Iran's exhaustion

Iran's supreme leader bitterly complains that the West has not kept its promises

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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Iran’s Supreme Leader bitterly complains that the West has not kept its promises and that economic sanctions on his countries have not been lifted although Tehran has kept the required commitments to halt its nuclear program. For it to speak out and complain as such, the situation must be difficult for the Iranian government.

Its luck is very bad as the oil prices are still cheap and this is why Iran’s current financial situation - after signing the nuclear deal - is much worse than it was like this time of last year when Iran accepted the initial agreement! The Iranian command did not think this will happen as it thought lifting sanctions will end its economic crisis.

At the same time, the size of Iran’s military involvement outside its borders has increased due to the escalation of battles and its funding of its allies, such as Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen.

Iran, like the rest of oil producing countries, has lost more than 60 percent of major income and the financial transactions which it retrieved from its frozen assets did not help it. The contracts and deals it rushed to sign with several governments and global companies to buy weapons and civil aircraft and carry out infrastructure projects are in trouble as there’s no funding for them, and this means that Tehran will have to pay more in bank interests and fines if it falls behind with payments.

Tehran wants to expand and dominate when it cannot even feed its own people

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The Iranian government did not get to be happy that it signed the nuclear deal and this is why the supreme guide is bitter and voicing his anger towards the West. He himself may have been deceived when his team which is enthusiastic to reconcile with the West convinced him that the nuclear deal will resolve the country’s financial problems. However, he’s now realized that revenues have significantly decreased.

This is not the case of his neighbors who compete with him such as the oil producing Gulf countries as they have massive reserves and funds capable of funding the deficit and world banks are also willing to lend them money when needed. However, Iran does not have any of that.

This is why the government of Tehran may have to realize that the reconciliation with Washington alone will not grant it wealth, influence or dominance. Perhaps it must realize that no matter how much it empowers its military force and Revolutionary Guard Corps, it will not be able to end the deficiency in the budget of bread and rice and meet its citizens’ essential needs.

OPEC conference

Iran wants to impose its conditions everywhere and in all fields. It wants to raise the oil prices globally without getting affected, like it did in the recent OPEC conference in Doha where it refused to decrease its share of production and requested other OPEC countries, such as the Gulf ones, to decrease their share so the prices increase.

It wants the Yemen crisis’ peace negotiators in Kuwait to grant its Houthi ally more than it deserves at the expanse of the Yemeni situation which existed before the Houthis staged their coup. It rejects to make any concessions regarding Syria as it insists to maintain the entire Damascus regime represented by Bashar al-Assad and uses its militias to serve this purpose. It pushes its allies in Iraq, such as former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, to ignite chaos by altering the political map and it thinks that the rest of the powers there will submit to it. At the same time, it plans and fights to achieve all these aims while its treasury is suffering from the worst financial situation in years.

Perhaps what further increased frustration in Iran is that the supreme guide, the president and the rest of the state figures have at the beginning of this year promised the Iranian people that there will be a phase of quick boom. They did so to convince them that although they were forced to tolerate the international sanctions for 20 years, they’ve finally won the battle although they did not fulfill their promise of a nuclear bomb. However, the Iranians currently realize that this is not the truth and that they put up with 20 years only to become poorer than they were.

After the failure of making profits thanks to the nuclear deal, has the formula become clearer to policymakers and those executing these policies in Tehran? The reconciliation with the West will not succeed at resolving Iran’s structural crises and will not address the regime’s urgent needs. If Tehran’s regime governed upon logic and reason, it would have extended its hand to all of its neighbors to overcome its crises, which are mostly triggered by it or ongoing because of it.

The regional reconciliation can achieve the same aims of stability and prosperity for the Iranians and their Gulf neighbors. However, for regimes like Iran and North Korea, this logic is difficult to understand, and continuing to reject this logic only increases Tehran’s crisis. Iran wants to expand and dominate when it can’t even feed its own people.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 28, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed

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