What awaits Iran and the region this year?

Viktor Mikhin | Published: 00:00, Jan 18,2021


‘IRAN can easily enrich uranium to 40, 60 or even 90 per cent,’ claimed Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran. Earlier, Tehran reported that it was able to enrich uranium to 20 per cent at the Fordow facility. However, it is 90 per cent uranium that is needed to create nuclear weapons. As for the 20 per cent uranium, Tehran reported that it is to be used to produce radioactive medicines and also as fuel for a nuclear reactor. The nuclear deal that a number of countries have signed with Iran involves enriching uranium at just 3.67 per cent, but the US has grossly violated the deal by withdrawing from it and imposing a series of harsh sanctions against the sovereign nation, including a ban on foreign exports of coronavirus vaccines.

Experts unanimously assert that the Iranians’ desire to dramatically increase uranium enrichment is a worthy response to terrorist actions by the United States and Israel, such as the murders of former head of the elite unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qassem Suleimani and prominent scientist Mohsen Fakhrizade. Iran’s long history cannot allow its leaders to use terrorist methods in their policies, killing scientists and dignitaries of other states in return. Yet this is exactly the kind of criminal tactic used by the ‘democratic’ United States, whose leaders in the pursuit of power constantly resort to such dirty tricks; by Israel, which quietly destroys Iranian scientists and other opponents, including in other sovereign states; and by Saudi Arabia, which assassinates opposition journalists. Such criminal actions have led many alternative American media to ask a simple question: did all these murders, tougher sanctions against Tehran lead to a change in its position and ‘lie’ in the procrustean bed of the dirty policies of the Trump administration? In addition, there is another question: if the US and its allies have resorted to mass assassinations of Iranians, should we not expect similar actions on part of the Iranians and will there not soon be ‘martyrs’ among the leadership of the west?

The situation in the Persian Gulf, due to the rude actions of the Trump administration and its henchmen, is widely believed to have become extremely dangerous, fraught with the potential for a military explosion. First of all, the potential, including military, confrontation between Iran and the United States in the last weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency has only been growing. If Tehran were to take any military action against US bases in the Middle East, the US has already indicated its readiness to conduct retaliatory airstrikes against Iranian military bases or nuclear facilities. The leaders of the two countries are constantly exchanging ‘heated’ statements.

As for Iran, it is trying to reduce tensions. Foreign minister Javad Zarif urged the US leadership not to be ‘trapped’ by the Israeli agenda. He even tweeted what looked like a conspiracy theory, suggesting that Israel was planning to attack Americans in Iraq to provoke a war between Washington and Tehran. Putting aside the rhetoric of the Iranian ayatollahs and their military and political stance, the truth is that the Iranian regime cannot afford a war with the United States in the current highly unstable situation.

Another reason the White House might order airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities is that any military confrontation with Tehran would make president-elect Joe Biden’s plan to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal extremely difficult, if not impossible. This would deprive Joe Biden of what he sees as a potential foreign policy achievement.

The second problem so far on Tehran’s agenda is the fact that the Iranian regime still intends to avenge the murder of Qassem Suleimani. One year after the death of the high-ranking Iranian commander, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei continues to mention him in his speeches. In particular, he said: ‘Those who ordered the assassination of general Suleimani, as well as those who carried it out, must be punished. This revenge will certainly happen at the right time.’ Revenge for the assassination of Suleimani is crucial for the Iranian regime, in part because Tehran has never faced such severe humiliation. The regime wants to show its proxies, militia groups and hardliners that it is not weak and can stand up for itself. Moreover, from the perspective of Iranian leaders, the retaliation will deter Washington and others from attacking Iranian officials in the future. Experts have suggested that Iran is more likely to respond after Trump leaves office because the regime believes that Joe Biden will pursue a softer policy toward Tehran, and is less likely to respond militarily to an Iranian attack. In addition, Tehran also hopes to rejoin the JCPOA this year and loosen the grip of US sanctions.

At the same time, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei continues to pursue a firm and calm policy in the interests of his people. In this regard, he said on national television that his country was in no hurry to join the US in the 2015 nuclear deal, but he insisted on the immediate lifting of sanctions. Interestingly enough, the supreme leader simultaneously banned the importation of new coronavirus vaccines from the United States and the United Kingdom.

A united front against Iran is now actively supported by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, whose leaders are well aware that after Joe Biden comes to power their position in the region will weaken dramatically. And that’s why they’re trying to do everything they can in the remaining time to get to the front of the line. The results of the just-concluded Arab Gulf summit in the Saudi Arabian city of Al-Ula can be seen in this light. There, a reconciliation agreement was signed with Qatar, against which a blockade had been imposed for more than three years. If you look at the results of this summit, the question arises: what actually changed, who lost and who won? The answer is the same as the results of the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s: the sides returned to their original positions. Qatar has survived, strengthened its position, and found new friends and allies.

UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash, now the voice of the Arab Gulf states, said that in the face of the threat allegedly posed by Iran, Arabs must unite and take a common stand. In any case, the minister engaged in the usual cheap demagoguery, which is destroyed by the most common and well-known facts. Was it Tehran that imposed the cruellest sanctions regime against Qatar, bringing many moral, financial and other burdens to the people of the small emirate? It was Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, whose head was swollen with power as a result of the old age and illness of his father, the king of Saudi Arabia, who decided to play dictator of the Arabian Peninsula by deciding to make Qatar fully comply with Riyadh’s policies.

Was it Iran, not the Saudis, who started the civil war in Yemen in which tens of thousands of civilians alone have been killed? Saudi pilots, in the absence of even the mere beginnings of Yemeni air defences, are in cold blood bombing and shooting up peaceful cities, villages and towns.

And exactly who unleashed the civil war in Syria to overthrow the legally elected Syrian president Assad? It was from Riyadh that financial injections and deliveries of the most advanced weapons to the bandit formations in Syria, among which Daesh (banned in the Russian Federation) was particularly prominent, came.

The author could also recall the active participation of the Saudis in the creation and financing of al-Qaeda (banned in the Russian Federation), as a result of which the people of Afghanistan are still unable to recover and create a peaceful environment in their country.

All this was done by Saudi Arabia and its rulers, not by Iran.

It is quite understandable that this is a decisive moment in the Persian Gulf region for all the states there. And how their leaders behave will determine the future of their peoples — whether prosperity, peace and well-being will emerge or a policy of confrontation, hostility and war will continue.


New Eastern Outlook, January 15. Viktor Mikhin is a corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences.

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