What can happen next? It is difficult not to fear an increasingly dangerous showdown between "hardliners" from both sides. Many parameters will however come into play. Three of them in particular deserve to be taken into account:
- To what extent will American military resources increase? Contrary to what the Trump administration had bragged about, recent events show that the power of "deterrence" strategies in the Gulf has not been restored, especially against an Iranian opponent who has clearly developed asymmetric strategies. America's allies will press the United States to ensure freedom of movement in a thoroughfare that is vital to the energy supplies of many countries.
- What measures will Tehran take on the 8th of July, when the 60-day ultimatum set in the speech delivered by President Rouhain on the 8th of May expires? A new step towards a gradual, probably initially ambiguous, exit from the nuclear agreement (JCPOA) seems inevitable. The question of the attitude to be adopted by the other signatories - Russia, China, Europe - will once again be raised with great urgency. The Americans are eagerly awaiting a deadline that should enable them to strengthen Iran's isolation.
- What are the chances of a return of diplomacy in the emerging context? This last question calls for a nuanced answer.
One of the effects of the incidents in the Sea of Oman could be to highlight a dilemma that lies at the heart of the American approach: if Washington is led to raise the bids in terms of military engagement, the Trump administration will quickly find itself in contradiction with its goal of withdrawing from the region (which corresponds to the American public’s expectations). We won’t push the paradox too far, but there is a third reading, according to which the rise in tensions in the Strait of Hormuz could also lead to the first steps towards a new negotiation. Some in the Trump administration are playing with the idea of carrying out, at a later stage of the escalation, selective strikes on Iranian installations similar to the strikes the Americans launched twice in Syria, following the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. The least we can say is that the demonstration in Syria has been inconclusive, and that in any case Iran has far more important strategic capabilities than the Damascus regime, which is barely managing to survive.
For all these reasons, the Americans may overall need to clarify their strategy regarding Iran, by detailing their conception of an improved JCPOA. In these circumstances, and in order to prepare for a possible way out of the crisis, it would be very important that the states that are still in contact with Tehran be able to emphasize to Iranian decision-makers the dilemma the latter face. Indeed, possible successes in a tacit military confrontation with the United States (through "deniable" operations aligned with the Iranian strategic doctrine) will not solve their most fundamental problem, which is more of an economic and social matter, than a security one. In the coming weeks, the strangulation of the Iranian economy by the United States can only intensify - including because of the failure programed from Washington of the INSTEX instrument developed by the Europeans to safeguard certain exchanges with Iran.
Copyright : ISNA / AFP