He added that the best it can do at this point is to try to maintain the support of the European countries to counter the hostility of the United States. Matthew Evangelista who teaches courses in international and comparative politics believed that there are many factors that have contributed to instability in the Middle East.
Q: One of Trump's election pledges was to withdraw US troops from the Middle East and bring all soldiers home; do you think he kept his promise?
A: Trump has not succeeded in keeping this promise. The United States is still entangled in several conflicts in the region and still maintains hundreds of military bases and facilities around the world.
Q: What have we learned about how President Trump and his team will approach foreign policy?
A: I personally favor a reduced role for US military forces in the world and am sympathetic to the views of many who criticize the United States for trying to act as the world’s policeman. Candidate Trump claimed to share that view, but his policy has been inconsistent and incoherent. As the recent impeachment reveals, in his conduct of foreign policy he has put his personal political objectives above any notion of US national interest.
Q: Some analysts believe that US presence in the region has caused instability, proxy wars, and political crises; what do you think about this analysis?
A: There are many factors that have contributed to instability in the Middle East: conflict between Israel and its neighbors, exacerbated by Israeli treatment of Palestinians; rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with each country supporting its own proxy forces; and repression by authoritarian rulers throughout the region, which has often resulted in mass demonstrations that have been put down violently by governments and have sometimes led to disastrous civil wars, as in Libya, Yemen, and Syria. In my view, the US involvement in the region has also been a factor contributing more often to instability and violence than to stability and peace.
Q: Many observers believe that US action to assassinate Gen.Soleimani was an illegal and immoral act; why do you think Trump did this?
A: Many of Trump’s actions are impulsive and ill-considered. From what we understand of this decision, he took it after his advisers had offered him a range of responses to Iranian-backed protests against the US embassy in Baghdad. Trump chose the most extreme response offered, and his advisers apparently did not manage to talk him out of it. This event calls into question the notion of the “adults in the room” (professionals in the foreign-policy establishment) who could maintain a check on Trump’s more dangerous impulses. In this case they failed. Although I think Trump was happy to have the assassination of Soleimani as a distraction to the impeachment proceedings, we have seen no evidence that this was his main motive.
Q: Did Iran's attack on the US base in Iraq challenge U.S military hegemony?
A: The Iranian retaliation constituted a calculated risk and it could have resulted in a wider war, if the United States had responded with further force. But we were lucky that the United States did not choose to escalate. The Iraqi parliament voted in a non-binding resolution to expel the US troops, and one can hope that they will eventually leave.
Q: Why Europe can't defend Iran against America?
A: My understanding is that the European states initiated the dispute mechanism for the Joint Plan of Action not because they seek an end to the nuclear deal, but the opposite: they want to encourage Iran to continue abiding by it by threatening to involve the UN Security Council if Iran substantially accelerates its nuclear activities in defiance of the agreement.
I can understand that Iran would consider such a position unjust. After all, the United States never carried through its side of the bargain. It continued punishing Iran with economic sanctions and then it renounced the deal altogether. Nevertheless, there is no benefit for Iran to engage in a nuclear arms race with the United States. The best it can do at this point is to try to maintain the support of the European countries to counter the hostility of the United States. And the way to do that is to stay in compliance with the original JPOA as much as possible.
Q: So one cannot hope for the future of Iran nuclear deal and INSTEX?
A: The Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges was a European initiative to facilitate trade with Iran despite US sanctions that particularly affected the banking sector. But the Europeans were slow in getting the process going, and they met fierce opposition from the United States, so INSTEX was only established in January 2019. I think it is difficult for the Europeans to continue trying to support Iran, however inadequately they were doing it already, when Iranian supporters of confrontation get the upper hand, and especially when Iran deviates from the terms of the JPOA. Again, the situation does not seem fair to Iran, but there are limits to what the Europeans can realistically do in political or economic terms.