On July 11-12, representatives from the 29 member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) met in Brussels to discuss collective defense, crisis management, and modernizing the alliance. The joint declaration from the summit expressed concern over Iran’s ballistic missile program and destabilizing activities in the Middle East. “We condemn all financial support of terrorism, including Iran’s support to a variety of armed non-state actors,” leaders said in the statement.
Iran supports groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) for both geostrategic and ideological reasons. Geo-strategically, Tehran aids, arms and funds the two groups to expand its regional influence. Ideologically, Iran views Israel as a usurper of Muslim lands and a threat to Islam. Tehran also views Israel as an extension of the United States.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are rival Gulf powers that have long competed for influence in the Middle East. They have starkly different capabilities in manpower and materiel. Both have invested heavily in building modern militaries, partly because of their rivalry, even though neither seeks direct confrontation. Hostilities between the predominantly Sunni kingdom and the predominantly Shiite theocracy have usually played out through proxies, notably in Syria and Yemen.
On June 26, President Hassan Rouhani accused the United States of waging a “psychological, economic and political war” against Iran. “The U.S. cannot defeat our nation, our enemies are not able to get us to their knees,” he said at an annual conference organized by the Judiciary. He blamed “foreign media propaganda” for the devaluation of Iran’s currency, the rial.
On June 12, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres released the fifth report on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. “Notwithstanding the continued adherence by the Islamic Republic of Iran to its nuclear-related commitments, the agreement is unfortunately at a crossroads” following the U.S. withdrawal from the accord.
On May 24, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo discussed the new U.S. strategy to counter Iran following President Trump's decision to withdrawal from the nuclear deal.
On May 24, the Treasury Department designated nine individuals and entities that were procuring "export-controlled, U.S.-origin goods for sanctioned Iranian airlines." The sanctions also targeted procurement networks based in Turkey.
On May 23 and 24, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the State Department Budget for 2019. The hearings came days after Pompeo unveiled a new strategy to counter Iran after the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.
On May 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for foreign forces to withdraw from Syria at a press conference with Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Russia's envoy to Syria clarified Putin's comments the next day, saying they applied to Turkish, U.S., Iranian, and Hezbollah forces. The Russian statement seemed to expose a disagreement between Moscow and Tehran. For years, Iran and Russia have cooperated in their efforts to bolster the Syrian regime against rebels and extremist groups.
European leaders questioned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's reasoning for the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and his call for a new, all-encompassing Iran deal. "Secretary Pompeo’s speech has not demonstrated how walking away from the JCPOA has made or will make the region safer from the threat of nuclear proliferation or how it puts us in a better position to influence Iran’s conduct in areas outside the scope of JCPOA," said E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. "There is no alternative to the JCPOA."