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Iran since the nuclear deal with West

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Iran has been the target of anti-Islamic and Arab nations for quite some time, though their objectives vary considerably in content, but the nuclear deal with the Western powers has made its position relatively tension free as Israeli agenda of destabilizing the Islamic nation has ended in futility. Let us review the issue in prospective.

Issue: Targeting Iran’s economy and security

Today, imperialism threatens Islamic world, especially the oil rich West Asia, causing economic and security problems for each Muslim country in the region, including Saudi Arabia – a major Muslim ally of US in capitalism and anti-Islamic wars. Arab world has been made an enemy of Iran – a Shiite nation.

Sunni-Shiite divide, which is becoming wide and dangerous, is being exploited by anti-Islamic nations led by USA and Israel. Since Iraq has been destabilized by the NATO and allies, now Saudi kingdom seeks Iranian fall as well while Israel gladly supports the Arab sick mind.

In July 2015 between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers – the US, UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany signed the historic nuclear deal seeking to bring peace to West Asia. The reason for the deal was to deny Iran any chance for making atomic bombs to make Israel, the regional nuke power, irrelevant.

Iranian economy and security has been the target of USA and its allies for a long time. Since Iran’s nuclear program became public in 2002, the UN, EU and several individual countries have imposed sanctions in an attempt to prevent it from developing military nuclear capability. Iran insists its nuclear activities are exclusively peaceful, but the world’s nuclear watchdog has been unable to verify this.

Sanctions and relief are a routine strategy of USA towards Iran. Iran and world powers agreed an interim deal in 2013 which saw it gain around $7bn in sanctions relief in return for curbing uranium enrichment and giving UN inspectors better access to its facilities. World powers also committed to facilitate Iran’s access to $4.2bn in restricted funds. Several rounds of sanctions in recent years have targeted Iran’s key energy and financial sectors, crippling its economy.

The US sanctions prohibit almost all trade with Iran, making some exceptions only for activity “intended to benefit the Iranian people”, including the export of medical and agricultural equipment, humanitarian assistance and trade in “informational” materials such as films. A ban on the supply of heavy weaponry and nuclear-related technology to Iran; A block on arms exports; an asset freeze on key individuals and companies, etc., Japan and South Korea have also imposed sanctions similar to those of the EU.

As well as more recent sanctions aimed at Iran’s financial, oil and petrochemical sectors, the US has imposed successive rounds of sanctions since the 1979 Tehran hostage crisis, citing what it says is Iran’s support for international terrorism, human rights violations and refusal to co-operate with the IAEA.

As a result of the EU embargo and the US sanctions targeting other major importers, Iran’s oil exports had fallen to 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) by May 2013, compared with an average 2.2 million bpd in 2011. In January 2013, Iran’s oil minister acknowledged for the first time that the fall in exports was costing the country between $4bn and $8bn (£2.5bn-£5bn) each month. Iran is believed to have suffered a loss of about $26bn (£16bn) in oil revenue in 2012 from a total of $95bn (£59m) in 2011.

The loss of oil revenue, which accounted for a half of government expenditure, and isolation from the international banking system, had caused Iran’s currency, the rial, to lose two-thirds of its value against the US dollar and caused inflation to rise to more than 40%, with prices of basic foodstuffs and fuel soaring. Iran wanted the UN sanctions suspended soon after any agreement is reached but sanctions stayed. .

Nuclear facility

Today, officially Israel alone has the nuclear facility and illegally obtained nukes in West Asia and obviously USA-Israel duo does not want any other nation in the region to go nuclear, threatening the military superiority of Israel. Iran’s legal effort to become a nuclear power to protect Muslim nations of the region is opposed by both USA and Israel. The White House says the nuclear deal with Iran aimed at preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

USA has not asked Israel to disarm itself so that the region is nuclear free. Israel does not say it wants peace in the region and hence doesn’t want to go denuclearized. Iran says it has the right to nuclear energy – and stresses that its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes only.

Iran has been building a heavy-water nuclear facility near the town of Arak. Spent fuel from a heavy-water reactor contains plutonium suitable for a nuclear bomb. World powers had originally wanted Arak dismantled because of the proliferation risk. Under an interim nuclear deal agreed in November 2013, Iran agreed not to commission or fuel the reactor. Iran has agreed to redesign the reactor so it cannot produce any weapons-grade plutonium. All spent fuel will be sent out of the country as long as the modified reactor exists.

There are two uranium enrichment facilities in Iran – Natanz and Fordo – where uranium hexafluoride gas is fed into centrifuges to separate out the most fissile isotope U-235. Low-enriched uranium, which has a 3%-4% concentration of U-235, can be used to produce fuel for nuclear power plants. But it can also be enriched to the 90% needed to produce nuclear weapons. In July 2015, Iran had almost 20,000 centrifuges. However, under this statement of intent Iran will reduce its installed enrichment centrifuges to 6,000, only 5,000 of which will be spinning.

Iran’s uranium stockpile will also be reduced by 98% to 300kg (660lbs) for 15 years. It must also keep its level of enrichment at 3.67%. By January 2016, Iran had drastically reduced the number of centrifuges installed at Natanz and Fordo, and shipped tonnes of low-enriched uranium to Russia. In addition, research and development will take place only at Natanz and be limited for eight years. No enrichment will be permitted at Fordo for 15 years

As per the deal, Iran has agreed not to engage in activities, including research and development, which could contribute to the development of a nuclear bomb. In December 2015, the IAEA’s board of governors voted to end its decade-long investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.

Deal

Now the Western powers and allies plus UN as international community are implementing the landmark nuclear deal in March last year between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers – the USA, UK, France, China and Russia plus Germany.

Crippling economic sanctions on Iran have been lifted now that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has certified that it has restricted its sensitive nuclear activities.

The nuclear deal signed by Iran and western powers is not a peace treaty but just a mechanism to avoid unnecessary war envisaged by Neocons to appease Israel and provoke Arab world. The deal somehow ended a possible civilizational clash and clipped Israeli wings in West Asia, targeting Iran.

The US government has said that the world powers that negotiated the accord — the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — made no secret arrangements. But the draft report said the joint commission also agreed to allow Iran to keep operating 19 radiation containment chambers larger than the accord set. These so-called “hot cells” are used for handling radioactive material but can be “misused for secret, mostly small-scale plutonium separation efforts,” said the report. Plutonium is another nuclear weapons fuel.

The deal allowed Iran to meet a 130-tonne limit on heavy water produced at its Arak facility by selling its excess stock on the open market. But with no buyer available, the joint commission helped Tehran meet the sanctions relief deadline by allowing it to send 50 tonnes of the material — which can be used in nuclear weapons production — to Oman, where it was stored under Iranian control

The 159-page accord is a study in unmet high expectations for change, as hard-liners in both Iran and the US Congress fight to undermine the deal to ensure as little political benefit as possible for the chief architect of the accord – Rouhani. It was Iran’s shriveling economy – Iranians voting their pocketbooks, as well as promises of greater social freedoms – that helped Rouhani win election in June 2013. He vowed to engineer a nuclear deal, and resurrect an economy hurt by mismanagement and sanctions.

