Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Iran ‘May Be’?! 

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan recently said that Iran’s weapons “are being used to kill civilians in Ukraine and to try to plunge cities into cold and darkness, which from our point of view puts Iran in a place where it could potentially be contributing to widespread war crimes.”  

He then added that he would visit Israel to discuss the threats posed by Iran, emphasizing that the US administration has already made clear that while concluding a nuclear agreement with Iran is not a priority at present, it still believes diplomacy is the means through which to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons.  

Sullivan will discuss this matter with the new Israeli government, promising to “work through any differences we have on tactics.”  

Alright, what do these statements by the national security advisor mean?   

It is clear that Washington does not have a plan for dealing with Iran. It has not developed a clear plan and is trying to engage with the Iran file through reaction rather than a strategy.  

Washington is addressing Iran under the pressure of several shifts, among them the need to work with the Republicans in Congress, who have begun taking on President Biden.  

Another is the developments in Israel, where Benjamin Netanyahu has formed a rightwing government that will complicate things in the region. Netanyahu has already made pledges to stop Iran’s nuclear program even if he has to do so without coordinating with Washington.  

That is why Sullivan says that Iran “may be” among the countries “contributing to widespread war crimes in Ukraine,” despite evidence of its involvement and everyone being aware of the scale of the crimes and clampdown the mullahs have perpetrated against the peoples of Iran after four months of robust protest that have shaken the regime.  

And so, there is no doubt that the White House has not developed a strategy for dealing with Iran and the ramifications of its actions on the region and US national security. Today, it is trying to find its way through statements that seem reassuring to allies but do not imply genuine commitments.   

That is why the national security adviser used the term “may be,” thereby pledging “to work through any differences” with the Israelis “on tactics.” These are clearly not minor differences but are fundamental and consequential - too significant to be considered a question of “tactics.”  

Iran is certainly among the dictatorial regimes most reliant upon deception. The mullah regime is fully committed to violating international laws and norms, and the confusion evident in the Supreme Leader’s speeches tells us the regime is more likely to defend from the front.   

It would not be surprising if the mullah regime now moves to stir a foreign crisis to reduce the domestic pressure it is facing, especially once we account for the significance of the fact that the regime is now imprisoning figures from prominent families that had played important roles in bringing the regime to power, including the daughter of Hashemi Rafsanjani. 

This shows us that the composition of the regime in Iran is now dominated more by the military than it is by the turbans. The religious figures are no longer referred to, and their last civilian representative is the Supreme Leader. Everything beneath the turban, as I have written before, is for the soldiers.  

Despite all of that, observers can now be sure that there is no US strategy for dealing with Iran, where things could move in unanticipated directions.