Recent reports that claimed the Trump administration is contemplating forming a military alliance with Arab allies to contain Iran have generated anxiety in Tehran. Tabnak, an outlet affiliated with former Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.) chief commander Mohsen Rezaei, for example, suggested that the news indicated the Trump administration planned to pursue a “two-pillar policy” to pressure Iran. On the one hand, the article said, the Trump White House will increase political, economic and diplomatic pressure on Iran, mainly by imposing new sanctions and adding additional restrictions to the implementation of the nuclear agreement Tehran signed with world powers in 2015. On the other hand, according to Tabnak, Washington will “upgrade its cooperation with America’s regional allies in order to form an alliance against Iran in the region.”
Tabnak’s commentary refers to a February 15 news story in the Wall Street Journal, which said the Trump administration was “in talks with Arab allies about having them form a military alliance that would share intelligence with Israel to help counter their mutual foe, Iran.” The report added that the alliance would include four Arab nations of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Jordan. The alliance, if formed, would have a “NATO-style mutual-defense component, and may expand and include other Arab nations in future. Neither the U.S. nor Israel would be a member of the coalition, but Washington would provide military and intelligence support.
Comment: The growing anxiety in Tehran about the Trump administration’s Iran policy stands in stark contrast to initial optimism expressed by Iranian leaders and state-run media before Donald Trump took office on January 20. During the U.S. election campaign, many Iranian leaders expressed the hope that then-candidate Trump’s favorable view of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Trump team’s eagerness to work with Moscow in the war on terrorism might benefit Iran’s agenda in Syria and in the broader region. But that optimism has faded quickly over the past weeks as the Trump administration adopted an aggressive approach vis-à-vis Iran, by including the Islamic Republic in the travel ban, imposing new sanctions on Iranian entities, and warning Tehran over its controversial ballistic missile test.