Almost every powerful group had a say in the accord, which reflected a national, strategic decision to turn the page on the nuclear crisis even as concern remains over the world powers’ commitment. The establishment appeared as determined to implement the deal as it was to seeing the negotiations through – and largely for the same reason: to resuscitate the economy by removing sanctions, either as envisioned in the accord or by showing that Iran is not to blame for failure.

With the nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers in force, a chief question is what it means for Iran. The clash between competing visions of the country’s future has heightened since the deal which many believe it could rebalance domestic politics. It not only has boosted the profile of those who promoted it, but, more fundamentally, it has opened space for new debates in a domestic sphere that was dominated by the nuclear issue for more than a decade.

However, according to a think tank report, the USA and its negotiating partners agreed “in secret” to allow Iran to evade some restrictions in last year’s landmark nuclear agreement in order to meet the deadline for it to start getting relief from economic sanctions. Among the exemptions outlined in the think tank’s report were two that allowed Iran to exceed the deal’s limits on how much low-enriched uranium (LEU) it can keep in its nuclear facilities, the report said. LEU can be purified into highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium.

Israel and Saudi Arabia found this attitude of USA unacceptable. One senior “knowledgeable” official, however, was cited by the report as saying that if the joint commission had not acted to create these exemptions, some of Iran’s nuclear facilities would not have been in compliance with the deal by Jan. 16, the deadline for the beginning of the lifting of sanctions. The US government has said that the world powers that negotiated the accord made no secret arrangements.

Real concessions?

The United States and its negotiating partners apparently agreed “in secret” to allow Iran to evade some restrictions in last year’s landmark nuclear agreement in order to meet the deadline for it to start getting relief from economic sanctions, according to a recent think tank report.

The exemptions were approved by the joint commission the deal created to oversee implementation of the accord. The commission is comprised of the United States and its negotiating partners — called the P5+1 — and Iran.

The report, which was released by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, is based on information provided by several officials of governments involved in the negotiations. The group’s president David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector and co-author of the report, said the exemptions or loopholes are happening in secret, and it appears that they favor Iran.

The report ignited a chorus of Republican criticism, including from the campaign of presidential nominee Donald Trump. His campaign sought to link the findings to Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state when secret talks were held with Iran but had left office before formal negotiations began. “The deeply flawed nuclear deal Hillary Clinton secretly spearheaded with Iran looks worse and worse by the day,” said a statement issued by retired Army General Michael Flynn, a top Trump adviser. “It’s now clear President Obama gave away the store to secure a weak agreement that is full of loopholes.”

The Clinton campaign did not immediately comment on the report. The White House said it took “significant exception” to some of the report’s findings, saying that the easing of sanctions was always dependent upon Iran’s adherence to the agreement. “The implementation date was driven by the ability of the International Atomic Energy Agency to verify that Iran had completed the steps that they promised to take,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at a briefing. “That is what precipitated implementation day. Since then Iran has been in compliance with the agreement,” Earnest said.

Among the exemptions outlined in the think tank’s report were two that allowed Iran to exceed the deal’s limits on how much low-enriched uranium (LEU) it can keep in its nuclear facilities, the report said. LEU can be purified into highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium.

One senior “knowledgeable” official was cited by the report as saying that if the joint commission had not acted to create these exemptions, some of Iran’s nuclear facilities would not have been in compliance with the deal by Jan. 16, the deadline for the beginning of the lifting of sanctions.

Outcomes

The nuclear talks and agreement between Iran and Western powers have averted a possible deadly war situation that was being promoted by most anti-Islamic nations, particularly Israel that still seeks to attack all nuclear sites of Islamic power in West Asia. Also, the deal enabled to set the tone for a peaceful situation in a region which is torn with terror wars launched by the Pentagon led NATO terror organization supported by all colonialist powers led by Israel. While Israel sought to destabilize Iran, the latter warned Jewish terror nation of dreadful consequences for the Zionist regime, Israel and Zionism.

At the outset, the nuclear deal has not fundamentally changed Iran’s ties with the USA. American companies are still generally prohibited from trading with Iran because of other sanctions for human rights violations, support of terrorism, and ballistic missile programs.

The Obama government signed agreements with Iran including sale of Boeing to Tehran. Boeing was required to receive permission from the US Treasury before even negotiating with Iran Air. Republican lawmakers quickly criticized the Boeing sale agreement with Iran, arguing it could hurt US national security interests. On July 7, the Republican-led House of Representatives passed a spending bill intended to block to the Boeing deal.

Having achieved the deal, joy erupted on the streets of Tehran a year ago, when Iran signed a landmark nuclear deal with six world powers hailed as a victory of diplomacy over war. As jubilant Iranians waved flags and heralded an easing of Iran’s isolation, President Hassan Rouhani promised that a page has turned in the history of Iran. The deal was marketed by both sides as a “win-win”: Iran would dismantle the most controversial aspects of its nuclear program – minimizing the chance of acquiring a nuclear weapon for at least a decade – in exchange for the lifting of sanctions that crippled its economy.

Expectations had been high in Iran, fanned by supporters of the deal, that its benefits would be palpable and immediate. Yet Iran has received back only a fraction of the $150 billion of its own funds that it expected, and financing new deals is a major issue because of the Western banks’ concerns. Iranians’ hopes for the benefits, however, have not yet dissipated.

However, things have not improved, there is no real tangible impact on people’s lives, but there is still a glimmer of hope for better things to come. One year later, the post deal situation does not suggest any great achievement. The deal has not ushered in a new significant era. Steady warnings from Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, about “infiltration” and “soft war” from the USA and the West reveals the deceptive nature of the deal with USA. USA and European banks also are proving reluctant to engage with Iran, fearful that non-nuclear US sanctions might bite, thereby depriving Iran of the full hoped-for benefits of the deal.

Iran has dramatically reduced the scale of its nuclear infrastructure – reconfiguring a heavy water nuclear reactor and a deeply buried uranium enrichment facility, for example – while keeping a limited capacity to produce fuel for nuclear energy. And non-nuclear sanctions have been lifted, partially ushering Iran back into the global economy.

Iran’s economy has slowly but measurably rebounded in the year since Tehran signed a historic nuclear deal with the world’s six major powers. Iran is still progressing as the region’s first power. Still, sanctions relief has already brought “significant benefit” to Iran, notes Vaez, such as oil production returning to pre-sanctions levels; a boost of trade with the EU by 22 percent; and $3.5 billion of a foreign direct investment in Iran in the first quarter of 2016 – breaking a decade-long record. Washington’s behavior has also been closely watched in Tehran.

Foreign trade

The nuclear deal, by lifting many of the sanctions, is reopening the doors to those foreign companies. Iran has hosted dozens of foreign delegations, many of whom had visited Iran even before the deal was signed. More than 140 economic delegations from 48 countries traveled to Iran between March and December 2015, according to Mir-Abutorab Badri, an official with the Trade Promotion Organization of Iran. Around half of them were from Europe and North America.

Sanctions relief also allowed Iran to export millions more barrels of oil monthly. In February, Iran exported its first shipment of oil to Europe since the deal was implemented. Oil exports to China, India, Japan, and South Korea increased 50% in March 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. By May 2016, oil exports had climbed to 2.3 million barrels per day, double the amount exported before sanctions relief.

