Trump and Pompeo are squeezing Iran where it hurts. They are trying to prevent Iran from selling oil internationally. They are applying maximum pressure upon Iran. This is overt. It is announced policy. For example, the State Department says:
Very broadly, Saudi Arabia is a key partner in our effort to isolate and pressure Iran. And as I said, we had a number of bureaus from the State Department to discuss energy, diplomacy, security, and economic pressure. We were also joined by Treasury Under Secretary Sigal Mandelker for some of these meetings so that they can hear from Treasury officials and coordinate our efforts on applying maximum economic pressure on Iran.
The US is threatening China and India if they buy Iranian oil:
On Tuesday a senior State Department official described tightening the noose on Tehran as ‘one of our top national security priorities’.
The official warned countries including China and India, who are key buyers of Iranian oil, that they should stop purchasing crude from the country before the November deadline or face US sanctions.
Saudi Arabia, a US ally and enemy of Iran, will pump more oil to mitigate price effects of cutting Iran out of the international market. This increases enmity between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The economic isolation of Iran via an economic blockade deprives Iran of essential revenues. In essence, the US policy is an act of war. Trump is seeding war clouds over Iran. He wants Iranians to overturn their government. Failing that, he appears to want Iran to attack American assets or engage in some other act of retaliation, perhaps in Europe or the Persian Gulf, that can be made into a cause of war so that the US and its allies (NATO, Israel, Saudi Arabia) can attack Iran in force. At least, that is what he is risking. For example, Pompeo is criticizing Iran for planning to terrorize Iranian opposition persons (National Council of Resistance of Iran) on European soil. He also threatens to keep the Persian Gulf open if Iran disrupts its traffic. This is a war threat.
Trump’s policy on Iran augments the longstanding US policy of sanctioning Iran and treating Iran as an enemy. Trump is escalating the past low-level and medium-level pressure upon Iran into higher-level and much more serious warfare. The US cannot blockade Iran, if such a blockade via sanctions is successful, without causing serious consequences.
In the imaginations of American leaders, Iran has assumed the shape of a demon whose appearance must be exorcised in order to obtain psychological relief. Not peculiar to Trump, this has been the case for the US Congress, the US Executive and Israel ever since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. (Similarly, the US trade deficits are a new demon peculiar to Trump’s mind that he is attempting to destroy via trade wars.)
Trump unilaterally withdrew from the JCPOA with Iran, the first major step in seeding the war clouds. Piling on a severe set of sanctions is his second big step toward war. Iran is being backed into a corner.
Is war with Iran necessary for American security? How does Iran threaten America and Americans? The largest possible threat was the nuclear threat, but that was mitigated through the deal that Trump abandoned. Iran does not threaten America and Americans directly. Iran is said by General Votel to be “the major threat to US interests and partnerships in the Central Region”. A threat to the US (government) is not the same as a threat to America and Americans. The Central Region includes “Egypt to Pakistan and from Kazakhstan to Yemen”. The threat appears to be oil supply, but it is not. Iran needs to sell oil as a source of revenue. The US fears the political influence of Iran in the region. That is why Votel warns:
Iran has extended its tentacles across the region through numerous proxies, including Lebanese Hizballah operating in multiple countries, hardline Iranian-backed Shia Militia Groups (SMGs) in Iraq and Syria, and Iranian support has enabled the Houthis.
The US fears Iranian influence in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen; and it fears further influence in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kazakhstan. To prevent the growth of that influence, the US wants a government in Tehran that is not expansionary or revolutionary. The US long-term aim is to have this entire region be under the wing of America. No US government will be satisfied until this happens, whether it takes 50-100-200 years. A resurrected Persian Empire is highly unlikely, because all these countries have their own peoples, histories, religions, ethnic groups, languages and interests. Yet the idea of a rival in the Central Region haunts the minds of American leaders a continent and ocean away.
Supposing that the expansion of the American empire is the fundamental aim of the US government, what means are more likely to achieve it? War measures against Iran or peace measures that bring other countries into the American fold through mutual gains? War in Afghanistan has proven fruitless. War against Iraq has augmented Iranian influence. The attempt to bring Syria’s Assad down by war has amplified Iran’s presence in Syria. The support of Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen is leading to a genocide.
The US cannot expand what it claims to be a “good” empire by means of war and imperialism that produce mass evils. It cannot build nations, states and nation-states. It cannot manufacture wholesome governments that are free of corruption. It cannot accomplish that even in this country. It cannot elevate the economies of foreign countries by means of government projects and investments.
The extension of property rights, sound law, sound government and free markets to backward regions is simply not something that the US government knows how to do or can do. Our government is attempting to do this through military special forces who are trained to work with foreign security forces and peoples. This won’t succeed. Successful social systems do not arise and persist via the injection of some foreign elements that are thought to be critical or missing, be they capital projects, laws, leaders, literacy, or security forces.
The US government is implementing incorrect theories of social improvement, both abroad and here. The US government doesn’t know how civilizations form, succeed and fail. The federal government of America doesn’t know how to foster civilized life, even the particular brand of civilized life that we call American or Western.