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Bring Iran to the talking table

The recent attack on the two Saudi Aramco oil facilities, which many — especially US President Donald Trump and the Saudis — seem to believe was carried out by Iran, has raised eyebrows internationally, adding credibility to the US narrative that Iran has gone “rogue”. That said, the simmering tension in Tehran reflects the failure of Trump’s foreign policies, which in a way is a crude extension of the US’ traditional stance on Iran, which involves economic sanctions and ostracisation.

Such foreign policy, of exclusion and economic apartheid, is absurd and counter-productive. But that is exactly what was on display at the recent United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meet. Instead of assuaging Iran and inviting it to the negotiation table to resolve its (and others’) woes — a step necessary to establish deterrence on the US’ part — Trump continued to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on Tehran.

Right on cue, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, at the UNGA meet, refused to meet the US President until Washington decided to withdraw its rigid economic sanctions and eased diplomatic pressure. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif even attempted a compromise, hinting Iran would allow the US to inspect its nuclear facilities if Trump dropped the sanctions.

In 2015, the then US President Obama had upped the ante on Iran by sealing a long-term nuclear deal with the country. But Trump walked out of the deal and even warned other countries of sanctions if they continued importing oil from Iran.

Trying to pressure Iran by cutting off its major source of revenue and foreign currency seems to have irked the country even further and forced it to respond in equally extreme measures. The US must understand that negotiating with Iran doesn’t mean turning a blind eye to its alleged hostile actions — attack on Saudi oil facility, shooting down of a US drone and seizing foreign-flagged tankers passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

A more diplomatic approach can even convince Iran to make amends. This is crucial considering that the collapse of the nuclear deal with Iran has fuelled its feud with arch rival Saudi Arabia, giving the West Asian countries another reason to further their aggressive positions in the region. Any further escalation of the crisis will cost the world a lot. And the US must remember that.

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