it does not believe that establishing a parallel financial system is the solution. The EU prefers to continue lobbying Trump to alter his policy.

    READ MORE: US Sends More Warships, Patriot Missiles to Mideast Amid Escalation With Iran

    Although there have been attempts to establish a "clearing house", the EU is left with a dilemma whereby the US remains a far larger trading partner, and companies are unlikely to sacrifice that market for the sake of Iran.

    The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's position.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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    nuclear deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump, Iran, US
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