The US has achieved a tactical victory in the Middle East, but at the same time sacrificed its strategic interests in the region and in Europe, analyst Frank Leblanc, of the EastWest Institute told TASS on Thursday.
"It will be correct to say that the US has achieved a tactical victory in its standoff with Iran. In other words, an electoral success for the incumbent, who is beginning a re-election campaign," Leblanc said, adding, though, that Washington’s strategic losses "by far outweigh any tactical bonuses."
"A senior [Iranian] military commander and specialist in subversive operations has been eliminated. If Washington is to be believed, Soleimani posed a real threat to Americans in the region. Iran’s military retaliation caused no tangible damage to the US, while the political one — actual termination of compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal — in fact is the net effect of Washington’s efforts to ruin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In the current conditions the European countries, Russia and China will find it far harder to breathe a new life into the JCPOA and to resist the United States’ extraterritorial sanctions in this sphere," Leblanc speculated.
"Iran’s missile strike against Iraqi territory weakens the trend towards a rapprochement between the two countries and is capable of shattering Baghdad’s determination to demand the pullout of foreign forces. It may be interpreted as a reminder of the horrors of the Iran-Iraq war of [1980-1988 — TASS]. Lastly, US President Donald Trump, who was the first to declare his readiness to ease tensions, now positions himself as a peacemaker," Leblanc said.
At the same time Leblanc voiced fear that in an attempt to achieve quick results "Washington jeopardized strategic US interests," which may "outweigh by far any bonuses from this adventure."
Firstly, in Iran, where the central authorities’ influence waned noticeably over the past few months, has seen a powerful upsurge of patriotic sentiment and consolidation in the face of an external threat, which reduces to nothing the US hopes for possible changes in the Iranian leadership. Secondly, in the wake of General Soleimani’s killing anti-US sentiment soared in the whole Shi’ite community in the Middle East. Leblanc stressed the fact that Soleimani’s elimination drew no support from the United States’ chief ally in the region — Sunni Saudi Arabia — which fears becoming a target of Iran’s retaliatory strikes.
Thirdly, this operation has forced the Iraqi authorities to strongly demand the pullout of foreign troops, and, "although the odds are Baghdad will fail to achieve this, a heavy blow has been dealt on the US-led coalition in the Middle East, which last year lost a foothold in Syria." Fourthly, the United States has greatly complicated its relations with NATO partners, Leblanc claims. "Washington has received no political or military support from the alliance for its actions against Iran. Moreover, some NATO countries have already begun to relocate the personnel of their mission in Baghdad to calmer countries.
"Even the political victory achieved in eliminating the JCPOA will have only a short-term effect. The United States’ ultimate aim was to not just eliminate this agreement, but to force Iran into accepting another one, which would impose harsher restrictions on its nuclear program and also limit Tehran’s missile research and regional ambitions. Implementing this plan now will be extremely difficult. The US may forget about getting support from Russia and China and, with a high degree of probability, from the EU countries, too," he said.
Leblanc believes that strategically the United States will promptly ruin its own positions in the Middle East and undermine the European countries’ trust towards NATO, whose US-dictated policies ever more often fail to give them greater security and also run counter to the Old World’s political and economic interests. "NATO members cannot but feel unhappy about the current state of affairs in the alliance. Their criticism keeps growing together with the ‘membership dues’ [Washington’s demand for increasing NATO members’ military budgets to 2% of their GDP — TASS]," Leblanc concluded.
The situation in the Middle East aggravated sharply in the wake of an overnight US missile strike near Baghdad’s airport on January 3, which killed the commander of the Quds Force, an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Qasem Soleimani. In retaliation Tehran on January 8 carried out a night-time missile strike against two facilities in Iraq, being used by the US military — Ayn al-Asad airbase and Erbil Airport.
US President Donald Trump declared that Washington would instantly tighten economic sanctions against Tehran. At the same time he remarked that the US was prepared for peace with Iran. Iran’s permanent representative to the UN, Majid Takht Ravanchi, told TASS Tehran believed that its retaliation was proportionate and had no intention of taking further military action.