Iran offers Arabs ‘mafia deal’ of security or punishment after Trump

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Iran has sought to reach out to its Arab neighbors, with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif warning them that US President Donald Trump will be leaving in 70 days, but Iran’s regime will remain “forever.” He urged them to realize that “betting on outsiders to provide security is never a good gamble.”

In Arabic and English, he called for dialogue and to work together. The message was clearly aimed at Gulf states and others that are partnered with the US. Iran was offering them an opening, a message: Shift and join us, or suffer in the future – the US will not protect you. This is a kind of carrot-and- stick approach, a mafia don offering protection.

In a long speech quoted by Fars News Agency, Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh urged Iran’s neighbors to return to talks with Iran.

“The Trump administration has gone in a very wrong direction over the past few years, and the maximum pressure has reached the maximum failure,” he said. “After the martyrdom of [IRGC Quds Force] General [Qasem] Soleimani, Iran resorted to the necessary reactions.”

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“Only the language of peace and respect responds to the dignity and civilized people of Iran,” Khatibzadeh said. “It is still time to step back from our failed policies and the inhumane legacy of the United States and the charlatans and bankrupt people who are advising the current US administration. We are looking closely at the actions and careers of the future US administration.”

“We have to rely solely on ourselves, and the only solutions are indigenous… let the logical path of decision-making move forward, and the most dangerous thing is to look at foreign policy from the outside,” he said.

Tehran is wondering what might come next after Trump leaves.

“Iran has had a continuous policy, which is the policy of good neighborliness,” Khatibzadeh said.

He echoed Zarif’s warning that those who asked for US security protection would find that “they cannot always pay and lobby and buy security and kill the Yemeni people.” This reference was about Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen since 2015.

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“This is a clear message from Iran to them that we said seven years ago in this government and in previous years that still stands,” Khatibzadeh said. “We hope they reach the rationale that we need a local mechanism in the region. Iran is always ready.”

Here again, Iran was promising Arab states a carrot-and-stick approach. If they obey Iran and work with its regime, then there will be security on Iran’s model, a “mechanism” from Tehran.

Zarif’s “good cop” approach clearly leaves the “bad cop” actions in the background. Last year, Iran used drones and cruise missiles to attack Saudi Arabia. It has mined ships in the Gulf of Oman, sent proxies to attack US troops in Iraq, fired rockets at the Kurdish regional capital of Erbil, attacked Kurdish dissidents in Koya, threatened tribes allied with the US in Deir al-Zor and pushed Hezbollah to threaten Israel from the Golan Heights.

Iran’s friends in Lebanon, Hezbollah and Badr Party parliament members in Iraq, have all joined calls by the IRGC in Iraq to work closely with China. Iran is therefore quite clear now in messaging that it offers peace and security under its umbrella in the region.

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The quiet message behind this entreaty – to be nice to Tehran as Trump leaves – seems to be that those who don’t accept and bend their knees in submission will face the wrath.

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