Business risk: Lowered risk of military escalation and therefore decreased risk of disruption in the Persian Gulf. Sanctions risk remains the same.
Assistant to the US President for National Security Affairs John Bolton. (Credits: Kremlin, Russia)
Hawkish rhetoric. The United Arab Emirates told the UN Security Council that the attack on four oil tankers off its coast last month was most likely carried out by a state actor. While no specific country was mentioned, according to the Saudi ambassador responsibility “lies on the shoulders of Iran.” US National Security Advisor, John Bolton, continued his hawkish rethoric, stating that Iran “almost certainly” is behind the tanker attacks and that it’s seeking nuclear arms.
The calming voice of the President. At the same time, President Trump has dialled down his rhetoric, stating that he hoped Iran would negotiate a new nuclear deal and declaring that he is not seeking regime change in Tehran. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan send the same message, stating that:
I just hope Iran is listening. We’re in the region to address many things but it is not to go to a war with Iran.
This all happens amid rumours that the President is increasingly unhappy with Bolton and that the National Security Advisor may be on his way out.
Would the Iranians talk if Trump called them? President Trump invited the Iranians to “call him” to sort out their issues. While Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stated that Iran would not negotiate with the US, President Hassan Rouhani has suggested that their countries should talk to lift sanctions.
However, the risk of misunderstanding remains. It seems that the recent increase (before the decrease) in tensions might have been caused by mutual misunderstandingswhere Iranian leaders believed the US was ready to attack and made preparations for a counterattack. These preparations were then observed by the US, which concluded that Iran was preparing to attack US forces. Similar misunderstandings and accidental escalation will persist as long as there is no more direct communication between the US and Iran and their respective militaries.