Warsaw summit has Iranian regime worried

Warsaw summit has Iranian regime worried

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz in Warsaw. (AP Photo)

The US this week led a two-day summit on the Middle East in Warsaw, Poland. Although the official title was “Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East,” the main topic on the agenda was to chart a path toward confronting Iran’s destructive, militaristic and aggressive behavior in the region. 
The timing of the Warsaw conference is significant due to the fact that Iran’s footprints can be observed in various conflicts in the Middle East. Iran’s terrorist and militant groups are among the key reasons for the ongoing tensions, conflicts and instability across the region.
The Warsaw conference comes at a time when the Islamic Republic has extended its influence in various foreign nations to an unprecedented level. The regime’s sectarian policies, military adventurism and expansionism have also become the major cause of conflicts and tensions in the region. In Iraq, the theocratic Iranian government continues to intervene through various tactics and strategies, ranging from influencing elections, silencing individuals or groups that oppose its policies and intervention in Iraq’s internal affairs, to dispatching troops and transferring arms and missiles to militias.
Iran continues its efforts to build permanent military bases in various cities in Syria, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps continues to strengthen a coalition of Shiite forces and militias that have committed crimes against humanity. Iran’s militias are determined to advance the regime’s interests and are becoming the bedrock of other nations’ sociopolitical and socioeconomic infrastructures.
Iran is also intensifying the conflict in Yemen by providing advanced weaponry to the Houthis. And Tehran has been increasing its efforts to ship advanced weaponry to its militias and proxies, such as Hezbollah, that can turn unguided rockets into precision-guided missiles. 
The summit also comes at a time when there appears to be a core division between US and EU policy on the Islamic Republic. US President Donald Trump last year pulled out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, and the Treasury Department consequently reimposed primary and secondary sanctions on the Iranian regime, which targeted critical sectors such as the banking, energy, currency and financial systems.
On the other hand, the EU has been trying to help Iran bypass US sanctions through a newly established mechanism called the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX). These efforts are mainly led by the EU’s chief diplomat Federica Mogherini. 
The Iranian authorities, from across the political spectrum, including moderates, hardliners and the Principlists, reacted by attempting to downplay the significance of the conference. For example, a headline in the newspaper Ebtekar read: “Top general: Warsaw summit will not impact Iran’s power.” The hardline military chief Maj. Gen. Mohammed Baqeri described the summit in Poland as “insignificant” and “worthless,” adding: “Whether or not anything is said against Iran during the Warsaw meeting, it will fail to affect the Islamic Republic’s policy and power.” The so-called moderate Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif similarly said that the two-day conference was “dead on arrival.”

Iran’s terrorist and militant groups are among the key reasons for the ongoing tensions, conflicts and instability across the region.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

But, in reality, the fact that the Warsaw summit was a top story in Iran points to the fact that the regime is indeed concerned about the conference and its potential consequences. Top officials from more than 60 countries attended the summit. In addition, Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani was present to represent the Iranian opposition and he has called for regime change, stating that Iran’s leaders are “assassins, they are murderers and they should be out of power.” The Iranian leaders have grown more worried about the influence of the opposition, and as a result it has been the target of bombing and assassination attempts by the regime. 
Furthermore, the Warsaw summit was the largest diplomatic gathering and the first of its kind that has been organized to confront the Iranian regime. It effectively formed a coalition of countries from different parts of the world including Europe, North America and the Middle East. Iran is particularly concerned that the gap between the EU and the US might be bridged, as diplomats from France and Germany, as well as the British Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, agreed to attend. 
Finally, any additional pressure on the Iranian regime, whether it is diplomatic or economic, can endanger the power of the ruling mullahs. The Islamic Republic has been struggling with the worst economic crisis since its establishment in 1979. The Iranian people’s disenchantment and resistance to the ruling politicians have also reached a new high, as protests against the regime persist. 
In conclusion, although the Iranian leaders downplay the significance of the Warsaw summit, they are concerned about it as pressure against the regime is continuing to mount.

  • Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
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