19 September 2019, The Tablet

Step back from the brink of war


 

When President Donald Trump fired his national security adviser John Bolton last week, there were celebrations in Iran. The well-known hawk would no longer be whispering words of war in the president’s ear. Mr Trump, for his part, was counting on the Iranians coming to the negotiating table ready to talk about a treaty to replace the 2015 nuclear deal that he had torn up. This meant the United States would have to be ready to ease some of the sanctions imposed on Tehran. There were realistic expectations of talks between Mr Trump and President Hassan Rouhani. The drone strikes on two of the world’s largest oil facilities last Saturday, that cut the oil-producing capacity of Iran’s bitter enemy, Saudi Arabia, in half, dashed hopes of such a rapprochement between the US, staunch ally of Sunni Saudi Arabia, and Shia Iran. Whoever was behind the drone strikes, it is fair to assume, was also against the rapprochement. The Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, fighting a proxy war against the Saudi-backed government there, claimed responsibility for the strikes. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Tehran.

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