US President Donald Trump’s speech was aimed at reducing tensions in the region and avoiding direct military confrontation with Iran, Senior Researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies Boris Dolgov told TASS.
The US leader addressed the nation at the White House on Wednesday declaring readiness to "embrace peace" with Iran and also saying that US citizens were not hurt in Iran’s missile strike on military bases in Iraq. Meanwhile, Trump vowed to slap new sanctions against Iran in response to the attack.
"Although Trump’s address is full of threats and bellicose statements, in general it can be interpreted as an attempt to stop the current situation of a military conflict between Iran and the United States," Dolgov said. "This is the most effective solution for Washington in this situation because there have been calls in the US, in Congress, for decreasing tensions with Iran and anti-war demonstrations were held in many US cities. If we imagine that these tensions continue increasing then there should be a US military strike on Iran."
According to the expert, in case situation grew into a military conflict Washington’s regional allies would be involved in it, namely Israel and Saudi Arabia and this would significantly increase the number of casualties. However, European allies did not back Washington’s aggressive steps in the Middle East and this served as a containing factor for the US leadership, Dolgov noted.
"Probably, Trump expected that the killing of [Quds Force leader Qasem] Soleimani would become a signal for large-scale protests in Iran but this did not happen," the expert said. "This is also a reason that although the US leader made this threatening statement, this is still not the declaration of war."
Trump’s refusal to escalate the conflict will be viewed by the Iranian leadership as the US leader’s weakness and Tehran will use it to declare its victory in this crisis, the expert noted. Meanwhile, Tehran has a sober stance on this situation and understands that it’s impossible to win a military conflict against the US and its allies.
"In case of war Iran would definitely lose a lot and its existence as a state would be called in question," the expert said. "Although local exchanges of strikes and radical actions by groups supporting Iran are possible no major conflict should be expected."
NATO’s role in the region
US allies in NATO will hardly respond to the US president’s call to play an active role in the Middle East affairs because they are interested in cooperation with Iran, Dolgov said. "Some US allies could respond to this call. Although key European powers - Germany and France - could answer to it, they don’t need confrontation with Iran. Moreover, they seek cooperation with Tehran and this is beneficial for their companies," Dolgov explained.
According to the expert, Trump’s statement that the US does not need the Middle East oil is nothing else than propaganda and a response to a suggestion that Washington starts conflicts in the region for the sake of economic expansion and gaining access to oil resources.
Tensions around Iran flared up after the US launched a strike on Baghdad’s airport on January 3 killing General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force. On January 8, Iran retaliated by launching missile strikes on two military facilities in Iraq used by the United States. According to the Pentagon’s spokesperson, Al-Asad Air Base and the airport of Erbil were targeted.
US President Donald Trump addressed the nation at the White House on Wednesday saying that the US was ready to embrace peace with Iran and was hoping that Tehran would live in harmony with all states around the world. At the same time, Trump announced that new "punishing sanctions" would be imposed on Iran.