10.11.2021 Author: Viktor Mikhin

Iran’s Politics in the Turbulent Middle East


In his instructions to the new cabinet, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced US President Joe Biden as a “ravenous wolf,” telling his ministers, “Diplomacy should not be influenced and linked to the nuclear issue.” Instead, President Ebrahim Raisi’s team intends to focus on east-oriented economic diplomacy. Both Raisi and Ali Khamenei condemned the previous President Hassan Rouhani for being naive in negotiations with the West, with the Supreme Leader explicitly stating, “Trusting the West doesn’t work.” He considers Western negotiators on the nuclear program unreliable and deceitful. Accordingly, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh demanded that US President Joe Biden provide specific assurances that Washington “will not again renege on its commitments” under the renewed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

In light of these directives, President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian pledged to pursue an Asia-centric or Look East policy while strengthening their western flanks with pro-Iranian militias in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. With Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq threatening civil conflict in recent days to achieve their guerrilla goals, notes World Israel News, Tehran’s new leaders’ willingness to push the region to boiling point is all too clear. However, the Israeli newspaper does not provide any reliable facts. However, the Israeli newspaper, in its attempt to muddle Iran up by its propaganda, continues to be suspiciously silent about the fact that it is Israel that continuously destabilizes the military and political situation in the region, regularly bombs the sovereign territory of Syria, kills the Iranian nuclear scientists, and develops plans of attack on the Islamic Republic of Iran with US help.

As a result, one of Raisi’s first tangible victories in his pivot to the east was that Iran joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. During his last meeting with this organization, the Iranian president actively advocated the unification of Asian powers into an anti-Western bloc. “Sanctions are not aimed at just one country,” he said truthfully. “Sanctions are targeting more independent countries, especially members of this organization,” he added, calling for the joint development of mechanisms to combat unjust and cruel sanctions against many nations in the world by the West. And this policy seems to be gaining ground among many Asian States. With Iran, Russia, China, Myanmar, and other Asian powers facing multiple and unjustified Western sanctions, these states are already integrating into an economic bloc with entire financial networks becoming immune to external pressures.

Iran’s rapid development of a peaceful nuclear industry is also due to clandestine pan-Asian ties with related industry sectors in North Korea and Pakistan.  The $400 billion investment agreement between Beijing and Tehran signed this year sounds more and more like a game-changer. First, due to Raisi’s eastward orientation; second, Biden’s hardline policy toward China; and third, Afghanistan’s neighbors, anxious about the Taliban’s victory, have converged because of regional stability concerns. It is no coincidence that it was in Tehran that a conference was held for the six neighbors of Afghanistan plus Russia, where a plan to coordinate joint actions was adopted.

Iran once provided covert support to the Taliban (banned in Russia) to drive the Americans out of the country. Still, it never expected its former enemies to return to power so quickly and decisively, especially given the Taliban’s anti-Shiite sentiment. “Iran has come to understand that the enemy of the enemy is not your friend, and the Taliban is a more complex problem than the Americans,” said Mohammad Hossein Emadi, a former Ambassador of Iran who worked extensively in Afghanistan. “The consensus is to deal with the Taliban very cautiously and pragmatically.” And judging by the latest statements of officials, this is how Tehran will conduct business with the new masters in Kabul, given that Afghanistan is still a vital neighbor of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the situation in this part of the world will largely depend on their relations.

According to the latest instructions from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Raisi’s strategy concerning the nuclear talks with the West will be to continue these talks while avoiding additional sanctions, without allowing the negotiations to make much progress. Many analysts from various countries have confirmed that Iran’s agreement to negotiate appears to be a “tactical move to prevent a condemnatory resolution” at the November meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is increasingly getting under the influence of the United States. These talks will become vanishingly irrelevant as the uranium enrichment clauses expire and because, according to IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, Iran will have the necessary materials to build a nuclear bomb within a few months.

Since Israel will never allow Tehran to achieve this goal, Israeli military strikes become the most likely option. At present, the US, a global player, sees no contradiction in allowing Israel to continue bombing Syrian territory under the pretext that it is disruptive for Iran, first and foremost. But also, Joe Biden has repeatedly said that he is ready to return to the nuclear deal with Tehran, thereby making a dwindling prospect of a peaceful solution to the Iranian problem. With the embarrassing flight of US troops from Afghanistan, some politicians in Washington hope to confront Tehran with the Taliban regime and incorporate the Iranian economy into a Western economy where the dollar still plays a key role, thereby strengthening the USA above all. But the evidence shows, all these dreams are built on sand and will disperse at the first real encounter.

Israel’s defense establishment has recently tuned up the heat of its warnings about Iran’s installation of batteries of surface-to-air missiles in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, as well as its reliance on game-changing drone technology. Iranian Western-based commentator Reza Parchizadeh says these air defenses are being developed in anticipation of Israeli strikes against nuclear facilities: “The Iranian regime knows that once the charade of the Vienna talks to reopen the 2015 nuclear deal is over … it will have to strengthen militarily significantly and rush for a nuclear bomb for the last time.” Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman echoed the views of numerous Israeli officials when he said that a military clash with Iran is “inevitable and only a matter of time.”  This view was echoed by Dennis Ross, a former special assistant to President Barack Obama, who argues that America must bring the threat of military force back to the negotiating table: “Iran used Israeli sabotage attacks as a pretext to increase the percentage of uranium enrichment because the Ayatollahs never particularly anticipated any negative reaction.” According to the former special assistant, this loss of Iranian fear has allegedly contributed to dangerous scenarios of Iran becoming either military nuclear power or unleashing a regional war.

Since Iran has been “allowed to deploy hundreds of thousands of missiles throughout the region,” as the Saudi Arab Times wrote with dismay, even a non-nuclear war would be incalculably destructive as Iran would cause enormous damage to the GCC civilian and economic targets by targeting numerous US bases located there. Then, the question arises why and for what reason the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf deployed the American military on their territory if the only aggression, and not that from Iran, was the invasion by Saudi Arabia and the UAE troops in Bahrain to suppress the Pearl Revolution. However, it remains to be seen whether the ayatollahs will concede in negotiations and make the compromises the West needs in the event of a direct military threat to Tehran and the Iranian regime. No one knows the answer to these questions yet, and that is why a murky future is likely to reign over the entire Middle East region.

Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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