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The US-Iran rivalry is not new. It dates back to the Iranian revolution in 1979. The fresh US-Iran tensions started when America pressurized big economies like China and India to refrain from importing oil from Iran. This move was taken by the USA to isolate Iran on the economic and diplomatic front. Experts believe that trump administration wants to reduce Iran’s oil exports to its lowest.

US-Iran rivalry gained momentum in the past few months. Current US sanctions are a threat to Iran’s economy. Oil exports are the backbone of Iran’s economy. Iran’s economy is deteriorating after Current US sanctions. Inflation in Iran has reached to around 50 percent. Unemployment is also at its peak. Iran’s currency is also facing devaluation.

During President Obama’s tenure, we witnessed a positive shift in US-Iran relations. P5+1 deal was signed at that time. This deal prevents Iran from Uranium enrichment and in return sanctions will be lifted from Iran. However, trump’s victory changed the landscape. Trump decided to walk away from this deal last year. Experts believe that US allies including Israel and Saudi Arabia were unhappy with this deal. Israel cannot afford better US-Iran relations because Iran occasionally poses a threat to Israel’s interests in the middle east.

A Grey warship – photo via unsplash.com

The International atomic energy agency also reported that Iran was implementing the P5+1 deal. However,  President Donald Trump termed this deal as a failure of Obama-Hillary foreign policy.

Now, after USA’s moves Iran has also started playing its cards. Iran informed its friends in Europe that it may resume uranium enrichment after 60 days if sanctions not lifted. Besides the nuclear program, Iran has some other cards too. One of them is strait of Hormuz. Iran threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz. Strait of Hormuz has strategic importance for oil trade. It is a passage of around 20 percent of world’s oil trade. It is situated between the Gulf of Oman and the Persian Gulf. This water passage is controlled by Iran and Oman. Small islands of this water body are a bone of contention between Iran and UAE. Iran keeps on fortifying its presence in the Strait of Hormuz. Iran usually concludes naval exercises to show its power.

Strait of Hormuz map – photo via wikimedia.org

Allies of the USA, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman also use this passage to send their oil exports to Asia’s biggest markets including China, India, Pakistan, South Korea, and Japan. African markets are also on this list. Whenever Iran faces threats from the west it threatens to block the Strait of Hormuz. Experts believe that Iran will not go for blockage because Iran’s own exports are dependent on this passage.

Amid these threats from Iran, the USA also started military buildups at its bases in Gulf countries. US secretary, advisor John Bolton also warns that any threat to US allies will be dealt with the full force. The USA has sent patriot warships to the middle east to aid 5th fleet of central command. This fleet patrols in Arabian sea and the Persian Gulf. The USA also sent B-52 bomber jets to its base in Qatar. All these steps are taken to warn Iran that its nuclear installations can be targeted. Naval exercises have also been started in the Persian Gulf by USA marines.

UN Navy carrier -photo via wikimedia.org

Many experts believe that the USA will not attack Iran directly. It may provoke Saudi Arabia for this. Recently a Saudi’s oil tanker met an attack by Houthi rebels near Yemen. Also recently four oil tankers came under attack at the UAE’s Fujairah port. Two of these oil tankers are from Saudia Arabia, One from UAE and One from Norway. This attack did not cause any serious destruction, however, these oil tankers were somewhat damaged in this attack. America accused Iran of this attack. Iran denied this asked for a probe.

Besides this USA also instructed its officials and citizens to leave Iraq immediately amid threats from Iran’s proxy groups in Iraq. The main factor behind these steps by the USA is the increased influence of Iran in the middle east. Ironically, this increased influence of Iran in the middle east is unwillingly fueled by USA. Failed US policies in Iraq and Syria paved the way for Iran to fill the gap.

A starboard quarter view of Iran’s second Kilo-class diesel-powered attack submarine underway. Photo via wikimedia.org

The USA labels Iran as the biggest state sponsor of terrorism. Iran has posed serious threats to American and its allies’ interests in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Iran’s involvement in Syria is very clear. Syria’s war is being fought between two groups. One group includes the Syrian regime, Iran and Russia, while other group includes Saudi Arabia, Israel, and America. Iran’s actions in Syria are a headache for the USA and allies.

USA and Iran are also competing with each other in Iraq. After the 2003 Iraq war, there is a political vacuum in Iraq. The political government in Iraq is unstable and is totally dependent on foreign aids to run their countries. Due to this vacuum, many countries, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, America, Israel, and Iran want to maintain their influence in Iraq. However, Iran is dominating the rest due to its influence on the Shia population of Iraq. Many Shia groups in Iraq are sponsored by Iran. These groups fight against ISIS and also attack on USA interests in Iraq.

Now the same is being repeated in Yemen. Saudia Arabia and allies accuse Iran of supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen. However, Iran denies these allegations. Israel-Iran tussle is also well-known to everyone. Iran supports militant groups Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon. These groups are considered a threat to Israel. These groups have successfully targeted Israel’s interests many times.

This increased influence of Iran in the middle east is causing tensions in Washington. In a recent move, USA declared Iranian revolutionary guards as terrorists on account of their support to the proxies in the middle east. The USA also managed to place Iran’s name on the FATF’s blacklist.

Iran’s increasing influence in the middle east is unacceptable for the USA and its allies. On the other hand, Iran is also consistently targeting American interests in the middle east. Currently, Iran is surrounded by American bases in Gulf countries. By putting pressure America is testing the limits of Iran. It seems like psychological warfare. Now it depends on Iran till how it sustains this pressure. Experts believe that America is waiting for a wrong move by Iran. This wrong move may be used as a reason to invade and finally topple the Iranian regime.

Since coming into president office Donald Trump has exercised “peace through strength” formula. He also achieved successful results by this. Trump managed to bring North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on the negotiation table. The same formula is being exercised against China and Iran. Only the future will tell whether this strategy will work on Iran or not.