Iran has made gains in the recovery of the oil market. Iran’s crude exports have soared after the lifting of UN sanctions. Exports have doubled and old customers in Asia and Europe are returning. The country’s market share of global crude exports has returned to pre-sanctions levels. However, lower oil prices have not done much to increase Iran’s capital to a booming level. Neither could oil earnings alone do this.

The relatively moderate government of President Hassan Rouhani is trying to nudge aside the conservative Revolutionary Guards in some areas to make way for what it hopes will be a “flood” of Western money from energy sales. While the deal lifted EU and UN sanctions on Iran’s banking and energy sector, most of the unilateral US sanctions relating to non-nuclear issues remain.

In January, Rouhani praised the nuclear deal for opening “new windows for engagement with the world.” Foreign governments and firms quickly began finalizing agreements once sanctions were lifted. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Iran on January 22, 2016 and signed 17 agreements. Two days later, Rouhani embarked on his first trip to Europe, where he inked deals worth $43 billion with French and Italian companies. In January, Iran also finalized a deal with European aircraft manufacturer Airbus to deliver more than 100 commercial jets to Iran. Even some US companies have explored trade deals with Iran. In June, U.S. aircraft manufacturer Boeing signed a preliminary $17.6 billion deal to sell Iran Air 80 aircraft between 2017 and 2025. General Electric has also reportedly scoped out opportunities in Iran’s oil and gas industry.

Iran turned to its North to broker one of the most surprising barter deals — the “goods-for-gas” deal between Iran and Turkmenistan, comprising a $-30 billion deal over ten years. The purpose was to supply energy to Iran’s north-eastern provinces that are far from its domestic gas fields. This saves Iran from diverting capital into major new pipeline projects

The nuclear deal has helped raise GDP, boost oil production, and expand trade. But as Rouhani prepares for a reelection bid in 2017, many Iranians expected to see more from the nuclear deal than they experienced in its first year.

Foreign companies are also still restricted from trading with more than 200 Iranian entities sanctioned by the United States for non-nuclear reasons. Despite enthusiasm for Iran’s economic potential, foreign companies still face serious risks that have not been alleviated by the nuclear deal. Corruption, lack of transparency, poor transportation infrastructure, and other issues with Iran’s business environment etc have deterred investors. Iran ranks 118th out of 189 countries in the World Bank’s 2016 ease of doing business index, and 136th out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index.

One year after the deal, lingering economic questions and pressure from hardliners still created challenges for Rouhani. Unemployment rose from 10.6% in March 2015 to 11% in March 2016. Some Iranian businessmen complained that foreign investment was primarily channeled to large state-run enterprises rather than small businesses in the private sector. According to the World Bank, Iran still needed to improve its business environment, reduce government influence in the economy, and reform its financial sector in order to see tangible benefits in job creation.

Religious leadership

Tensions within the Islamic Republic stem in no small part from its blend of popular sovereignty and religious authority. Theocratic forces seek to maintain the dominance of the supreme leader and other tutelary bodies, while republican forces advocate more clout for popularly-elected institutions. Each camp is further split between pragmatists who seek incremental political evolution and radicals who either resist any change or promote revolutionary transformation. The supreme leader – powerful but not omnipotent – maintains stability by accommodating both theocratic and republican trends.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had endorsed bilateral negotiations with the USA before Rouhani ran for office. He then supported the new president’s diplomatic push and kept his opponents at bay. But given the leader’s aversion to risk, his support was qualified and did not obviate Rouhani’s need for a coalition with other power centres.

Supreme Leader announced that the theme of the upcoming year would be “The Resistance Economy.” Focusing on domestic production, Khamenei argued, will be Iran’s best defense against sanctions. “With the Resistance Economy, it is possible to fight unemployment and recession and to curb inflation; it is possible to stand up to the enemies’ threats,” he said. Rouhani has insisted that his policies are not at odds with Khamenei’s vision for the economy—and public opinion polls support him. Citing remaining financial restrictions, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the USA of not fulfilling its pledges under the nuclear deal. “In Western countries and places which are under US influence, our banking transactions and the repatriation of our funds from their banks face problems … because banks fear the Americans,” he said in March.

Hardliners allege that Rouhani’s policies will make the Islamic Republic too economically dependent and open Iran to Western cultural influence. On Jan. 30, Iranian students protested outside the Iranian Oil Ministry against the new Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC), chanting that the contracts would lead to the “plundering of national wealth.”

Economy boost and challenges

After sanctions were lifted, the Islamic Republic aggressively ramped up oil and gas output. Oil production climbed from 2.9 million barrels per day in January to 3.8 million barrels per day in late May. Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh predicted that output could top 4 million barrels per day by March 2017.

Sanctions relief has led to higher oil production, restored access to billions of dollars of assets, and easier trade and financial transactions. The two most tangible changes have been the increase in oil exports–which have nearly doubled since sanctions were lifted on Jan. 16–and the dozens of foreign trade and investment deals Iran has negotiated. In June, Iran even reached a tentative $17.6 billion deal with Boeing, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, to purchase passenger planes. But one year after the deal, some international firms are still hesitant to do business in the Middle East’s second largest economy.

Foreign direct investment could total $8 billion by March 2017, according to Seyed Hossein Salimi of the Iranian National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce. In 2015, foreign direct investment only reached around $2 billion.

Overall, Iran’s economic outlook has improved since the deal. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts between 4% and 5.5% growth in 2016 – up from the 1.3% growth it had predicted for 2016 before the deal was signed. Iran has moved up from number 12 position among 14 Mid-East countries in Foreign Direct investment (FDI) and it is just behind Saudi Arabia and the UAE. However, Iranian banks and foreign banks that are to play an anchor role in processing this FDI are not allowed to deal in US dollars — the global reserve currency

Natural gas production has also increased by 23 billion cubic meters in the past year, after Iran completed development projects in the South Pars field, the largest gas field in the world. European companies estimated that Iran – which holds the world’s second largest natural gas reserves, after Russia – could potentially supply Europe with up to 35 billion cubic meters of gas per year by 2030.

Low oil prices, however, have limited Iran’s revenue from these production increases. In January, oil prices fell below $30 a barrel for the first time in 12 years. Prices have rebounded slightly since then, reaching $46 a barrel in June 2016.

However, low prices have also pushed Iran to diversify its economy. Only around 25%of the state budget relies on oil revenues, compared to 60% in past years. In the last Iranian year, which ended on March 19, Iran had a non-oil trade surplus for the first time since the 1979 revolution.

Iran’s increasing oil output–despite low prices–has put it at odds with other oil producers. In February, Russia and OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Venezuela called for a production freeze to stabilize prices. Iran would only entertain the idea of a freeze after production reaches 4 million barrels per day, which was about its pre-sanctions output.

Even if prices increase, Iran may have trouble increasing its oil production beyond that target without significant foreign investment. The Islamic Republic plans to fund and implement oil and gas projects worth a lofty $185 billion by 2020 to boost its crude oil output and refining capabilities.

The Islamic Republic hopes to entice foreign oil companies by offering more favorable contract terms. On June 27, Zanganeh announced that Iran was finalizing the Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC). Unlike the “buy-back” contracts unpopular with foreign firms, the IPC allows companies to participate in all the stages of an oil or gas field’s lifecycle.

