Iran: The Unfinished Business of Neocons


By Edmond Y. Azadian

Recent massive demonstrations in major Iranian cities have focused news outlets and commentators once again on the region, with a variety of analyses and interpretations based on each party’s interests. The US and Israel have a distinct view and have overwhelmingly supported the demonstrators. European countries have cautioned all sides not to inflame the situation, while Russia has a muted approach and Armenia is watching the situation with apprehension. There is subdued cheer in Azerbaijan where the leadership is expecting dividends in terms of territorial reward should a collapse similar to Iraq, Syria and Libya occur. We should be reminded that during the administration of Abulfaz Elbichey, Azerbaijan openly laid territorial claim on Iran’s northern region.

Of course, Iran has its own interpretation of and explanation for the events. Iran’s Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri has accused the West of fomenting trouble, stating “that the mastermind behind the eruption of protests in the country was a US-Israeli-Saudi think tank that had been plotting for the rallies [for the past] four years.”

Of course, any observer of the Middle Eastern politics does not need Mr. Montazeri’s accusation to get to know the real cause of disturbances; it is very easy to extrapolate from the events which destroyed Iraq, Libya and Syria. Iran was on the list of the neocons during the Bush-Cheney administration, but the plans did not work as Vice President Dick Cheney had predicted and planned. He was sure that once the US invaded Iraq, the local people would welcome the soldiers with bouquets of flowers as liberators. Those bouquets never materialized; instead bombs and grenades were showered on the forces and they continue to this day, in the process killing more than one million Iraqi citizens and 4,500 US military personnel on the field and an equal number of Iraq veterans in the US because of suicides.

President Barrack Obama changed the course of US policy in the Middle East, but the neocons and their cohorts never changed their plans. President Obama negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran to save the peace and to protect Israel’s security, but in recent years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Trump have been labeling it as a “bad, bad deal.”

Let’s make some things clear. Iran is a theocracy and the regime there is repressive. The economy is in shambles and many suffer in poverty. Still, the Iranian people at least have more security and can lead safer lives than those in neighboring countries, where in the US lexicon, are enjoying democracy after overthrowing repressive regimes. Because of its energy resources, Iran was once a prosperous country but Western economic sanctions have crippled the country with the specific purpose of making it ripe for eruption. And the Trump administration has decided that time has arrived to take up again the unfinished business of the neocons.

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The scenario, the script and the signature are all the same whether promoting the Arab Spring or regime change in the Ukraine: Use social media to foment unrest in the target country, infiltrate segments of society and use the legitimate grievances of the people and threaten the respective government that it is accountable if it tries to quell the unrest through the use of force. Libya and Syria were both stable countries, albeit neither was a democracy but was led by a strongman, but the foreign instigations of unrest, coupled with invasion, created wars supposedly to bring democracy to those people, who are instead suffering even more, in bloodbaths. In fact, in the case of those two countries, little remains of the country. Cities have been turned to rubble and it is almost impossible to lead a normal life.

Of course, there are also internal tensions in the Iranian society. The hardliners, who brought about Iran’s isolation from the world community, are still powerful. But an internal process of liberalization is in progress. President Hassan Rouhani, who brought Iran out of isolation, has ruffled some feathers within the ranks of the hardliners. Now, he is cautiously moving toward a more relaxed social order. He even has dared to make public that liberalization drive stating: “Some believe that people only want money. But would someone be fine having a good monthly pay and have Internet access fully blocked, or have his movements outside the house restricted or not have the right to speak?”

There is also the issue of succession to the all-powerful supreme leader, the ailing Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. And as President Rouhani cannot run for a third term in office, he seems to be the natural choice for that position.

Under Rouhani, Iran has gained significant power in the Middle East, which alarms the US and its allies in the region.

  • The Iraq war was waged specially to put in place a regime friendly to the US and Israel. But the irony is that by bringing the Shias into the government, replacing the Sunnis hostile to the West, Iraq has become almost a satellite of Iran.
  • Iran’s participation in the Syrian war boosted its prestige in the region, especially after brokering a deal with its regional competitors, namely Russia and Turkey.
  • With all the US military hardware pouring in Saudi Arabia, Iran’s allies, the Houthis, were able to overthrow Yemen’s government supported by Riyadh.
  • During the standoff between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, Tehran airlifted supplies to Qatar, breaking the blockade instituted by Riyadh and the United Arab Emirates.

After Iran scored those political points, it became more urgent for the US and Israel to plan for a regime change. But the war in Syria came to prove that those kinds of interventions may only prove counterproductive.

British shadow government’s Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry has warned that the West had been too quick to welcome the Arab Spring in Egypt and Libya. Similarly, “Predictions of the strength of western-backed anti-Assad rebel forces proved as mythical as many of us had always thought.”

Topics: Iran

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned Western powers strongly not to be tempted to interfere or encourage protestors. Because Europe has vital interests in trading with Iran. As the US is contemplating further sanctions against Iran, Tehran might scrap its $100-million deal with Boeing and turn to the European Airbus instead.

Short of a Bush-style invasion of Iran, President Trump is left with two unpalatable options: either decertify the Iran nuclear deal or opt for additional sanctions. Reuters reports that in October, Trump refused to certify that Iran was complying with the deal, also known by its acronym, JCPOA, even though the International Atomic Energy Agency said it was.

Our president, who also claims to be a “genius and a stable one at that,” claimed that Iran had violated the “spirit of the deal.”

Trump is weighting whether the pact serves US security interests while the other world powers that negotiated the deal — France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China — still strongly support it.

Armenia is vitally interested in the stability of Iran, for a variety of reasons.

From 80,000 to 120,000 Armenians live in Iran, in the cities of Tehran, Tabriz, Urmia and Isfahan.

Recently, an Armenian member of the Iranian Parliament, Karen Khanlarian, in an interview with Armenpress, confessed that “there are indeed  social and economic hardships in the country. There are always demonstrations in Iran. People are complaining about the economic situation, which is the outcome of the sanctions. Those problems affect all Iranian citizens, including Armenians.”

Armenia is also concerned with Iran’s fate because the latter is the only reliable outreach to the outside world, Georgie being the unreliable one.

Iran is one of the main sources of energy for Armenia, along with Russia. But above all, it is a stabilizing political factor in the region. Outwardly, Tehran maintains a balanced position between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but the latter poses an existential threat to Iran, because of its close military cooperation with Israel and Turkey and because of its territorial ambitions to annex portions of Northern Iran.

As Armenia and Israel are moving closer, Prime Minister Netanyahu has complained to Armenia’s Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian about Iran’s military buildup in the region.

The recent shakeup in Iran may turn the government more vigilant and consequently more repressive and therefore closed to outside influence, or on the contrary, it may serve as a wakeup call to liberalize society.

Whether conservative or liberal, Iran’s stability remains a vital political asset for Armenia and indeed the world.



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