Iran finds itself in a shrinking axis of evil

For Iran, the so-called "Axis of Evil" has boiled down to a party of one, as President Donald Trump prepares for direct talks with North Korea.

With Saddam Hussein overthrown and Kim Jong Un now preparing for a planned meeting in Singapore with Trump, Iran remains the last renegade among former President George W. Bush's grouping of nations opposed to the U.S.

For those in Tehran, whether hard-liners, reformists or people simply trying to get by in Iran's worsening economy, it's head-spinning, especially after seeing Trump pull America out of the nuclear deal with world powers.

"I am buying my insulin shots at double the price only because of Trump's decision," fumed Najmeh Songhori, a 35-year-old diabetic mother of two standing in front of a pharmacy in central Tehran. "Meanwhile he is trying to reach a deal with North Korea. Who is going to trust him?"

It wasn't supposed to be like this. Excited crowds flooded the streets after the 2015 nuclear deal that Iran struck with world powers, including the U.S. under President Barack Obama.

The deal saw Iran agree to limit uranium enrichment in its nuclear program, which the West feared could be used to build a nuclear weapon. For Iran, which long has maintained its atomic program was for peaceful purposes, the deal took the shackles of sanctions off its economy and opened up its oil sales abroad.

No one believed it would bring massive change to Iran, which remains a Shiite theocracy overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. But many hoped it would encourage further negotiations and normalize Iran's relationships with the wider world.

Then came Trump, who campaigned pledging to tear up the nuclear deal. Once elected, he included Iran in his travel bans, blocking Iranians from traveling to the U.S., home to a large Iranian community.

Then on May 8, Trump followed through on his threat and pulled America out of the nuclear agreement, dooming billions of dollars of business deals, including Boeing sales.

"At the point when the United States had maximum leverage, this disastrous deal gave this regime — and it's a regime of great terror — many billions of dollars, some of it in actual cash — a great embarrassment to me as a citizen and to all citizens of the United States," Trump said then.
Iran may have lost in the arrangement too. United Nations reports and Western countries say Pyongyang sold ballistic missile technology to Iran, helping it raise cash to avoid international sanctions. Iran has never acknowledged purchasing missile technology from North Korea, but hard-liners within Iran long have applauded Pyongyang's tough line against the U.S.
There is more.

Some Iranians expect the pressure on that regime to increase of Trump gets a deal with North Korea.  They also fear that that deal might lead China to reduce its trade with Iran.  Iran is very vulnerable now and is overstretched because of its attempt at hegemony in the Middle East.  The survival of this evil regime will become dependent on whether Western Europe will continue commerce with it in the face of US sanctions.  The Shia crescent is becoming an island of isolation.

I suspect Trump will want to get information on Iran's missile system from the North Koreans too.


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