Domestically, the deal has yet to yield significant benefits for the average Iranian. Corruption, a lack of transparency, and other issues make Iran’s business environment challenging for investors. Foreign companies also risk incurring penalties from remaining US sanctions on Iran for terrorism and human rights violations. Unemployment increased slightly in 2016. Only 46% of Iranians believe the country’s economic situation is good as of March 2016, compared to 54% in May 2015. Hardliners question President Hassan Rouhani’s focus on foreign investment over domestic production.

Iran still has to overcome more US sanctions to resume trade with European nations. European and Asian conglomerates that would otherwise want to invest in the Iranian market do not know how to bypass many US sanctions which continue to extend to organizations and individuals having ties with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRG) which is aspiring to play a “bigger role” in the country’s economy, by some estimates, directly or indirectly control over 40% of Iran’s economy.

Since the 1979 Revolution, the rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran have sought to lead Islamic world along with Saudi Arabia, dominate the West Asia region where Saudi Arabia is considered to be the leader. Since the Iran deal was signed by USA, peace has remained remarkably elusive as Iran considers the nuclear deal with western powers is an endorsement against Sunni nations while Saudi Arabia looks at it as promotion of Shiite nations by its ally USA. Not only Riyadh rejected Iran as an ally to pursue Islamic goals worldwide but treats as its enemy. So much so, today Saudi leadership considers Iran an enemy worse than Israel.

US officials, however, have insisted that Washington has complied with the nuclear deal. The Obama administration has reportedly sought to encourage Iran’s reintegration into global markets, hoping to solidify the deal and prevent it from unraveling under future administrations. On May 10, Secretary of State John Kerry told European businesses that they “should not use the USA as an excuse” for not doing business in Iran.

In the coming year, Rouhani may face even more pressure to prove that the deal has yielded the economic benefits that many Iranians anticipated. The IMF predicts that average inflation will drop from 15.1% in the 2015-2016 Iranian fiscal year to 11.5% in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Rouhani has courted foreign trade and investment, but Iran’s political factions have debated whether Iran should pursue greater foreign engagement at all. Others in the regime are more skeptical. Two thirds of Iranians surveyed in March supported greater economic engagement with the West, and reformists fared well in the spring 2016 parliamentary elections.

Saudi led GCC joins Israel against Iran

Israel and its cruel sponsors in the West believe occupational atrocities make history interesting. USA and Israel, as well as other colonialist nations are keen to retain their occupational posts held abroad. NATO terror wars in Afghanistan and Arab world have helped Israel prolong the occupational crimes in Palestine thus far, making its expansionist drives smooth as USA continues to back all crimes against humanity

Interestingly, Arab leaders now think anomalies make history interesting and thus they try to find a common non-vegetarian language. Saudi Arabs seems to be leading the anti-Islamic nations against Islamic faith. Interestingly, they also think they are doing the right thing. Maybe they hope all anti-Islamic nations become Islamic in due course. Millions of Muslims have been slaughtered by these anti-Islamic forces globally in their war on Islam and they relish the taste of Islamic blood.

Saudi for some mysterious reasons considers Iran its arch foe and opposes it and frames policies keeping in view Iran’s sidelining as its objective. Anti-Iranism has become too strong that Saudi government indeed treats Iran worse enemy than Israel and tries for a common platform to disgrace Iran. So much so anti-Islamic Israel emerges as Islamic Saudi’s strategic partner against Islamic Iran.

Funny Islamic leaders!

A simmer Sunni-Shiite cold war is on for quite some time and western world and Israel seeks to take full advantage of the clash of their common enemies in island. Arab world says that today Iran is posing a serious challenge to Saudi led Arab nations, as its proxy groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Sadrist militias in Iraq have taken the fight beyond the capacity of Iranian government forces. In Yemen and Bahrain, groups funded from Tehran have been armed, funded and trained to challenge the Arab governments.

True, unlike Israel or even Saudi Arabia, Iran does not seek wars and, knowing the intricacies of regional crises, being accelerated by the US intervention, always goes for diplomatic resolution of crises and succeeded n averting all war situations. Iran has not changed its position on Palestine nation as it continues to support the Palestinians and their struggle for sovereignty.

Iran will have a presidential poll in June 2017. With elections due next year, the pressure on Rouhani’s government is likely to increase if the next US president follows in the footsteps of his predecessor to continue to play the “sanctions game.” Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani’s competitors are concerned that he and his allies will parlay their foreign policy achievements into electoral victories.

Iranian success in the nuclear deal depends on many factors. Nothing unusual in the flowery language coming from Western capitals about a new era of relations with Iran has some reality and justification because Iran and USA have begun viewing each other not as prime enemies as they had done for years now especially after the fall of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, even during prolonged talks, notwithstanding all negative rhetoric emanating from Israel and elsewhere against the deal and new alignments.

The deal obviously weakened Israeli position and hold over US strategic lots. Having been isolated internationally already on genocides in Gaza and its regular threats of terror attacks on Iran, Israel will not be able to keep ignoring such a broad international engagement.

Now Zionists in Israel and USA understand that it must cope with a process of Palestine statehood that has started rolling and won’t be easily stopped. It must now position itself differently after the repeatedly failed US mediation and ahead of the practical part of the French initiative, as the French distributed in June the tasks to different working groups.

The UN Quartet report on the obstacles ahead of a two-state solution and the main themes to be tackled should be published without further delay and used as a main tool of work for the French initiative.

Observation

The debate on whether or not Iran gained from the nuclear deal with western powers is inconclusive but one is clear: Iran hasn’t lost the spot by signing the deal with US led powers. The deal appeared to be the only option for the time being as Israel is pushing for a terror attack on Iran and sought the US approval. The president, Many Iranian strategists believe, has been duped into accepting the deal and his failure to boost economy even after a year is an clear proof of the “West’s treachery”.

Iran’s expectation of a big boom in economy through “economic recovery” after the lifting of UN sanctions has not been realized yet. Iranians, although upset by this, still believe this deal is by far the best way for Tehran to end global isolation, recapture lost markets, diversify its foreign relations and win “the ideological war” Iran’s enemies in the Gulf have waged against it.

The situation for Iran’s moderate leadership is tricky. Not only does it have to deal with the still imposed US sanctions and mounting domestic pressure against the nuke-deal, but also the IRG, its own business interests and political hardliners in Iran.

Today, USA and Russia compete for arms sale in energy-cash rich West Asia. The West should recognize that any change in Iran will be gradual, best supported by implementing the nuclear accord, resuming trade, and diplomacy that balances Iranian and Arab interests in the Middle East. As its guardians try to quell the deal’s reverberations and preserve the balance of power, any attempt by Western countries to play politics within the Iranian system could well backfire. If world powers hope to progress on areas of concern and common interest, they must engage Iran as it is, not the Iran they wish to see.

The best option for Western states and Iran is to continue reversing the negative narratives from decades of suspicion and hostility by fully implementing the nuclear accord; creating discrete and non-politicized channels to address other issues of concern or common interest; and, eventually, pushing for regional security architecture that takes account of both Iranian and Arab interests. In the end, Iran and the West may not be able to agree on a range of issues, but trying to game the Iranian system will ensure that they will not.

