Asia Times | US-Iran standoff moves from high seas to dry land

A simmering regional standoff between the US and Iran shifted from the high seas to dry land over the past two weeks, as street protests from Beirut to Baghdad challenge existing political orders and alliances.

The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign, aimed at choking Iranian petroleum exports to zero and bringing the Islamic Republic to its knees, hit the rocks in the Persian Gulf over the summer. Explosions targeting oil tankers capped by a precision attack on Saudi Aramco in September drove home the message to Arab monarchies that their own interests would suffer should they continue to egg on the US campaign.

But in October, first in Iraq and then in Lebanon, nationwide street protests erupted against dire economic conditions and endemic corruption of sectarian political elites.

In both countries, allies of Iran play a dominant role in government while the US exerts significant influence on the military and political spheres.

“Popular protests in the Middle East cannot be separated from the confrontation that is going on between the two powers,” said Noam Raydan, a Baghdad-based geopolitical analyst at ClipperData.

The Trump administration in May of last year withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal, setting the stage for a resumption of crippling sanctions, with the goal of driving Iran’s critical petroleum exports to zero.

“We cannot forget the pressure being put on Iran right now,” Raydan told Asia Times.

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