The US reimposed sanctions against Iran Tuesday, putting an end to the era of solving problems through peaceful negotiations in the Middle East. Prior to this, the US moved its Israel embassy to Jerusalem, shutting the door on Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. Now it has basically cut off negotiations with Iran and attempted to prevent the European Union, China and Russia from cooperating with Iran.
The Middle East has witnessed complex internal contradictions, including confrontation between Palestine and Israel, conflicts between Arabs and Persians and clashes between Sunnis and Shiites. Since the signing of the Camp David Accords in the late 1970s, the US has been promoting negotiations among relevant parties in the Middle East.
It’s not easy to establish long-lasting peace in the region given the intertwined problems. But it’s fair to say those negotiations played a role in stabilizing the situation and reducing crises.
There have been no large clashes between Palestine and Israel for a long time and the intensity of Sunni-Shiite conflicts has also fallen. Despite twists and turns, the trajectory of peace and development is pretty clear.
Since Donald Trump took office, the US drastically changed its Middle East policy, transforming from negotiations to supporting its allies in confronting their competitors in the region.
Doing so is easier for getting results than promoting negotiations. For example, the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem won the gratitude of Israel.
Withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal can bring Washington even more benefits. It not only has dealt a heavy blow to Iran, but also won support, public or covert, from Israel, and Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, European companies and new emerging Asian countries suffered from US sanctions against Iran as they had quickly cooperated with Iran after signing the Iran deal. This constitutes a form of indirect benefit for the US.
One thing certain is that the situation in the Middle East will turn messier because of US sanctions on Iran. The US has found it cost-effective to pursue short-term interests with few resources, but it will pay the price eventually.
The Middle East has become a main source of refugees and terrorism, posing major threats to Western interests. The more hatred and confrontation arising in the Middle East, the more refugees and terrorism.
It’s easy for the US to stir confrontation, but hard to control the consequences. The national interest of the superpower will likely be harmed by a more chaotic Middle East.
The reimposition of US sanctions has put countries that invested in Iran, including China, in an uncomfortable position.
Although the EU announced it would continue to implement the Iran nuclear deal, many European firms have started withdrawing from the country to avoid US sanctions.
China needs to collaborate with the EU and Russia. While opposing unilateral US sanctions, Beijing cannot confront Washington over Iran and meanwhile it needs to maintain friendly ties with Tehran. Striking a balance is a diplomatic challenge for China.
How long Iran can withstand sanctions is a decisive factor. Trump vowed to hit firms doing business with Iran. How far an isolated Iran can be pushed is a barometer of international politics. In this century, there are more signs of confrontation in the world.
Newspaper headline: Peace talks era ends with Iran sanctions