Saudi Arabia needs to come to sense- earlier the better for it and Islam, though it might feel Islam should not have been born there so that their variety of capitalism and anti-Islamism can go on without any sense of shame or guilt. Because of Saudi attitude even ordinary Muslims, for their own reasons, are scared of criticizing anti-Islamism while badly suffering from Islamophobia.

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Middle East

Iran regime’s Parliamentary elections and challenges facing it

Aladdin Touran

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Forty-one years have passed since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and now the regime is entrenched in crises and facing a deadlock.

On the one hand, it faces crippling economic crises and severe budget deficits, and on the other hand, injustice and lack of freedom have turned the Iranian society into a powder keg that can explode at any moment.

According to information published by the main Iranian opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in the nationwide Iran protests last November more than 1500 protesters were shot dead, while protests spread to more than 190 Iranian cities. The fact that these protests are continuing in 2020indicates that the Iranian regime’s crises are intensifying.

In the international arena, the regime is also in a very weak position. Its warmongering policies and nuclear and ballistic missile program are under the magnifying glass and pressure of the international community. U.S. sanctions have added to the regime’s crises and put it in a deadlock.

Solutions for the regime

The regime is in dire need of money to quell protests related to its failing economy. To get this money, it needs the U.S. to lift sanctions. The U.S. administration’s Maximum Pressure campaign left the regime with a dilemma of choosing between two courses of action:

It can either accept U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s 12-point plan and conditions for normalization of relations, which would mean abandoning its nuclear and ballistic missile program and military interventions in other countries.

Or it can choose the path of contraction and confrontation. Which would require the regime to unify itself to be able to stand against the upcoming crises.

Review of the regime’s solutions

If the regime accepts all of a part of Pompeo’s 12-point plan, it would mean that the regime would end up negotiating at its weakest point. The “Death to America” chant will ring hollow. After 41 years of the Islamic Republic’s establishment, sitting at the negotiation table with representatives of the “Great Satan”, which killed the regime’s second most-important figure, General Qassem Soleimani, in January, will cause its forces to collapse from within.

It seems that the regime has chosen the path of contraction. This decision is aimed at buying time and is an investment on proxy wars in the region in order to force the U.S. to step back and lift sanctions. The regime hopes that in the next U.S. elections someone else will replace Donald Trump with a milder Iran policy.

The Supreme Leader’s decision to go down the contractive path can be seen in the regime’s so-called upcoming legislative elections. The upcoming election is the most important event through which the Supreme leader can unify its regime from within and prepare it for tougher times ahead.

The engineered elections

In Iran the legislative elections are basically engineered by the Supreme leader. Its method is as follows. First, different factions introduce their candidates. Then, the Guardian Council reviews their competence. The Guardian Council consists of 12 members. Six of them are clerics appointed by the Supreme Leader. The other six are jurists chosen by the Chief of the Judiciary. But the Judiciary Chief himself is appointed by the Supreme Leader. It is in fact a labyrinth with various entrances that leads at the end to the Supreme Leader. In fact, any concept of “moderation” in Iran is a lie and a political game to keep the people and the western countries busy. The principal conflict between the so-called “reformists” and “hardliners” is about the method of continuing the regime’s existence and a power struggle between different regime mobs.

More than 16,000 people presented themselves as candidates for the legislative elections. More than 55% of these candidates were disqualified by the Guardian Council. Some 90% of the so-called reformists candidates are among the disqualified. The Guardian Council even disqualified 90 members of the current Majlis (Parliament). State media report that from 290 seats in Majlis, 200 seats have already been assigned.

Regime’s only solution

A way out for the regime is to show a “massive” participation of people in the elections. On February 5, 2020, the Supreme leader for the first time begged the people to participate in the elections, “even if you disagree with me.” Despite the removal of the so-called reformist candidates, the regime’s President Hassan Rouhani also begged in a speech on the anniversary of the Iranian revolution on February 12, 2020 for people to participate in the elections.

The President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, has called on the Iranian people to boycott the upcoming elections.

A poll on the state-run news network’s Telegram showed that 83% of the people are not willing to participate in the elections. The regime was forced to hastily remove this poll from Telegram.

The regime also failed to mobilize its forces for the annual ceremony of the marking the overthrow of the Shah’s regime. Video clips taken from Tehran’s Azadi Square during Rouhani’s speech show that the scene was empty. The regime fears a repeat of the no-show during the legislative elections.

The maximum pressure campaign on the regime must continue and the European Union must join it. It’s time that the Iranian people’s desire for a free Iran be recognized by the international community.

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Growing Political Instability in Middle East: A Case Study of Yemen

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Yemen’s full-blown war was the consequence of a series of events that succeeded one after the other. Violence escalated during the second half of 2014, when citizens grew massively discontent with the political instability of Yemen’s transitional government. Once violence became the norm, parties to the dispute quickly polarized, and as violence ramped up, polarization accelerated.

This violence more intensified because Yemen has fragile transitional government led by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and was further debilitated when Houthi rebels captured Sanaa in September 2014. The president’s Peace and National Partnership Agreement had emerged as a kernel of hope for an early resolution to the violence, but it did not fulfil and produce its promised. Therefore, faced severe outcome and Boasted by their early success in capturing Sanaa, the Houthis had their militias take control over key institutions in the city. They installed their own people within major institutions and media outlets, and in other cases ‘puppeteer’ members of the government whose members were ultimately put under house arrest. All hopes for the Peace and National Partnership Agreement were lost in January 2015, when Hadi resigned shortly after his escape from house arrest in Sanaa. Following a brief residence in the city of Aden, he took refuge in Saudi Arabia.

Out of immediate danger, Hadi decided to revoke his resignation and continue his presidency from abroad. At the same time the Houthis decided to promote their own version of a national constitution and create their own government bodies. In the meantime, the Houthi insurgency continued, pushing all of Yemen into a civil war. Yemen’s current multipolar political landscape is nothing new. The country’s population has never—after its 1944 civil war, or since unification in 1990—taken on a single national identity. During the 2011 Arab Spring, group differences were exacerbated, but at the outset of the revolutions relative balance of power in the country was able to bring parties together, making possible negotiations at the National Dialogue Conference (NDC).

This is no longer the case, and three important developments explain the changes post NDC. First, Yemen’s political scene became radicalized and at the same time was polarized. This made any links between the groups, whether based on historical ties or cultural similarities, impossible. Second, the changing balance of power and enduring resilience of the conflicted sides has inspired optimism within each group that and would prevail and achieve dominance over others. This reduces prospects for negotiating a settlement. For example, as the Houthis consolidated their power on the eve of their complete capture of Sanaa, rejecting calls for negotiations seemed easy, and group officials seemed unfazed by the UN resolution urging them to withdraw and reverse their course. Third, the people in Yemen have no faith in a central government, and even less faith in any political process as a solution to their problems; largely due to disappointment over a long negotiating process and an ineffective transitional government. In addition, there is no leader who inspires hope, or can rally Yemenis under one flag, or for a common purpose. While President Hadi enjoys international support, at home he is unable to ensure unity amongst even his allies, let alone the whole country.

