Ilan Berman on Iran's Ballistic Missile Program & Influence in Syria

Published August 21st, 2019 - 08:08 GMT
/Al Bawaba
/Al Bawaba

 

Last Sunday, Iran sparked major global controversy as the country’s Adrian Darya-1 oil tanker set sail for Greece following an entire month of detainment in Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory off the south coast of Spain. As of August 19, the U.S. has conveyed its “strong position” towards the Greek government.

DC Insider spoke with Ilan Berman, Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council, to gain a better grasp on the latest developments. 



Why did Gibraltar ultimately choose to reject U.S. attempts to seize the oil tanker, especially after detaining the ship for approximately one month?

“Some context is necessary here. As part of its “maximum pressure” campaign, the Trump administration has been attempting to squeeze and reduce Iran’s oil exports. While this campaign has been largely successful, Washington is still worried about Iran’s ability to clandestinely send oil to clients via reflagged ships or other means. The Adrian Darya-1 is one of those – an Iranian tanker that the Administration is tracking and seeking to stop from delivering its cargo.

Here, the latent tensions between Europe and the U.S. play a role. Gibraltar did not accede to U.S. demands to detain the Adrian Darya because European sanctions on Iran are less strict than those of Washington.”
 

Gibraltar did not accede to U.S. demands to detain the Adrian Darya because European sanctions on Iran are less strict than those of Washington.”

Over the past week, Iran has cautioned the U.S. against any attempts at seizing the tanker. Will the Trump administration still make an effort to do so, regardless of Iran’s warnings?

“The Iranians did indeed warn the U.S. against the seizure, but it’s clear that the Trump administration will make an attempt to detain the Adrian Darya, if it can… This is because doing so fits with the larger ‘maximum pressure’ campaign being waged by the White House, as well as its efforts to ‘internationalize’ security in the Hormuz Strait and thereby limit Iran’s freedom of action.”

It has been over one month since Operation Sentinel, the U.S.-led naval mission aimed at strengthening security for vessels in the Strait of Hormuz, was announced. When asked about the role that this program would play in this present feud, Berman simply stated that “it’s unclear as of right now.” It seems as though this operation is currently at a standstill, most probably due to the fact that many countries are still undecided as to whether or not they would like participate by adding more fuel to the flame. 

Nevertheless, what if the U.S. does manage to seize Adrian Darya-1? What could be the bilateral/global repercussions of such an action? 

“The Trump administration’s campaign against Iran has been enormously controversial among many of its international partners, at least some of whom would like nothing better than to continue “business as usual” with the Islamic Republic. If the U.S. does indeed manage to seize the Adrian Darya, it would send a strong signal to those countries that Washington is serious about continuing to expand pressure on Iran, and that it is prepared to take additional cost-imposing steps in order to do so. That, in turn, would enhance the credibility of American policy, and possibly persuade reluctant partners to join the campaign as well.”
 

“Iran’s concerns about a northern Syrian ‘safe zone’ has everything to do with its freedom of action. Over the past half-decade, Iran has been enormously effective on the ground in Syria, and its help has been instrumental in keeping the regime of Bashar al-Assad in power.

Amidst all the controversy surrounding the Adrian Darya oil tanker, another issue has become “provocative and worrisome” to Iran: A U.S. agreement with Turkey to set up a safe zone in northern Syria, which the Iranian foreign ministry has made clear that it regards as provocation. 

“Iran’s concerns about a northern Syrian ‘safe zone’ has everything to do with its freedom of action. Over the past half-decade, Iran has been enormously effective on the ground in Syria, and its help has been instrumental in keeping the regime of Bashar al-Assad in power. In exchange, the Iranian regime has received a carte blanche to expand its political, military and economic influence in the country – something that might be threatened by a serious, sustained Turkish and American presence there.”
 

It is true that Iran has been having problems with its satellite program of late. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the Islamic Republic is already a space-faring nation – and that Western countries have serious concerns that any advances in this domain by Iran could translate into gains to its ballistic missile capabilities

Meanwhile, after two failed attempts at getting satellites into orbit earlier this year, Iran is now endeavoring to launch its latest satellite, Nahid-1. What would be the probability of this satellite being sent into orbit and what would be the implications if that were to happen?

“It is true that Iran has been having problems with its satellite program of late. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the Islamic Republic is already a space-faring nation – and that Western countries have serious concerns that any advances in this domain by Iran could translate into gains to its ballistic missile capabilities, because of the similarities of the technology involved. That makes the Nahid more than simply a commercial satellite, as Iranians have contended. Its likely launch will be an important indicator of the maturity of the country’s strategic arsenal.”
 

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Al Bawaba News.


© 2000 - 2019 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

You may also like