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We haven’t yet witnessed Iranian-Persian imperialism

The Islamic Republic has rejected OPEC proposal to freeze oil output to address a global surplus...

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Published: Updated:

Iran’s major state-owned newspaper, Keyhan, whose editor-in-chief is the representative of the supreme leader Khamenei, proudly outlined on its first page that Iran received the first delivery of the formerly-forbidden advanced missile defense system, the S-300 system, from Russia this week.

The Islamic Republic also blatantly rejected a proposal by OPEC members including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela to join and freeze oil output in order to address a global surplus.

Defiant Iran will not accept such proposals meant to help rebound of oil prices anytime soon. In fact, according to oil minister Bijan Zangeneh, Iran has the total potential to ramp up oil export to 4 million barrels a day. This will have a significant negative impact on oil prices, not only impacting the regional countries’ revenues, but also the global market.

But for Iran, the cash is flowing. The country’s oil revenue has currently increased approximately 90 percent, in only a few months after sanctions were lifted, from $12 billion a year to $21 billion per year. This revenue is despite the current low prices of oil, and the country selling roughly 1.7 million a barrels a day.

Approximately 29 percent of Iran’s crude oil is being exported to European countries including Spain, Greece, and France. The export to European nations will definitely increase as Iran expands its output. This means that, even at the current low oil prices, Iran’s oil revenues will be around $50 billion a year, almost 500 percent of the country’s oil revenue of pre-sanctions.

Cash and Western support

Unshackled from the United Nations Security Council sanctions, Iran is only warming up to fully exert its influence in the region and change the political chessboard of the Middle East further in its favor.

For over three decades, the Islamic Republic preferred to employ soft power rather than hard power, in order to insert its influence in other Sunni Arab nations. Over the three decades, Iran reportedly infiltrated almost every Middle Eastern country by building alliances with the Shiite communities, or by arming, training, financing and giving birth to Shiite militias or opposition groups.

From the perspectives of the Iranian leaders, it does not make sense anymore to geopolitically and ideologically employ soft power rather than hard power

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

Iran’s foreign policy has been unique in that regard; Iranian leaders’ geopolitical, ideological and regional hegemonic ambitions have been consistent since the establishment of the Islamic Republic.

Nevertheless, being alienated regionally and globally as well as being chained with the shackles of international sanctions, Iran’s ruling clerics did not have any option other than to hide their imperialistic intentions, pursue the use of soft power and deny any intervention in other nations.

Liberation and imperialism

Through the nuclear deal, once Iran is liberated from the confining bars of international sanctions, there is no need for its leaders to hide their intentions anymore. This is due to the notion that the nuclear deal not only meant the liberation of Iran’s ruling clerics, but also the confinement of the US and Western powers to re-punish Iran. As the Persian saying goes: “We tied their hands and feet together.”

As a result, it is not Iran that is chained anymore by its nuclear program, but it is the US that is being handcuffed with the nuclear deal. From the perspectives of the Iranian leaders, it does not make sense anymore to geopolitically and ideologically employ soft power rather than hard power.

The Islamic Republic is cognizant of the fact that, first of all; Tehran has the West off its back – because the West want to do business with Iran (mainly oil and gas), fight the Islamic State through Iran, and the West knows that it cannot any more reverse the nuclear deal due to Russia and China’s veto power in the United Nations Security Council.

Secondly, the cash is flowing in Tehran and Iran is aware that it enjoys the support of two major global powers, Russia and China. Third, Tehran is aware that its children, the Shiite militia across the region, are being empowered day by day, and they are absolutely loyal to the ideological principles of the Islamic Republic, and that they will fight for Iran to the end, in any country including Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain, etc.

Analysis made by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, and the senior cadre of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), indicates that it is totally in their interest to show the region Iran’s military capabilities, such as Quds force, on the ground in other Arab countries.

For the ruling Iranian politicians, it is currently in their interests to shift tactics and publicly launch ballistic missiles, in violation of the UN resolution, to publicly support Bashar al-Assad who has killed tens of thousands of his own citizens, and to publicly acknowledge the IRGC role in Iraq, Yemen, and other countries.

Being cognizant of all the aforementioned assets, Iranian politicians view it in their parochial interests to publicly pursue Persian imperialistic ambitions, regional hegemonic and ideological objectives by ostentatiously and overtly attempting to tip the regional balance of power in its favor, by publicly provoking other countries in the region, and by challenging other nations.

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Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and Harvard University scholar, is president of the International American Council. Rafizadeh serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University. He is also a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University. Rafizadeh served as a senior fellow at Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington DC. He has been a recipient of several scholarships and fellowship including from Oxford University, Annenberg University, University of California Santa Barbara, and Fulbright Teaching program. He served as ambassador for the National Iranian-American Council based in Washington DC, conducted research at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and taught at University of California Santa Barbara through Fulbright Teaching Scholarship. He can be reached at Dr.rafizadeh@post.harvard.edu, or followed at @Dr_Rafizadeh.

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