While Yemen faces an internal quagmire, regional actors, in particular the GCC states, have been increasingly engaged in the conflict. A Saudi-led military campaign, Operation Decisive Storm’ began in March 2015, based on a coalition of forces originally supported—according to Saudis officials and public statements from countries in the wider MENA region—by more than ten countries. The UAE has been a strong supporter of the military action, contributing air support that has removed any ballistic threat for the region within the first 25 days of the operation. Other GCC states and MENA countries have also positively responded to Saudi Arabia’s move for military solutions.

Civil War in Yemen

Nations of the region have pledged military support and have become engaged in the second phase of the operation, titled ‘Restoring Hope.’ One of the strategic objectives of this operation is the disabling of the Houthi insurgency and the reinstatement of Hadi as the President of Yemen. For that purpose, large groups of pro-Hadi Yemeni fighters have been provided with weapons, equipment, and necessary military training. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have more recently delivered large quantities of heavy weapons (tanks), armored vehicles, and ammunition to the pro-Hadi fighters through the newly liberated areas in Aden. Troops from the Arab countries have been involved in training. Hadi’s army, which lacks expertise in operating for much of the weaponry and equipment being supplied. Some of the foreign troops, however, are reported to be involved in military operations themselves, and not simply working in a training capacity. Operation Restoring Hope also has a humanitarian component, and its first aid planes and ships have already arrived in Aden. The United States is also providing some assistance through intelligence, aerial refueling for fighter jets, and has indicated that it would provide possible assistance in rescuing of downed pilots. The thus empowered pro-Hadi army will be the much needed ‘boots on the ground’ to complement the Saudi air campaign. If the Southern Resistance answers Hadi’s call for a united anti-Houthi front positively, and thus integrates with Hadi’s army, a quicker advancement towards Sanaa may follow. Meanwhile, the UN is still at the forefront of the negotiations in Yemen. Negotiations are not a number one priority, however, since the UN’s reputation was significantly damaged following months of less than effective diplomacy engagement in Yemen. That is not to say that UN’s efforts are futile. Anyways, UN special envoys encourage Saudi government and Yemeni government to collaborate of sign a pact, aiming to end fight between government and separatist allies in the south. UN wants to political solution of Yemeni crisis.

Oman’s Role

Except Oman, which is not part of the campaign and it is offering a venue for negotiation and are in the strong support for President Hadi. Time may prove that the UN’s ongoing shuttle diplomacy is the best way to a ceasefire, followed by peace agreement. When taking stock of the current Civil war in Yemen, it is imperative to have a holistic view of the complex conflict, and especially when seeking to find a way out of the turmoil. As things stand, a clear path towards quick conflict resolution seems impossible. The murkiness of the actual support by the Yemeni people for current leaders, ongoing shifting political dynamics, and the mixed results of militarily operations makes any conflict resolution strategy difficult to argue. This, in turn, renders many of the policy recommendations focusing on just one or another approach risky to follow.

Understanding the Conflict’s Dynamics

Yemen’s conflict is saturated with different groups, and each have unique interests. Antagonism amongst the various Yemeni groups and the process of ‘othering’ between the Zaydis from the north and the Shaga is from the central and southern parts of Yemen has been obliterating memories of coexistence and making any reconciliation unforeseeable. The current conflict has even blurred the actual differences between theZaydis branch of Shia (Fivers) and those in Iran (Twelvers). This blurring is exacerbated when the Houthis’ religion is equated with the one of the Persian belief structures and used as an argument to link the two. A March Briefing report by the International Crisis Group observed this in action, noting that the “previously absent Shiite-Sunni narrative is creeping into how Yemenis describe their fight,” primarily through the labels used by the Houthis and the Sunni Islamist party Islah.

In a way, increased use of sectarian rhetoric by the group has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. While domestically the Houthis managed to maintain control over a large part of Yemen, including the capital, this has not translated into commensurate international recognition. The group is aware that UN resolutions are clear that Hadi’s government is the only authority in Yemen. Attempts to make inroads in the international community have thus been carried out through economic ties, those aimed at Russia (which remains unresponsive) and China, which has an interest in the Yemeni oil industry. While these efforts indicate some determination to reach out to whole the international community, the Houthis have shown no state-building acumen and political alliances are made from convenience.

With little regard for other political parties, the Zaydi Shia militias have forged an unholy alliance with former president Aki Abdullah Saleh. The deal was made without regard to the two groups’ hostile history, which includes fighting in multiple wars against each other. For now, they seem to have been able to put most of their differences aside and unite against Hadi and his supporters. This alliance means the Houthis benefit from Saleh’s powerful friends in the Yemeni army, something that has contributed greatly to the Houthis’ early rise to power. The group may yet be aided by Saleh’s diplomatic skills. For his part, Saleh is on a quest to regain his lost authority.

The politically savvy former president of Yemen hopes to extend his influence through his political party, the General People’s Congress (GPC), this can be read as a move against current President Hadi, who had been a member of GPC until November 2014, when he was kicked out. His ouster was the result of a travel.

International Crisis Group, “Yemen at War’

It is important to note that Saleh’s party, the General People’s Congress has rejected the Houthi constitutional announcement from January 2015. This is just one example of their uneasy relationship. Ban and asset freeze imposed by the UN Security Council on Saleh and a few other leaders from the Houthi side. Hadi’s rivalry with Saleh and his break with the party only further speak to his inability to become a gravitational center in Yemeni politics.

At best, Hadi was able to become a rival of Saleh, use decrees to make new appointments and reassignments to reduce Saleh’s influence in the governing structures and military. Overtime, these moves have been able to attract defectors from Saleh’s faction, but without building a real base of his own. While having defectors on side is extremely useful when defections and declarations of support of Hadi from key GPC members provide a much-needed boost to the legitimacy of the current President, his overall legitimacy remains low. This is not least because of his moves to divide forces to steer against the Houthis.

His allies, the Southern (Popular) Resistance, are a secessionist movement with strong support in the South and do not share Hadi’s vision of a post-conflict Yemen. Influence also comes from Yemen’s immediate neighbors, who are generally strongly pro-Hadi. The political positions of regional actors and their interests in the different sides would indicate that regionalization of the Yemen conflict was inevitable. Saudi Arabia’s actions, however, are also in response to wider regional trends. Intervention in Yemen has a great deal to do with curbing Iranian foreign policy on at least two big issues – the Iranian nuclear deal and their role in Iraq. With the nuclear deal recently concluded without any direct input from the Saudis, and Iraq set to be an even bigger challenge in near future, Saudi involvement in the Yemen sphere seemed inevitable. Where Teheran’s involvement in Iraq is welcomed by the Western powers, and with there-engagement of Iran in the international community their role could be strengthen, Saudi Arabia does not share the West’s enthusiasm. But the situation in Yemen is different. The level of support from Iran, as secretive as it may be, is not the same as Iran’s support for the Shia militias in Iraq, the government of Syria’s Assad, or Hezbollah in Lebanon. While hesitation to become further embroiled may be very much connected to a fear of possible overstretching in the region and the fact that the Houthis are not under Iran’s direct control, It may also be the cane that Teheran has calculated the likelihood of a strong and determined response by Saudi Arabia if it were to step up involvement. Iran’s public declarations call for ceasefire, though they know the balance of power on the ground in Yemen matters a lot since it will transfer to the make-up of any negotiations table. Iran leaves little up to luck. Iranian Revolutionary guards are on the ground in Yemen, Iranian money and aid has been shipped to the Houthis. It should not be a surprise if more money were to be poured in, especially given the funds that will be made available in the wake of the Iranian nuclear deal and an unfreezing of assets. Even though weapons may be much more needed than cash, the Houthis will still be more effective in maintaining control and popularity if they have no huge financial challenges.

