Recent developments are indicating a tough road ahead for Iran in what is promising to be a tumultuous summer.
U.S. President Donald Trump sacked his top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, on March 13, citing specifically differences regarding the Iran nuclear deal.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo, nominated to lead the State Department, favors a firm approach confronting Tehran’s regional policy and is a major critic of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the Iran accord is formally known.
Former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, a strong critic of Tehran, is now Trump’s National Security Advisor.
Prior to this, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian visited Iran on March 5, expressing concerns over Tehran’s ballistic missile program and Middle East belligerence. This portrayed the JCPOA’s fragile nature and Tehran’s failure to use Europe as a shield against the Trump administration.
Couple all this with escalating Iranian protests across the country, and the regime’s recent intention of filtering Telegram, a popular messaging app used by over 40 million people, and you have a recipe for disaster from Tehran’s perspective.
Paving the path for Iran’s miseries, the Financial Action Task Force issued its latest report in February placing a June ultimatum for Tehran to input significant changes in its banking system and end financial relations with terrorist groups through nine specific procedures.
As Iran remains blacklisted in the financial market, investors are very hesitant over launching any meaningful project with the clerical regime.
Iran’s economic bankruptcy, parallel to widespread protests by people from all walks of life that continue as we speak, provide a very clear understanding about Tehran’s chief crises.
The groundworks of such circumstances are vivid in two very specific JCPOA weak points, from Iran’s perspective. While Europe lifted many sanctions, similar steps imposed by the U.S. remained considering how Congress disagreed with the Obama administration’s engagement with Tehran.
Obama used his executive authority to suspend nuclear sanctions, while non-nuclear sanctions imposed by the U.S., blocking America’s financial system to Iran. As a result, European banks are unable to get involved in dollar transactions with Iran.
This, again, leaves the JCPOA very fragile and allows Trump to annul the entire accord while financial & non-nuclear sanctions remain intact.
Failing to comprehend the impact, Iran was boasting about Western companies lining up for business. This honeymoon ended quickly as Tehran came to understand its grave underestimation.
Former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry began receiving calls from his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, seeking measures to set aside banking sanctions.
In March 2016, Mohammad Nahavandian, then chief of staff of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, travelled to London warning of unaccountable results if the JCPOA fails to resolve Tehran’s economic dilemmas. Maybe he was referring to the Iranian uprising where the poor flooded the streets and raised demands for regime change.
Iran’s economic predicaments continue as we speak, especially with the Obama years ending and the Trump administration executing sweeping changes in U.S. policy vis-à-vis Iran. Banks and companies across the globe, especially Europe, are showing cold feet in engaging with this regime.
Speaking at London’s Chatham House back in February, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi vividly voiced his regime’s concerns, complaining how Tehran is not fully benefiting from the JCPOA and describing the atmosphere as “destructive” resulting from Washington’s “confusion” regarding the nuclear pact’s future.
Iran also miscalculated the JCPOA as a green light by the international community to deploy the Lebanese Hezbollah and dozens of other Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force-linked militia to not only massacre the Syrian people, but enjoy military presence in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.
From 2015 onward Tehran is significantly developing its ballistic missile arsenal, providing such an inventory to the Houthis in Yemen to target Saudi Arabia. All the while, Iranian officials continue boasting about Hezbollah’s missile capabilities.
In response, the U.S. Congress is continuously adopting sanctions targeting the Iranian regime’s belligerence, especially blacklisting the IRGC.
Another expressively sweeping change that proved Iran’s calculations completely came as Europe began distancing from Tehran. Iran’s JCPOA dream story is culminating, realizing Europe will never choose business with this regime over its strategic economic relations with the U.S.
European officials went to great lengths to have Iran curb its ballistic missile program and regional meddling in the face of Trump’s threat to exit the JCPOA.
This resulted in Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other senior officials adopting strong positions against France, expressing their discontent of Europe siding with the U.S.
“If we have maintained our missile range to 2,000 kilometers, it is not due to technological limitations… we will increase our missile reach to the extent which we feel threatened,” said IRGC deputy Hossein Salami in a state TV interview on November 26.
While international isolation creates mounting quandaries for Iran, domestic unrest has forever been Tehran’s ultimate concern. To add insult to injury, Iran’s ongoing protests and uprising is under the navigation of the opposition People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). This coalition has for four decades been the main target of the Iranian regime’s onslaught.
Professor Ivan Sascha Sheehan in his recent article in The Hill says:
“Tehran’s violent reaction to peaceful protests demonstrates that the language of strength is the only language the regime understands. Even under current president Hassan Rouhani’s so-called ‘moderate’ leadership, the Islamic Republic continues its illicit activities to every extent it is permitted to do so.”
This is not a call to war. Quite the contrary. The world should acknowledge Iran’s current wars in Syria and Yemen, conveniently gone neglected by mainstream media and appeasement supporters.
The international community can best support the Iranian people’s uprising by crippling the regime’s entities, such as the Central Bank and IRGC. This goes analogous to recognizing the Iranian people’s organized resistance for regime change, symbolized in the PMOI/MEK.
An Iranian expression translate into “April showers bring May flowers.”
This spring is already promising a stormy summer for the Iranian regime and a year of historical developments for the Iranian people.
Disclaimer - This author is writing under a pseudonym to protect his identity.