It is not difficult to notice fissures emerge in the so-called “Shiite crescent” that reached its acme in 2016 and became almost full in 2017, after deterring ISIS in Iraq and after the Syrian regime restored Aleppo.
In Syria, Moscow leads the scene. It has struck a major deal with Israel, keeping Tehran and Shiite militias away from Israeli borders to a distance that may have reached 100 kilometers. Moscow has also promised to enforce order and mediate talks between Ankara and the Kurds and has talked about projects for reconstruction of Syria and is sending messages of reassurance in more than one direction. One can suppose that all this is taking place at the expense of the Iranian position in Syria.
It is obvious that Tehran has started to lose its eminence in its relation with the ruling Shiite elite in Iraq, although it’s still early to judge the path of receding Iranian influence in post-Saddam Iraq. Angry demonstrations in South Iraq over the performance of the ‘Shiite’ authority and Tehran’s inability to control them and the absence of an Iranian initiative to provide Iraq with electricity are all indicators, not that it lost its position in Iraq but that this position has been shaken and that this is likely to keep happening as long as its Iraqi “governments” continue to fail.
Tehran has lost its position as a source of trust that makes the Iraqi Shiite feel he is an extension of a regional power at the political, sectarian and economic levels. The collapse of the Iranian currency is a disaster for the Iraqi depositors in Iranian banks. The banking system in the Islamic Republic is no longer a dependable institution for Shiite Iraqi depositors who have lost half of their wealth due to US sanctions on Tehran.
The banking system in the Islamic Republic is no longer a dependable institution for Iraqi depositors who have lost half of their wealthHazem al-Amin
Lebanon is the last country where we might expect such indicators because the tool of Tehran’s influence, represented by Hezbollah, remains the most coherent and the most capable of confronting this new Iranian weakness. However, this does not stop us from observing the Lebanese scene in light of the regional changes.
Hezbollah has increased its involvement in Lebanon’s internal situation on a daily basis. The group has become less “generous” with its affiliates and with the circles of those who benefit from it. Indicators in Beqaa suggest that Hezbollah is before a crisis due to depriving people there of basic services. In southern Lebanon, there are signs of a similar hardship as a result of the Shiite alliance’s monopoly of the Shiite share in the state. We should not wait for an uprising against Hezbollah, as the latter is still the only Shiite force in Lebanon, but this does not mean that unrest is not a sign of weakness which source is Tehran.
What is more important than these signs of fissures is what is happening within Iran itself. Demonstrations in cities continue as a result of the economic collapse and the decline of the currency’s value to unprecedented levels. According to semi-official reports, there are about one million Iranians who are not employed, a drastic rise in prices of goods and food products and collapse in almost all of the economic sectors as a result of the first round of US sanctions, which are expected to be augmented by more powerful ones.
It seems that this time Tehran is facing internal challenges that have begun to disrupt its regional task. However, this fissure, like any other, has shock waves which call for prudence before when rushing to celebrate the idea that this Iranian crescent system has been shaken. Some communities will not be able to survive the consequences of this collapse, and we are prepared for more civil wars in the wake of new collapses.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Hazem al-Amin is a writer and columnist.
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