Troublemaker vs. Superpower: Iran’s absurd claim of power equivalence with US
As America and its allies spend trillions to stimulate their economies and mitigate consequences of the coronavirus lockdown, Iran and its satellite states have either been begging international organizations for loans or have been simply defaulting on their debt and watching their economies sink.
Despite the enormous economic disparity between Washington and Iran, Tehran and its leading lieutenant in Lebanon insist that they have power parity with United States, a clearly delusional belief.
Since coronavirus started spreading around the world in January, US Congress has spent $3 trillion in stimulus. The Federal Reserve threw in another $2 trillion in loan-buying and easy credit, bringing America’s total stimulus to a whopping $5 trillion. Meanwhile Japan injected $2.2 trillion into its economy, and the EU approved $824 billion in stimulus.
In contrast, Iran - which sees itself as one of the world’s big powers - begged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan of $5 billion. Since the US withdrew from the nuclear deal in October 2018 and re-imposed sanctions, Iran’s economy has been in free fall, with its currency depreciating. The US dollar now sells for 165,000 rial, while Tehran’s official rate is 42,000. Before the 1979 revolution, a US dollar was worth 70 rials only.
America effortlessly blocked the IMF’s loan to Tehran, but only after Iran’s satellite state, Lebanon, followed in Iranian footsteps and asked the IMF for assistance. With enormous debt and depleted Foreign Currency (FX) Reserves, Lebanon defaulted on its payment of $1.2 billion payment in loans.
Scared of the impending economic collapse, Lebanese depositors queued in front of banks, desperately seeking withdrawals. But to preserve whatever was left of its reserves, Beirut imposed capital controls, with every depositor limited to withdrawing $300 a month.
So while Iranians suffer of inflation and poverty and the Lebanese jump through hoops to recover what is left of their vanished deposits, a household of four in America — two adults and two underage dependents — received, in the mail, a check of governmental assistance for $3,600.
Despite the contrast of economic prosperity in America, Japan and the EU, with financial despair in Iran and its satellite states of Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, those associated with the Iranian regime have argued there is a power equivalence between the two groups.
Hassan Nasrallah, the chief of Lebanese Hezbollah, argued during a televised address about the power parity between America and its allies, on one hand, and Iran and its puppet regimes, on the other.
Nasrallah did not substantiate his claim, but telling from Iranian propaganda, one can venture a few guesses over why Iran and its protégés think that America and Iran are power equals.
Iran and Nasrallah continuously move the goal posts. They spend their time promising to destroy Israel, then when war comes, like in 2006, Hezbollah claims “divine victory” because the militia survived the war, as if Hezbollah never notices that survival is one thing, while destroying Israel is quite another.
Iran and Nasrallah keep moving goal posts so much that they end up entangled in their own web of falsehoods. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in Iran, Tehran’s propaganda has disseminated two conflicting messages. One: US sanctions do not affect a powerful and self-sufficient country like Iran. Two: America’s evil sanctions are the cause of widespread suffering in Iran.
Now Tehran wants the world to believe that sending five Iranian oil tankers to Venezuela is a victory that has rubbed America’s nose in the dirt. But if anything, America enjoyed watching how its sanctions have forced the country with the biggest oil reserves on earth, Venezuela, to import oil, due to Caracas’s impaired refining capabilities. An impoverished Venezuela that cannot maintain its refineries could not have possibly paid Iran anything for the oil shipments to help shore up Tehran’s crippled economy.
With its asymmetric military capabilities, Iran gave America a bloody nose in Iraq, and likewise, Hezbollah inflicted some harm on Israel in 2006. Yet there is a vast difference between being a troublemaker, like Iran and its militias, and being a superpower, like America and its allies.
Iran and Hezbollah can draw all the posters they want that show them occupying Jerusalem and praying at its holy Islamic site, the Dome of the Rock. The fact of the matter remains: since Hezbollah — with enormous Lebanese and Arab support — scored a victory by forcing Israel to withdraw from Lebanon in 2000, the pro-Iran militia has not won an inch back from Israel, and is unlikely to win anything in the future.