As 2015 – the historic year in which, after months of negotiations, Iran and the P5+1 signed an historic agreement – gives way to 2016, glancing at the latest headlines could make one think that no nuclear deal had been signed at all. On last Thursday, on the verge of the new year, the Iran-related headline that dominated most major English-language news outlets centered on the latest standoff between Washington and Tehran, with tensions rising after Tehran test-fired ballistic missiles in contravention of existing sanctions, the US threatened new sanctions, and Iran threatened to respond in kind.
The most recent escalation took place after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) carried out what Washington termed a “highly provocative” rocket launch near US warships and commercial traffic in the Strait of Hormuz. Though Iran denied the launch, denouncing “the publication of such false news” as “psychological warfare,” NBC cited the state-run Fars news agency saying the exercise had been planned in advance.
While some outlets, such as RT and the Iranian press, depicted the Western coverage of the incident as a media ploy to tarnish Iran’s image, others, such as The Associated Press, were quick to point out that the incident – which mirrors past confrontations between America and Iran at the same site – demonstrates how little has changed “even after a landmark nuclear deal.”
The swift reemergence of US-Iranian tensions after a brief period of fleeting (and most likely illusory) diplomatic headway has not escaped the notice of other major outlets. The New York Times, for example, published a piece last Wednesday describing Iran’s actions as “somewhere between recklessness and outright aggression” – a stark reminder that US-Iranian tensions are hardly a thing of the past, and that as far as Iran is concerned, “there is no reason to think relations will improve.” With Iranian President Hassan Rouhani already ordering stepped-up missile production in response to the possibility of new sanctions, it may be time to wonder what, if anything, has been gained from the nuclear deal.