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US-Iran tensions: Why nuclear deal is at risk – ‘US will be ultimate victim’
June 29, 2021
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On Monday, US troops came under rocket fire in Syria, in apparent retaliation for the airstrikes ordered by Joe Biden over the weekend on Iran-aligned militia in Syria and Iraq. A US military spokesman said the troops had fired back in self-defence, as tensions between the nations ramp up and concerns over the US’s attempt to revive the fragile nuclear deal grow.
Monday’s rocket fire underscored the risk of escalation and the limits of US military firepower to restrain Iran-aligned militias.
A series of increasingly sophisticated drone strikes against US personnel and facilities in Iraq has been blamed on these forces by the US.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the White House defended the strikes in Iraq and Syria on Sunday as a way to stamp out the risk of conflict.
He told reporters: “We took necessary, appropriate, deliberate action that is designed to limit the risk of escalation, but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message.”
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said Iran was engaged in “extremely problematic behaviour” and that the President “feels confident that the strikes were necessary, appropriate and deliberate actions.”
But Iran called on the US to avoid “creating crisis” in the region.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday: “Certainly what the United States is doing is disrupting security in the region, and one of the victims of this disruption will be the United States.”
He said the Biden administration was heading in the wrong direction and following the “failed” policies of its previous president.
Mr Khatibzadeh told reporters: “We recommend that the new US government reform its path instead of [following] such emotional behaviours, creating crisis . . . problems and dilemmas for people in the region.”
This is the second time President Joe Biden had ordered retaliatory strikes against Iran-backed militias since taking office five months ago.
He ordered limited strikes in Syria in February, that time in response to rocket attacks in Iraq.
Two anonymous US officials said Iran-backed militias have carried out at least five drone attacks against facilities used by US and coalition personnel in Iraq since April.
Despite this, the Biden administration is has been seeking to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran – negotiated by Obama and killed by Trump.
The deal’s remaining signatories — the UK, Germany, France, China and Russia — have held several rounds of talks in Vienna to revive the agreement.
The attacks indicate that Biden will seek to simultaneously engage in defensive strikes while engaging Tehran in diplomacy.
Biden has said the US will rejoin the deal and lift many sanctions if Iran returns to full compliance with the agreement. Tehran insists the US must lift all sanctions.
However, the escalation comes at a precarious time, just a week after Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner, won Iran’s presidential election.
The latest strikes could prove an early test for Mr Raisi, due to take office in August.
However, the greatest risk, according to experts, is to the timetable for the nuclear talks – Iran has already missed its deadline to renew the temporary atomic monitoring pact with international inspectors.
Meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Monday, Joe Biden said that “Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on my watch”.
But with the US still imposing harsh sanctions, the new President Raisi is unlikely to enter into further diplomacy without a show of good faith.