Iran in the Spotlight: M.E. Dilemma to be either Resolved or Worsened

Mohammad S. Alzou’bi

Senior Researcher at Rasanah: International Institute for Iranian Studies

MohammadAlzo3by


Recent changes in the  Trump Administration line-up mean that the president’s new team is significantly more hawkish militarily, with former CIA chief Mike Pompeo being appointed to head the Department of State and John Bolton becoming a national security advisor. There’s also a strong expectation that David Petraeus who led operations in Iraq under G.W. Bush and rid the nation of al-Qaeda after 2003 will be reappointed, or at least that one of his team responsible for that operation will be given a leadership role in helping to counter  different militias in the region, especially in Syria and Iraq.  All these changes suggest that the U.S. Deep State is in motion in partnership with the Pentagon and White House, with the preparations reminiscent of those in World War 2 which ultimately defeated Nazism in 1945.

Will the United States abandon the Nuclear Deal?

Up to the current moment, Trump appears to be intent on realizing his campaign promises, which included a vow to abandon his predecessor’s 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran; this means there’s a real possibility of the U.S. completely abandoning the JCPOA, which still has many structural failings. One certainty is that, whether President Trump decides to abandon the deal or to amend it, it will not remain in its current form.  The possible amendments which the White House could  introduce might  include more restrictions on the Iranian regime’s  ballistic missile program and moves to thwart the regime’s regional expansionist project, which is the primary ambition of the Velayat-e Faqih regime that has spent billions of dollars to gain control of Arab capitals across the region. The question is whether Ayatollah Khamenei will willingly abandon this ruinous project or choose to escalate hostilities to the extent of a full-blown regional war, in addition to those the regime is already involved in, in his efforts to retain control.

If Iran chooses to pursue its ambition of regional hegemony, there’s a strong possibility that the United States will move to resolve the regional problems by isolating Iran, with many regional analysts suggesting that the United States and Russia will cut a deal to freeze out the Iranian regime in exchange for preserving their influence in Syria. This could be more easily achieved with support from a pan-regional Sunni coalition, including the other main regional powers Turkey and Saudi Arabia if such a coalition could be attained; most observers believe it’s unlikely that Russia would wish to clash with both the U.S. and dozens of regional countries in order to preserve its relationship with Iran’s regime.  Should this be achieved, Iran would then be effectively blockaded from every side and frozen out by regional countries, forcing the ayatollahs to focus on preserving the Velayat-e Faqih regime, already under pressure from domestic tensions, rather than pursuing its regional hegemonic ambitions.

Domestically, Rouhani’s government and the foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, as the architects of the nuclear agreement , would again come under attack and there’s no doubt that Khamenei will again use them as scapegoats in an effort to deflect rising anger against the Velayet-e Faqih regime.  It’s increasingly unlikely, however, that the regime itself will be able to withstand the building tsunami of public rage over the collapsing economy and increasing repression.    to take the popular punch, but I doubt that the entire regime will withstand the next popular wave of rage. Taking into consideration, the Iranian currency against the dollar has reached record levels and that may lead to, at least, eventually overthrow the government. The pressure on Iran will peak, politically and militarily (I expect an air, maritime and land embargo), economically (currency collapse, sanctions), not forgetting a possible popular uprising, and expecting early elections to survive such uprising.

Syrian Crisis

The United States is currently preparing to purge Syria of Iran’s brutal militias and their poisonous sectarian influence and is likely to institute moves to weaken or oust Assad’s regime in partnership with a Middle Eastern alliance in which Israel may be seen as an unofficial member.

Mohammed Ibn Salman’s statement from Paris may confirm the participation of Saudi Arabia if Washington decided to hit Assad’s power centres in Damascus rather than his military bases. Despite all the apocalyptic predictions, Putin would not be willing to risk Russia’s being dragged into war with the USA to protect Assad or to face prosecution as an accomplice for Assad’s war crimes in international courts.

As Israel once announced that it carried out airstrikes in Deir Ez-Zour in 2007 against Assad’s nuclear weapons plant to warn Iran of its capability to strike beyond the Euphrates if needs be, it’s inevitable that there will be further airstrikes on Iran’s militias in Syria following the withdrawal of Russian and North Korean forces from those areas.  Once the United States institutes action to reduce Iran’s regional presence and purge its militias which are simply ISIS in another sectarian guise, we’ll inevitably see a reduction in sectarianism and extremism across the region.

Iraqi Chaos

As mentioned above, the hawkish line-up in the White House suggests to analysts that military options are taking priority over diplomatic ones favoured by the previous administration, whose polices allowed Iran’s regime to expand across the region. Iraq, for instance, is now suffering from the chaos which Iran’s regime needs to justify its own presence, with its status essentially that of an arsonist posing as a firefighter; this means that we may well witness the birth of a new ISIS with a semi-official or religious character in order to maintain instability and chaos in the Iraqi territories. Mohammed Ibn Salman’s upcoming visit to Iraq may change a lot in terms of policy and move the country further towards favoring  the Arabian Gulf states, which could have many other implications. With Iranian militias now targeting the United States forces, often under an implausible claim to be Iraqi Sunnis forming part of a national liberation movements, Petraeus’ team is expected to launch intensive operations again in the country to finally rid of it the militias. Iran’s regime does not want a national state in Iraq, but wishes to change the country to a fully sectarian Shiite state, part of a regional ‘Islamic Nation’ under the ayatollahs’ extremist Velayet-e Faqih doctrine, and to retain full dominance over all state institutions.

In Yemen,  meanwhile, there have been several attempts to bring Houthis back to the negotiating table, with  a number of indications during Mohammed Ibn Salman’s visit to Britain, following meetings with the British envoy to Yemen, and the UN Security Council of moves to reactivate resolution 2216 and the stalled Gulf initiative. The United States is also working intensively with political parties in Lebanon to minimize Iran’s efforts to disrupt and control upcoming elections

The main problem is that all these interconnected issues form a Jenga-like stack that requires careful and well-coordinated work to successfully resolve; any ill-considered blunder by the United States could worsen the situation. Many argue that this means a diplomatic solution is essential;  given all the aforementioned considerations, it is clearly imperative that Iran’s regional expansionism should be curbed, but equally clearly any military action at the wrong place and time will send the region back to the Stone Age intensifying rather than ameliorating  the chaos, multiplying the already severe crises and allowing the cancer of Iran’s extremist doctrine to spread to other nations.

Author:  Mohammad S. Alzou’bi, Senior Researcher at Rasanah: International Institute for Iranian Studies

He tweets @MohammadAlzo3by

 

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