Saudi Arabia Role

For the leadership in Riyadh, Yemen continues to be a foreign policy priority. The Kingdom acted as patron to Yemen’s government from the 1980s onwards, and it never accepted foreign influence in the country. In the 1960s Egypt’s then president Gamal Abdel Nasser tried to expand his Pan-Arab revolution to Yemen, only to see his efforts neutralized by the Saudis. This time around, as Iran employs their ‘revolution export ‘strategy, similar determination exists in the House of Saud and its key allies to thwart it. No accounting of the current conflict in Yemen would be complete, however, without accounting for terrorist groups. The best way to look at this issue is to understand the historical role of al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and its relatively recent branch of Daesh (The Arabic acronym for the group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIL). AQAP is considered the most powerful of al-Qaeda’s branches after the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Moreover, a terrorist group with a long legacy in Yemen. Many men who fought alongside Bin Laden in Afghanistan at the end of the last century came back to Yemen and to found AQAP. Indeed, since 1990, leaders of the largest Islamic military groups in this country have claimed ties to Bin Laden.6 With the creation of AQAP, allegiance to Bin Laden’s successor Ayman al Zawahiri was declared, and has been reasserted repeatedly since. The newly appointed leader of the AQAP Qasm al-Rimi, who assumed his position after the death of Nasir al-Wuhayshi in June2015, made the same oath of allegiance when he took power. With such strong roots in Yemen, it would be difficult for ISIL to take over as a leader in the jihadist movement in the country. Further dividing ISIL and the AQAP is the firm policy of the latter for the gradual establishment of a caliphate when the ‘right conditions’ are met. This is already underway in Yemen and is not an ideology that is shared by the now rival terror group. As far back as 2009, the AQAP issued a recruitment call to aid in establishing an Islamic caliphate in Yemen.

The call anticipated the departure of Saleh from power, and the opportunity was taken at his departure to create new institutions in Yemen toward the goal of the caliphate. Further distinguishing the two groups, AQAP maintains that consultation with respectable scholars and influential leaders in the Ummah are a sine qua non for the establishment of a supranational entity. For AQAP, this serves as a source of unity and legitimacy. It is also cited in the attempts to challenge the authority.

Iran’s Role

Iran is seeking of wider legitimacy speaks to the priority of alliances for AQAP, which has indeed demonstrated success in gathering more allies amongst tribal leaders in Yemen than ISIL. These alliances are largely based on a common interest to deter any advancement of the Houthis, rather than any shared ideals for the future political reorganization of Yemen. Therefore, it is difficult to assess how long these alliances may endure, but, without a better alternative, it is likely the tribes’ current cooperation with AQAP will remain in place as long as Houthi movement provides a need for it. This means AQAP is well positioned to expand its governing territory, at least for the duration of the Yemeni crisis. ISIL may also expand their influence in Yemen, but they are unlikely to be a major player in the crisis.

While the group loyal to al-Baghdadi is increasingly popular in the media, it has had limited success in Yemen. The group will need to be accounted for, however, in the aftermath of the war and during a possible peacemaking process. Both AQAP and ISIL have declared that the Houthis deserve to be killed, however, ISIL has far more extreme methods and are prone to terrorist acts, which deepen the sectarian rift.Each of these parties is operating, moreover, in a country with limited economic prospects. In addition to high unemployment, water and food shortages, oil exports are failing to produce enough revenue for the government, due to the fall in oil prices and declining oil production because of the conflict. This means that the nation is not and will not be economically self-sufficient in the near future. The crisis in Yemen has all of the necessary conditions of a conflict that will continue for many years to come. Pro-Hadi forces have had a few recent successes securing territory in the south, which has further boosted their capabilities, allowing an increase of weapons shipments, as well as military and humanitarian aid in the south.

Conflict’s Unclear Future

The mercurial dynamics of the Yemini conflict and the multiple possible pathways upon which it might develop make planning unclear. Various scenarios explore multiple probable trajectories, and the many stakeholders – both domestic and regional – prefer diverse and conflicting outcomes. What does seem unlikely is that an outcome will be left to the will and capabilities of any one party to determine the outcome alone.

The four scenarios below represent the four poles of possible outcomes that current stakeholders may have to accommodate in any possible solution. The scenarios are fluid and represent a spectrum of possible outcomes. The X-axis represents the stability of Yemen, with outcomes ranging between its two extremes: war and peace. The war extreme examines the possibility of protracted conflict, where the war in Yemen continues at its current level, or even worse, at a heightened level of violence. At the other end of the spectrum is a peaceful solution, which assumes a peaceful resolution to the crisis. While obviously the peaceful solution is desirable, it is important to note that a resolution does not assume positive peace or an imminent reconciliation.

On the contrary, considering that this is a near-term analysis, certain ungoverned territories or sporadic violence should be expected even in the most optimistic future. The Y-axis tackles the issue of integrity. It assumes a possible return to the process of solidifying a unified Yemen, on the one hand, or dividing the territory into two separates entities on the other. ‘Integration’ marks the preservation of the country’s existing borders, regardless of its level(s) of decentralization (e.g. federation), where the opposite extreme reflects the endemic lack of national cohesion and thus represents the possibility of dividing the country in two separate states/territories. Such a scenario includes the possibility of reverting back to the pre-1990 borders, or even an alternative re-drawing of the map.

Stability and integration are key factors for the future of the country. Stability as a criterion is an overarching theme, vital for enabling further discussion on political, economic, and social issues. In other words, depending on the stability of the country and whether there is war or peace in Yemen, different policies should be applied. Integration on the other hand, provides a lens through which to examine key political developments that are equally unpredictable. Ultimately, having one or two countries on Yemen’s current territory would completely change the political landscape, and consequently, the strategies employed to reach a peaceful resolution. Understanding how these two factors combine helps complete the possible pictures of Yemen over the next few years.

Fluid Control and Power

A first scenario, based on Yemen’s current dynamics, plots a possible future for the country along the ‘development’ of the status quo. In this scenario, the country remains undivided as a political unit, but the war is unceasing and offensive operations are continuously being launched. Consequently, different parties gain or lose control of territory based on successful military/insurgent advances. This makes a map of territorial control one that constantly morphs, even within short time intervals. Such a future remains very much like today’s Yemen, where ongoing lashes between the Houthis and pro-Hadi insurgents in large cities like Aden and Taiz have given mixed results for each side. Earlier in the year the Houthis had managed to quickly gain a large territory in their quest to capture Aden, and it was then that they also overtook the al-Anad Air Base in Lahij. With the recent success of the popular resistance troops and Hadi’s supporters in retaking much of that same area, it is also possible that a further Houthi retreat may follow. A similar situation is seen in the battle for Taiz, the battle over which could go on for any length of time.

