Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks away after speaking during a media availability at the State Department, Thursday, June 13, 2019, in Washington. Image Credit: AP

The Middle East is back on top of a powder keg. On Thursday, an Iranian missile destroyed a US Global Hawk surveillance drone. US President Donald Trump said on Friday he had called off a military strike, to retaliate for Tehran’s action, at the last minute because it could have killed 150 people.

Iran’s irresponsible moves have the potential to draw the region into a conflict whose ramifications are too severe to contemplate. The United States has said it also believes the Iranian regime was behind the attacks in May and June in which six tankers were targeted in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman using naval mines. An investigation by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Norway showed a state actor’s hand in the attacks.

Iran’s policies are impacting international maritime trade, a key pillar of the world economy. Insurance premiums on tankers plying the Strait of Hormuz have reportedly gone up six times the normal rates. As always in such situations, the loser is the consumer, who will have to pay more. A regime that does not seem to care about the well-being of its citizens can hardly be expected to be swayed by considerations such as the impact of its actions on consumers and trade.

The tough new sanctions are beginning to bite, and the Iranian government is acting in anger, in more irresponsible ways.

- Gulf News

Tensions in the Middle East began to worsen significantly when Trump pulled out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six global powers and reimposed crippling sanctions on the country. Washington’s move was aimed at changing Iranian behaviour, as the flawed deal had not addressed other aspects of the regime’s policies, such as its ballistic missiles programme, its role in fanning sectarian tensions in the region and beyond, and its unceasing interference in neighbours’ affairs.

The tough new sanctions are beginning to bite, and the Iranian government is acting in anger, in more irresponsible ways. Now, Iran is also threatening to breach the nuclear deal if the European signatories fail to protect Tehran from the sanctions imposed by America. Tehran has even set a deadline of July 8.

Instead of threats and provocations, the Iranian regime must take steps to rectify its position. Both Iran and the region will become a much better place if the government in Tehran starts behaving like a normal government, instead of trying to spread mischief in the region while turning a blind eye to the privations of its long-suffering citizens.