If an IRGC man becomes the President of Iran in 2021, the US and the West are most likely to face a militarily aggressive Iran, in which case the US pursuit of peace with Iran, which has already suffered massive setbacks on account of Trump’s ill-advised actions together with the recent assassinations on Iranian soil, may slide well beyond reasonable expectations for the foreseeable future.
Among the things that the next American President has on his plate, calling for his urgent attention apart from the coronavirus pandemic is the geopolitical quagmire that Trump has plunged the US into with his reckless actions and reactions motivated chiefly by personal greed and/or his desire to return to the White House for another four years. The Iran-US relationship is one of those that took a nosedive under President Donald Trump with the soon-to-be former President’s unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), popularly known as the Iran nuclear deal. Trump went ahead and imposed crippling sanctions on Iran while all parties agreed that Iran was abiding by the terms of the nuclear deal.
“This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” Trump had said, adding, “It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.” The withdrawal had attracted a great deal of opposition from European leaders, a lot many of which had repeatedly urged Trump to not take that path. Even Obama couldn’t hold himself back from saying that walking out of the agreement left the world with “a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East.”
The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the top nuclear scientist of Iran, on November 27, 2020, has only made the US-Iran relationship harder to mend for president-elect Joe Biden. The accusatory finger with regard to the assassination has been pointed at Israel’s Mossad, the involvement of which cannot be readily dismissed, given that several Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated over the past many years — at least five between 2007 and 2012 — and the hand of Mossad in all those has been long suspected. Fakhrizadeh was perceived as the mind behind Iran’s nuclear militarization by Israel, and the man was even mentioned by name by the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in April 2018 during his presentation on Iran’s nuclear program. That Israel considered Fakhrizadeh a threat to national security is, therefore, not hard to see. Biden has offered little except a studied silence on the issue simply because the assassination of Fakhrizadeh after the killing of General Qasem Soleimani in an American drone strike in January 2020 might have further and severely dulled, if not completely dashed, the hope of getting Iran back to the negotiating table.You will find more infographics at Statista
The path to a US-Iran patch-up was already arduous despite Biden’s earnestly stated desire to “offer Tehran a credible path back to diplomacy” as long as “Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal” without letting go of the “unshakeable commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.” Biden will be facing the double challenge of bringing an embittered Iran back to the table and fighting the resistance to the revitalization of US-Iran diplomacy offered by Tel Aviv and Riyadh because Israel and Saudi Arabia remain stoutly opposed to the resumption of diplomacy between the two nations. The efforts to make Iran abandon its nuclear ambitions might be particularly tough due to the fast-changing political scene in Iran, and the political weather in Iran may soon turn against its entering into an understanding with the US despite the fact that the Iranians are reeling under the US-imposed sanctions, and while the policy of “maximum pressure” relentlessly pursued by the Trump administration against Iran has landed Iran in dire straits, it has not been able to bend Iran to the will of the United States. And there is a lesson somewhere in that.
The promise to roll back the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration may not be sufficient to placate Iran enough for Tehran to bid farewell to its nuclear program, particularly if the Iranian Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) gets to have a say in the matter, which it might very well have, for the forthcoming 2021 presidential elections in Iran may see an element of IRGC get into the Iranian government.
The Changing Political Scenario
The present year has been particularly scathing in terms of exposing the inability of the Iranian security forces to prevent covert attacks perpetrated by foreign forces on its soil. In January 2020, Soleimani gets killed in an American drone strike; in August 2020, a senior Al Qaeda leader, Abu Muhammad al-Masri, gets shot down by Israeli agents in Tehran, reportedly, at the behest of the US although there has been no official confirmation of the involvement of the United States; and then in November 2020, a prominent nuclear scientist gets assassinated despite his protection being top priority for the IRGC after he had been pointed out as a threat by the top leadership of Israel. The failure of the security forces, including the IRGC, has been humiliating, fueling the call for a fitting reprisal in Iran.
IRGC is gearing up for Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s “Second Phase of the Revolution” with Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a former IRGC commander, having been elected the speaker of the Iranian Parliament in May 2020 after Ebrahim Raisi was appointed the Chief Justice of Iran by Khamenei in March 2019, making way for Parviz Fattah, an IRGC member and the current head of the Mostazafan Foundation, Khamenei’s charitable organization, to contend for Iranian presidency. Fattah fits perfectly Khamenei’s “young and hezbollahi” requirement for the new Iranian leadership across the three branches, two of which are already headed by the proponents of Khamenei’s hardline Islamist revolutionary vision. But Fattah is not the only contender. There is Saeed Mohammad, the leader of Khatam Al-Anbia, and Hossein Dehghan, a Guards commander, who is currently the military advisor to Khamenei, and, by some accounts, IRGC’s strongest contender for the Iranian presidency.
Established in 1979, after the Iranian revolution, the IRGC is made of skilled fighters committed to guarding Iran’s political system based on the ideals of the Islamic revolution, existing independent of the regular armed forces of Iran and reporting directly to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In an unprecedented move, the IRGC was designated as a terrorist group by the Trump administration in April 2019, the first time the US government listed a foreign government body as a terrorist organization, paying no heed to the warnings from the officials with the US military as well as the intelligence agencies. Now, with the IRGC dominating the top political leadership in Iran, the road to the US-Iran diplomatic re-engagement is quite a climb.
Watch: Hurdles on Biden’s Path to resurrect the Iran Nuclear Deal
For several decades, the rising threat of IRGC, which was never quite as grave as it is now, was countered by the US and the West in general by strengthening the Iranian state, for IRGC was treated as something of a “deep state”, which could be weakened by adding weight to the other side. The policy did not yield much, and now IRGC is close to being firmly in the driving seat. If an IRGC man becomes the President of Iran in 2021, the US and the West are most likely to face a militarily aggressive Iran, in which case the US pursuit of peace with Iran, which has already suffered massive setbacks on account of Trump’s ill-advised actions together with the recent assassinations on Iranian soil, may slide well beyond reasonable expectations for the foreseeable future.