Islamic Republic a dead man walking
The Islamic Republic at 40 years old doesn’t have much to celebrate. Last week’s anniversary was a reminder of four decades of regional and global terrorism, and four decades of terrorism against long-suffering citizens whose birthright wealth is corruptly devoured and squandered on overseas aggression.
Iran is one of a small number of rogue states that measures national success by the size of its missiles. President Hassan Rouhani boasted to amassed crowds last week that “we will continue to pursue our path and our military power… We have not asked and will not ask for permission to develop various types of missile.” Yet most of Iran’s rocket tests have embarrassingly gone up in smoke. Along with engineering incompetence, many failures are reportedly due to US intelligence slipping faulty spare parts into missile supply chains.
Nevertheless, the Commander of US Central Command Vice Adm. James Malloy warned: “They have a growing capability in cruise missiles, they have a growing capability in ballistic missiles, they have a growing capability in unmanned surfaced systems, all these things that we watch that are offensive, and destabilizing in nature.” Furthermore, a fortune is recklessly wasted by Tehran on waging cyberwars against foreign states.
Despite what Iran’s apologists — like EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini — like to claim, the ayatollahs’ default mode of governance is conflict through as many different means as possible. Tehran’s warmongering regime is like the rabid neighborhood dog that senselessly and indiscriminately attacks the legs of all passers-by. The Gulf region hasn’t known peace since 1979, and won’t know peace until this theocratic war machine is derailed.
These same apologists argued that the 2015 nuclear deal would benefit ordinary Iranians. Instead, Tehran diverted billions toward a tsunami of militancy in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere, while upscaling its ballistic missile program. Architects of the nuclear deal promised to address Iran’s other nefarious activities. Instead, European leaders were seduced by the mirage of profiting from Iranian markets and oil, putting them on a collision course with Donald Trump’s pledge to get tough on Tehran. Yet Trump’s own containment strategy is incoherent. His preemptive Syria pullout (combined with ill-advised comments about “watching” Tehran from bases in Iraq) created further fissures within the foreign policy community over Iran strategy.
Meanwhile, the French, Germans and British are stubbornly defying diplomatic gravity with a mechanism that supposedly allows companies (which have long-since fled Iran’s imploding marketplace) to evade US sanctions. This farcical initiative appears solely designed to delude Iran long enough for the US to elect a different president. However, the mechanism allows Iranian diplomats to gleefully run rings around their Western counterparts. The more Iran is allowed to get away with, the more aggressive and demanding it gets. Meanwhile, India, China, Russia and Iraq are vigorously circumventing US oil sanctions.
The more Iran is allowed to get away with, the more aggressive and demanding it gets.
Sanctions cause ordinary Iranians to suffer, while conflict-thirsty hardliners pocket the profits of sanctions evasion and relish the opportunity to go on the offensive. Despite Rouhani’s increasingly anti-American rhetoric, his domestic popularity has plummeted, while Qassem Soleimani, the brains behind Tehran’s regional blitzkrieg, is rated as the most popular figure in Iran. Iranians must be forced to see that Soleimani’s war-making bankrupts state coffers and makes their country weaker and more hated; as evidenced by thousands of furious Iraqi Shiite protesters chanting “Iran get out.” Instead of disengaging from Syria and the region, Western and Arab allies must block Tehran at every turn. Sanctions alone are a blunt tool and can be counterproductive when divorced from a holistic and forceful containment strategy.
Yet last week’s Warsaw summit unhelpfully displayed conflicting agendas: While some Europeans snubbed Trump by boycotting, European right-wingers relished the opportunity to cozy up to the US administration. For Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it was a ghoulish opportunity to ambush Arab officials. Sitting at the same table as an Arab foreign minister doesn’t mean peace or acceptance. This is just trashy PR. Instead of an honest effort to reach out to the Arab world, Netanyahu continues his murderous, expansionist policies against the Palestinians, meaning that 99 percent of Arab publics will always reject an unjust and meaningless peace.
China pointedly stayed away from Warsaw, while two key states — Turkey and Russia — instead of joining for a mature discussion, were meeting with Iranian officials to discuss how to carve up Syria into their respective zones of influence.
France and Germany must wake up to the escalating threat their irresponsible approach facilitates. French police last year thwarted an attempted Iranian terrorist attack against Paris-based oppositionists, with parallel actions against Iranian diplomats implicated in assassination and terrorist plots across the continent. Via Syria and Lebanon, Iran and Hezbollah have become Mediterranean powers, while Iraqi proxies agitate to strike Western assets. Are we ready to grapple with the implications of this, given Iran’s continuing threats to launch attacks and blockages in the Hormuz waterway?
Tehran has, meanwhile, derailed efforts to consolidate democracy in Iraq and Lebanon. Cabinet-forming efforts in Baghdad are held hostage, while Hezbollah threatened to block a confidence vote in the new Lebanese Cabinet after questions were raised over its dominance of this coming government. Tehran’s stranglehold over the Damascus regime is similarly all-consuming.
Iran’s leaders believe that vast expenditure on overseas aggression makes the nation invincible, yet the biggest challenge to the Islamic Republic doesn’t come from abroad. Four decades of overseas terrorism and squandered wealth has hollowed out this regime, like an ancient tree rotten on the inside and ready to collapse.
Iranians are ready for change and, with global support and solidarity, this change simply becomes a matter of time. From the outside, the Islamic Republic looks like a sprawling colossus, devouring everything within its reach; but, when you take a closer look, the Islamic Republic at 40 years old is a dead man walking.
• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.