ANALYSIS: Is the Iranian regime facing a deadly dilemma?

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The US withdrawal from nuclear agreement in May 2018, with severe economic sanctions and a new strategy by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to force the Iranian regime into changing its behaviour, has put Tehran in a state of deadlock and uncertainty.

Pompeo placed 12 conditions before the Iranian regime, each of which is considered a “glass of poisoned wine”.

Those conditions include announcement of details related to military nuclear program, stopping uranium enrichment and ending the quest for nuclear technology, providing access to international inspectors into military and non-military sites without any limitations and halting the development of their ballistic missiles program.

The conditions also include stopping support to hostage-taking and supporting terrorism, ending their involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, withdrawing from Syria and Yemen, halting all Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Corps’ destabilizing activities in the Middle East and across the globe, and improving human rights situation inside Iran.

These conditions hit the core of Iran’s domestic and foreign policy and any change would lead to the collapse of the Iranian regime. The continuation of this policy is also impossible and longer providing any benefits to Tehran. As a result, the Iranian regime is now in a stalemate.

The speech delivered by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei marking the death anniversary of regime founder Ruhollah Khomeini, was Iran’s official reaction to the new US strategy. The options left for the regime include isolating itself by refusing to accept US’ terms, or negotiate.

One possibility is that Iranian regime will choose to buy time by postponing for two months the acceptance of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) bill in which financial connections with individuals and terrorist groups are prohibited hoping that world’s policy may change. This tactic definitely cannot be a permanent solution.

On the other side, there are strong factors against the regime – internal isolation due to severe social dissatisfaction; the presence of a powerful and influential opposition that is planning to hold a major convention on June 30 in Paris in support of the Iranian people’s uprising for regime change as the only possible alternative; economic bankruptcy and severe sanctions; global isolation and crises within the sovereignty, and the fact that the Iranian regime is in a far different position than North Korea to negotiate with US.

On the passing of a bill the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has been sending a green signal so far to MPs for voting in favor of FATF Convention. But the so-called conservatives in and outside the Parliament are saying that the approval of FATF Convention means the path of financial assistance and support of terrorist factions such as Hezbollah and Hamas by Iranian regime will be closed.

The only hope left for the Iranian regime was a lifeline from the European Union. Yet, with the withdrawal of large European and global companies from Iran, this hope is long vanished. With the implementation of US sanctions effective in November 2018, the Iranian regime has two choices that both render the same results.

A recent report published in Le Monde, says the current situation in “the Iranian government is fragile against American pressure” and “in recent months, there have been tension and excitement in the streets of Iran.” In fact, due to the waves of unprecedented protests in dozens of cities at the start of this year, a red light is flashing.

Regarding to the predicted tensions in months going forward, Le Monde added: “On June 6, Ali Akbar Salehi, director of Iran’s nuclear program, in a live TV program from Natanz, opened a new centrifuge center. Salehi stated this operation did not violate Iran’s obligations under the nuclear agreement.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei greets crowds in the city of Mashhad for a celebration of Noruz on March 21, 2018. (AFP)
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei greets crowds in the city of Mashhad for a celebration of Noruz on March 21, 2018. (AFP)

Range of responses

Former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, wrote in a recent article in The Washington Post: “The Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and a subsequent speech by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have engendered a range of responses: Some welcomed the new hard line, but most expressed concern and criticism. Critics have accused the administration of calling for war or regime change; others have denounced its strategy as unrealistic.

“In actuality, though, the Trump administration’s approach has a reasonable chance of succeeding with Iran. A key point that seems to have been overlooked by many of the commentators is that the Trump administration has indicated a willingness to enter into negotiations, even as it escalates pressure against Iran through sanctions… Trump’s pressure tactics likely won’t bring Iran to its knees or facilitate the overthrow of the regime in the foreseeable future – but his approach might bring the Iranians to the negotiating table,” he wrote.

Former Iranian MP, Qassem Shole Sadi said in a recent interview with Radio France International: “All of Iran’s options will lead to its crumbling. The people have reached their tolerance limit. Poverty is breaking their backs.”

“Both options will result in the regime’s inevitable crumbling. Violence in the face of anger and popular protests is no longer effective and even the slightest reform will lead to a change in the Iranian regime’s nature.” Shole Sadi added. Tehran has continuously taken advantage of the international community’s policy of engagement and appeasement. However, it is utterly terrified of a firm policy.

Trump’s firm stance is forcing Europe to follow the US strategy. The Iranian regime, fearing frustration, is said to have started secret talks with the United States. There is also a huge argument within the regime for negotiation with the US. Under pressure from economic sanctions and widespread social protests, the Iranian regime will come to its knees and the people will not allow it to rise again.