Al-Quds Al-Arabi – Apr. 27, 2019, issue 9527, p. 22
Approaching the end of the first year since the abolition from Washington of the nuclear agreement with the Iranian government, we can say that it did not have the impact that most observers expected, nor was it proportional to the level of the warnings of US officials, led by Trump. The economic sanctions imposed on 4 November last year were expected to lead to a rapid fall in the economic structure of the Iranian regime, while preventing Tehran from exporting natural gas and oil and leading to a popular revolt that would upset the regime from within. But the surprise was to allow Tehran to continue exporting oil to eight countries, thus abolishing the true meaning of these sanctions.
Despite the pressure from the US and the European pressure under the table, Tehran continued its military tactics internally and regionally through its militias. Its ballistic program has shifted from internal to regional, as it was confirmed by many Israeli media reports that referred to the development by the Iranian regime of many military laboratories belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Guards (IRGC). This is a dangerous development for the American presence in the region and its strategic ally, Israel. On the other hand, Iran’s secret nuclear program, details of which Tel Aviv published last year, is far from the eyes of international observers, as Tehran continues to deny its existence. Meanwhile, it continues its project in the Middle East, supporting the Assad regime in Syria and the Lebanese militia of Hezbollah by military means and sending ammunition to the Houthis militia in Yemen. This setting leads all of us who are watching the Middle East wondering what the next step of the US will be?
In mid-April, Washington announced its next step, with the inclusion of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and all their brigades into the US list of terrorist organizations. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards represent the spearhead of the Iranian regime in the Middle East and recently in Africa. This move is bound to affect politically and militarily throughout the Middle East. Through this decision, Washington will be able to totally prevent any country or company from selling arms to Tehran. It also gives Washington the right to target this militia anywhere, whether inside or outside Iran. It is also likely that Washington will publish in the next few days more details on how to handle militia arms trading in the region.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards are not just an armed militia but an integrated organization that has banks, agricultural, trading and shipping companies. Washington may impose a financial embargo preventing any kind of transaction with these businesses. Along with this step, the Pentagon issued a warning to all US units in the Middle East region in general and out of it, in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, in a way that suggests the possibility of going to direct war despite continued denial of US officials.
In the economic field, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on the 22nd of this month the cancellation of Washington’s waiver for eight countries on the ban on buying Iranian oil and stressed that the US government would work to reach exports of Iranian oil to zero. Ιn contact with a senior Greek official, he assured me that Greece, one of the eight excluded countries, has received a direct message from Washington, requiring to stop the import of Iranian oil, which began earlier this month. Athens is now alternatively buying oil from Algeria. Through Pompeo’s press conference becomes clear that Washington had contacted in advance the eight countries on this issue. In order to understand the gravity of this step, we must refer to the statements of a series of Iranian officials led by Khamenei, who emphasized that Iran’s blockade of oil sales is equivalent to a declaration of war.
As far as the numbers are concerned, 40 to 50% of the Iranian regime’s revenue, estimated at $50 billion a year, comes from the sale of oil. Therefore, the Iranian government, which is already financially tired, will face a new budget deficit close to 50%. Possibly, both China and Turkey may oppose this move, but most likely they are in line with Washington’s desire. Turkey, which imported from Iran 800,000 barrels a day last summer, imported only 250,000 barrels last month. In the same context, the Pentagon sent 5th fleet warships to move to the Straits of Hormuz from early this month as a message to Tehran not to recklessly go into their closure.
From a political point of view, the announcement of the resignation of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and its revocation by necessity, a few days ago due to the European Union’s inability to overcome US sanctions, is indicative of the failure of the Iranian political system. The language of ballistic missiles adopted by Tehran in the Middle East has become politically untenable. But things do not stop at this point. In Syria, the controversy with its strategic ally, Moscow, is rising more and more. According to local sources, there is tension between the two sides militarily, economically and politically. The Russians have begun to remove the Tehran backed militias from Western Syria in a manner that suggests sharing power, while the sudden and urgent signing of the Tartus port contract is a preventive step towards any move by Iran towards the Syrian coast. On the other hand, the visit of bin Salman to Islamabad last month has a profound meaning that may affect Tehran’s relations with Pakistan. In the light of Washington’s approach to a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Afghanistan, Tehran loses another card of pressure in the region.
Following the announcement of the US Attorney General on the details of the Mueller report on the role of Moscow in taking over the White House leadership by Trump, which confirmed the absence of irrefutable evidence that would put him in a circle of indictments and dangers, the atmosphere in Washington is not good for Tehran and its allies in Middle East. Trump remains in power for another two years with high indicators for his survival in a second presidential term. The bad news about the Iranian regime is not over at this point. Netanyahu managed to win a new election victory that gives him the ground to complete his plans against the Iranian influence in the region. By studying the current map of the Middle East, politically, militarily and economically, we can conclude that the alliance stretching from Tehran to Beirut will have a very hot summer which will start with oil but may end with war.