Iran Pulse

Could Flynn actually have been good for Iran-US relations?

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Article Summary
Iranian media generally accept that Michael Flynn, who resigned after 23 days as US national security adviser, was an anti-Iran hawk, though some believe his relations with Russia could have proved useful in changing the Trump administration’s policies toward Iran.

The Donald Trump administration has no shortage of virulent anti-Iran hawks bent on taking a more confrontational approach toward Tehran. Few in the administration were more outspoken about their anti-Iran views than former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who resigned Feb. 13 after misleading White House officials over his conversations with the Russian ambassador.

Flynn first caught the attention of the Iranian media for making the Feb. 1 announcement of “officially putting Iran on notice” for a missile test. With Flynn gone, Iranian media are now speculating what this means not only for the future of Iran and the United States but also for the United States and Russia, given Flynn’s relationship with Russian officials and Russia’s role in supporting Iran’s regional policies.

Conservative Mashregh website asked, “Is Flynn’s resignation in Iran’s favor?” The article stated, “Flynn’s resignation has one positive aspect, and it is that one of the figures who is famous for his animosity toward Iran has been removed from an important post.” It continued that an additional positive aspect of the departure is that Flynn wanted to turn the National Security Council into a policymaking institution rather than an advisory institution. And given the physical proximity of Flynn to the president coupled with Trump’s aversion to reading intelligence reports — i.e., Trump would have received verbal reports directly from Flynn — “the departure of an anti-Iran official is a positive point.”

“However,” the article continued, “at a deeper level” it shows the level of anti-Russian sentiment in America’s politics and that “opening of ties between Moscow and Washington will encounter structural obstacles.” The article concluded that these obstacles are not “necessarily in Iran’s favor because if Flynn was in a favorable environment [in the White House] — and Flynn was indeed sympathetic to Russia — Russia could have played an important role in adjusting the Trump administration’s approach to Iran.”

Javan newspaper, which is linked to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, wrote an article headlined, “A shot at Trump’s relations with Moscow.” The article stated that Flynn “without a doubt was one of the main links for Trump to improving ties with Russia, and his resignation shows Trump what dangers he will encounter on his path to improving ties.” The article believes that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a former ExxonMobil CEO who received the Russian Order of Friendship in 2013, will continue Flynn’s role in improving ties with Russia. The article predicted that more individuals within the administration will be sacrificed in order to achieve this goal due to Democratic opposition and weak support from fellow Republicans in improving Russia ties.

The editor of Reformist Ebtekar newspaper, Mehran Karami, wrote that Flynn’s sudden resignation after only serving the White House for 23 days is Trump’s “second shock” after losing his first battle with US courts over his ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. The article continued that since Trump “retreated” from other positions — such as his "one China" policy, moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and tearing up the nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers — then “retreating from some of his policies with respect to Iran would also not be an exception.”

An editorial in Jahan-e Sanat read that a crisis so early on in Trump’s administration shows that the future will be very challenging for the United States and the world. Referring to allegations that Russia interfered in the US elections to help Trump, the article continued, “Putin and the profiteers of the re-emergence of ‘czarism,’ who see the United States as being responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union, appear committed to taking steps to weaken the foundations of democracy in America.”

Found in: irgc, rex tillerson, national security council, donald trump, jcpoa, iranian-russian relations, michael flynn, us-iranian relations

Arash Karami is a contributor to Al-Monitor. On Twitter: @thekarami

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