Baku, Azerbaijan, July 3
By Azer Ahmadbayli – Trend:
Little time is left until US-Iran jigsaw puzzle is put together.
President Trump's recent meeting with Kim Jong Un of North Korea, among other things, was to be a message that it would be worthwhile for Tehran to make a deal with Washington.
Otherwise, Washington threatens to increase economic pressure against Iran and the diplomatic isolation of the country.
However, Tehran believes that it has a safety margin to withstand the pressure, and still prefers to play hardball.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed on July 1 that Iran’s total enriched uranium stockpile exceeded the limit allowed under the nuclear deal.
The rhetorical sword rattling intensified immediately.
The US President Donald Trump commented the news saying Iran is playing with fire.
In turn, head of the Iranian Parliament's nuclear affairs Committee, Mojtaba Zonnur, warned that if the United States attacks Iran, Israel won’t last even half an hour after that.
Chances of both sides for a psychological triumph in the confrontation could be considered equal, if it hadn’t been for the disastrous sanctions. Iran has much fewer moves to maneuver.
The EU is trying to save face before joining the US sanctions: EU foreign Minister Federica Mogherini said the first EU-Iran transaction in the frame of the trade and financial mechanism known as “INSTEX”, has been conducted.
However, Tehran has long realized that INSTEX “can not work miracles” and it is senseless to expect the EU’s protection of Iranian oil sales from the US sanctions as it had been originally agreed following Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
Another painful blow came from Israel, which decided to test Tehran for self-control.
In the early hours of July 1, the Israeli Air force launched a series of missile attacks on Syrian territory targeting military installations of Iran, the Assad's regime and the Lebanese Hezbollah. The Israeli attack was the largest action of its kind since May 2018.
In early February, after another Israeli strike, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Shamkhani warned Tel-Aviv that the continuation of attacks on Iranian facilities in Syria will no longer be tolerated adding that next time the Iranian response will be "aggressive and decisive."
As well as it happened in March, May and early June, the July 1 air strike has been left still unanswered – Tehran avoids an open warfare.
All of a sudden, unfortunate news for Tehran has come from the neighboring Iraq.
On July 1, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi issued a decree curbing the power of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF - Shiite militia strongly supported by Iran).
Until the end of July, all paramilitary troops are ordered to cease relations with the political parties and to join the integrated national army.
Abdul Mahdi also ordered the closure of the paramilitary headquarters all over the country.
He promised to prosecute any paramilitaries under the PMF umbrella that are openly or covertly acting outside the Iraqi law.
It is too early to say whether the decree will actually be effective.
Anyway, it may become a precursor to shrinkage of Iran’s strong influence in Iraq and a threat of losing the important link of the so-called Axis of Resistance.