In a recent interview with the Fararu website the former chief of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy committee compared the current communication channels between Iran and the United States to the Cold War-era "red telephone line" between the US and the former Soviet Union.
This arrangement has resulted in common concerns among JCPOA signatories, who view the direct de-escalation between Iran and the US with suspicion.
This situation has also prompted an internal debate among US lawmakers, with both parties calling for greater transparency from the administration regarding its dealings with Iran, as the US Air Force has deployed F-16s to bolster armed overwatch of oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, aiming to deter potential Iranian attempts to seize them.
Heshmatullah Falahatpisheh, the former chief of the Iranian parliament's (Majlis) national security and foreign policy committee, equated in an interview with the Fararu website, the current communication channels between Ir.an and the United States to the Cold War-era "red telephone line" between the US and the former Soviet Union. He referred to this as an unwritten agreement, emphasizing that while no formal written agreement exists, both countries effectively manage their tensions through direct and indirect interactions.
According to Falahatpisheh's analysis, the US is managing tension for electoral reasons, likely considering domestic political implications. Iran is doing so for economic reasons to safeguard its regional and international interests and navigate the challenges posed by international sanctions. The management of tensions does not signify establishing a new agreement, but rather the functioning of the red line of communication."
Falahatpisheh said that Washington's lax enforcement of sanctions on Iran's oil exports and Tehran's tendency to avoid escalation in the Persian Gulf are both results of such mechanism. This arrangement covers many issues, including Iran's nuclear and US sanctions policies. In terms of managing the tension, the United States is careful not to disrupt the existing sanctions structure against Iran. Instead, they strategically manage certain aspects of the sanctions.
Falahatpisheh mentioned his past proposal to form a crisis table between Iran and the US, which faced opposition and complaints "In the Majlis, I put forward a comparable proposal to create a direct communication hotline between Iran and the United States, aimed at effectively managing the existing tensions." Now, Iran and the US have effectively formed this red table of communication as both sides believe that the revival of the JCPOA is unlikely.
However, according to the former chief of the Majlis's national security and foreign policy committee, this move has led to common concerns among JCPOA signatories (European Troika, China, and Russia), as they are dissatisfied with the direct de-escalation red line or crisis table between Iran and the US. This development has impacted their interests tied to the JCPOA's mechanisms.
Falahatpisheh pointed out the reaction of Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, who expressed dissatisfaction with the formation of relations between Iran and the US. Lavrov acknowledged that the JCPOA cannot be revived but recognized ongoing negotiations between the two countries, implying that they effectively manage tensions. Lavrov: "The Iranians and the Americans are engaged in unofficial and direct contact below the radar on normalizing their relations by unblocking Iran’s seized foreign reserves in exchange for deciding the fate of certain US citizens who were charged with breaking the law in Iran. We will only welcome any improvement in these relations. Once again, this has little to do with the JCPOA".
Israel is dissatisfied with the current situation because it is employing a strategy of maximum pressure on Iran to compel them to abandon their nuclear program completely. This approach involves a range of measures, including comprehensive sanctions and potentially limited military actions. Israel is adamant that any indication of Iran maintaining its nuclear program would not be acceptable to them.
It also appears that within the Iranian leadership, there are ongoing debates and diverging perspectives concerning the nature of Iran's relations with the US, a topic of great significance and sensitivity in the country. Notably, there has been a noticeable defamation campaign in the Iranian press, particularly in the Khamenei-controlled "Kayhan" newspaper, targeting the JCPOA and the statesmen involved in its implementation. This defamation campaign could potentially serve as a smokescreen to divert attention from the bilateral relations between Iran and the US, which are viewed with suspicion by some stakeholders involved in the nuclear deal. It suggests that underlying complexities and internal dynamics may be at play, shaping Iran's approach to its relationship with the United States.
The remarks by Falahatpisheh come after recent reports that the United States and Iran have been working towards an informal, unwritten agreement to prevent escalation. However, many US lawmakers from both parties have called on the Biden administration to be more transparent about its dealings with the Iranian regime, particularly after the dismissal of US special envoy Robert Malley last month, which surprised Congress. The "Tehran Times" reported that on April 21, the Diplomatic Security Department informed Malley that his security clearance had been suspended due to his inaccurate handling of classified documents.
Senator Rick Scott of Florida said, "I'm concerned by the allegations against Malley and his work to renegotiate the failed Iran deal. What was really going on here?" Senator Scott added, "While in Israel, Bahrain, and the UAE, all of them were concerned about Iran's actions. I was there when Israel had to eliminate terrorists in Jenin... and when Iranian ships attempted to halt two tankers, but the US Navy intervened. Iran is a threat to the world".
In this regard, U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen urging the development of a strategy to counter Iran’s petrochemical industry as well as rising global sales and shipments of illicit Iranian oil.
Meanwhile, a senior defense official said in mid-July that the U.S. Air Force would deploy F-16s to enhance its armed overwatch of oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, aiming to deter potential Iranian attempts to seize these vessels. CENTCOM released a statement that reads: "In response to recent attempts by Iran to seize commercial ships in the CENTCOM area of operations, the Secretary of Defense has ordered the deployment of an Amphibious Readiness Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG/MEU) into the CENTCOM area of responsibility, in addition to the recently approved forces comprising F-35s, F-16s, and a guided missile destroyer, the USS Thomas Hudner (DDG-116). The ARG/MEU brings additional aviation, maritime assets, and U.S. Marines, providing even greater flexibility and maritime capability in the region".
The A-10s have been conducting patrols in the Gulf for the past few weeks. The newly introduced F-16 fighters will strengthen the U.S. ability to respond to threats from Iran at sea and can also carry out defensive counter-air missions in case of any challenges in the skies. US Navy P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance planes are also supporting these efforts. The decision to reinforce air patrols came after Iran attempted to seize two commercial oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz earlier in the month, with one tanker fired upon.
The use of A-10s for maritime security missions in the Gulf has been considered previously, particularly for dealing with Iranian fast attack boats where significant air-to-air or surface-to-air threats are absent. The A-10s deployed in the region are equipped with various weapons suitable for engaging moving maritime targets, including guns, rockets, and laser-guided bombs. Modifications have allowed these aircraft to carry a diverse range of munitions.
Iran has expressed .disapproval of the U.S. aircraft deployments, claiming its actions aimed to discourage smuggling while accusing the U.S. of destabilizing the region. The U.S. defense official believes that the visible presence of their forces serves as a deterrent, but the effectiveness will be assessed in the coming days.