US president Donald Trump is threatening a return to direct confrontation with Iran—amid growing tensions and the threat of war in the Middle East.
Trump has warned that he could scrap an agreement with Iran, signed under previous president Barack Obama, and impose new sanctions.
Under the “Iran deal”, signed in 2015, Iran agreed to limit its nuclear programme. In return the US, Britain, France and Germany agreed to lift sanctions that hit Iran’s oil and banking industries.
But Trump has repeatedly attacked the deal—and could scrap it. Under the deal, the US president has to signal every so often whether they are still committed to it. The deadline for Trump to do that is this Saturday.
It comes as the US’s close ally Israel is threatening war against Iran in Syria.
Israel has launched several missile attacks against Iranian military forces in Syria over recent months.
Iran has gained a foothold in Syria—and possibly military bases—after joining the Syrian civil war to prop up dictator Bashar al-Assad.
An Israeli missile attack on a military base in Syria last week killed some 27 people, most of them Iranians. Now Israeli officials claim that Iran is preparing to launch a revenge missile attack.
Warmongering Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu wants Trump to scrap the deal. He even staged an elaborate PR stunt last week claiming to have evidence that Iran has broken the deal—although the information he produced has long been publicly available.
Yet other US allies, including French president Emmanuel Macron and British Tory foreign secretary Boris Johnson have begged Trump not to “decertify” the deal.
This isn’t because they’re against war in the Middle East—Johnson and Macron both championed the West’s airstrikes on the Syrian regime last month.
But the deal was seen as a way to curb Iran’s influence in the region when the US’s power had been weakened.
Johnson flew to the US on Monday to speak to US vice president Mike Pence and national security adviser John Bolton, to argue against ditching the deal.
He also wrote for the New York Times newspaper and appeared on right wing news programme Fox and Friends, which Trump is known to watch.
But Bolton and other advisers close to Trump support a return to confrontation with Iran.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said on Saturday that Trump was “committed to regime change” in Iran. And on Sunday the Guardian newspaper revealed that Trump aides hired a private Israeli spy firm to find dirt on the authors of the deal.
Trump’s threat to scrap the deal shows that, weeks after the airstrikes on Syria, the threat of a deadly confrontation between rival powers in the Middle East hasn’t gone away.
If Trump scraps the deal, it could be a step closer to a war between Israel and Iran that would have devastating consequences for ordinary people across the region.