Warring Territories of Yemen

A second scenario posits that a certain level of war fatigue on the ground will result in a divided Yemeni territory, to be controlled by different groups. War-weariness may not be enough for the warring parties to conclude a peace process and may instead only serve to limit the conflict to the frontlines. A war-weary end to hostilities would simply entrench parties in their positions and focus each on defending areas under their control. The Houthis would then likely control the northern part of current-day Yemen, while the forces loyal to the regime in exile (which would likely return to Yemen under these conditions) could successfully defend the southern and central areas of the country.

Although still divided on how the future political map of Yemen should look, Hadi loyalists and the Southern Resistance (Hirak) are likely to keep a fragile and to a degree united front in the fight against their common enemy. Small areas of ungoverned territory may also exist in the current al-Qaeda controlled areas, with neither party willing or able to conquer the other territories. Under this outcome, the conflict would be expected to manifest through clashes alongthe frontlines, but sporadic terrorist attacks beyond these areas could not be ruled out. Military operations from regional state actors would also likely continue. However, without the ground support of Hadi’s loyalists, the air campaign would likely produce limited results.So far, success in regaining control of territory from the Houthis has been in areas in the south where the Houthi movement does not have massive support. It will be increasingly difficult to repeat these territorial gains in the north, which are areas of Houthi strongholds. This is, why the battle may be limited to the frontlines and over time a de facto disintegrated country could be created, as no institution has authority over the full territory.

Two Yemens

If violence is halted, the future of Yemen will be decided by the largest and most relevant parties in the country, in conjunction with help from the international community. One possible outcome in this direction would be for the negotiators to acknowledge that a Westphalian nation-state is impossible on this territory, and instead conclude an agreement to divide Yemen. This will not be a quick or easy process, but it has significant support in the county, especially in the south. The Popular Committees in the south and Hadi’s army fighting against the Zaidi Shia Islamist group there neither belong to a single tribe nor share a common strategic objective – just a common enemy. Clashes in mid-July – when control over Aden was claimed back from the Houthis – represented for some fighters the liberation of the nation’s second largest city. For the members of the region’s separatist movement, it was a liberation of their old (and possibly future) capital. For Saudi Arabia, this means having in what would become Northern Yemen, a neighbor that is no friend of theirs, and another, Southern Yemen, which will inherit the AQAP problem.

Reconciliation and Coexistence

While currently ineffective, peace negotiations may eventually lead toward a permanent cease-fire and a deal that will preserve the unity of Yemen. This could come to pass in one of two ways. First, as the result of an effective and creative diplomacy, or second, because of the success of Operation Restoring Hope, which seeks to put President Hadiin charge of Yemen and the surrender of the Houthi movement and Saleh’s forces. Whatever means peace talks may emerge, however, the years to follow are sure to be difficult.

Conclusion

One way the road to stability could be eased, is through a possible rebirth of the Peace and National Partnership Agreement, or PNPA 2.0. This agreement, or a new form following similar lines, could revive internal political dialogue in the country. A successful agreement would mean that post conflict institutions would have to be agreed upon, and integration of different demographic groups would be expected to take place at various levels in the government. While a clear step forward, a PNPA 2.0 would merely begin the process of reconciliation and give hope for a prolonged stability. An international peacekeeping mission might also be necessary to keep the terms of any agreement in its in initial phases, as a united and relatively stable Yemen could slowly rebuild as a federal system.

However, since the terrorist organizations operating in the country will certainly not be part of the negotiations process, and not seen as a possible actor that could be integrated into the reconstructed national institutions, they will likely remain a problem for the next government of Yemen as well as the international sponsors of the peace process.

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Thwarting Iranian Influence is Key to Iraq’s Security

Saad Khoury

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The mass uprisings in Iraq over the past several months have many factors in common, the most salient of which include ordinary citizens decrying economic hardship and rampant corruption among the ruling elite. With that agenda in mind, protesters seek to weaken the grip of the Iranian regime that has entrenched itself in Baghdad’s political and economic affairs.  

How Far is Iran’s Reach in Iraq?

While the 2011 Arab Spring reacted to similar events in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, and Yemen, recent uprisings in Lebanon and Iraq are distinguished by Iran’s dominance over economic and political relations there.

As Iran’s closest Arab neighbor and home to the Arab world’s largest Shi’a population, no country in the “Shi’a crescent” feels Iran’s influence more profoundly than Iraq. Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, then Iran’s main rival in the region, Tehran has sought to exploit the years of marginalization felt by Iraqi Shi’a’s in order to empower them. Many exiled Iraqi’s who sought refuge in Iran during Saddam’s rule returned after his fall to take up positions of authority in light of the power vacuum left by the US invasion

Many of these Iraqis, once in exile, have become the leading power brokers in Iraq, many of whom have expressed a keen willingness to follow the political roadmap laid out by their former benefactors and protectors in Tehran.

Nonetheless, the overbearing weight of these Iranian backed actors in Iraq has led to economic ruin in the country. Faced with high youth unemployment, high inflation, and a lack of essential services, Iraqi are growing tired of Tehran calling the shots in their country. To add insult to injury these Iranian proxies have relentlessly employed harsh crackdowns to retain their influence, wealth, and control within both private and public spheres. This authoritarian dominance also prevents the Gulf States, Iran’s regional rival, from providing Iraq with crucial investment opportunities. 

Iranian Influence Supersedes Ethnicity and Religion In Iraq

In Iraq, a fragile balance of power has seen institutions parceled out to various corrupt ethnic and religious elites. 

This endless and brazen cycle of placing Iran-backed politicians in power to represent the Iraqi people is holding Iraq back from progress and prosperity. In this realm, it isn’t religion, ethnicity, or background that bring Iranian puppets together. It’s their mutual understanding that they need each other and Tehran’s backing if they want to continue to gain wealth and maintain the status quo they have built. 

The converse is also true. Opposition to Iran is not drawn on sectarian lines, but rather, large swathes of the country’s Sunni and Shi’a population are taking to the streets to call for an end to Iranian interference. 

How can Iraq Reclaim its Sovereignty

Protesters in Iraq have only recently transcended fault lines to form a united front. Regardless of ethnicity, religion, or social background, protesters are united to overturn their country’s Iranian backed elites that have been siphoning out money and resources, while placing an inexorable toll on the economy in the process.

In response to these massive protests, Iranian-back proxies in Iraq have cracked down mercilessly against protesters, with up to 600 demonstrators being killed since the movements began. 

Moreover, the death of General Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s most senior military commander and al-Muhandis, the head of the powerful pro-Iran Iraqi Popular Mobilization forces, has been a big blow to Iranian operations in Iraq. 

With the loss of its two most prominent actors in the Iraqi theatre, Iran’s puppeteers are scrambling to fill the power vacuum. Though they have decided to confer their confidence in Muqtada Al-Sadr and Al-Amiri Hadi temporarily, Tehran’s influence is beginning to show cracks as attempts to unite a fractured support network are proving futile. 

In tune with protestors’ calls to reject Iran, Iraq’s pro-sovereignty opposition groups are growing in popularity. Anti-Iranian and nationalist messaging from groups like the National Wisdom Movement and the National Independent Iraqi Front resonate strongly with demonstrators who decry the economic stagnation caused by Iran’s impact on their country’s politics. 

Taking advantage of the blow dealt with Iran through Sulemani’s death to end the confessional system in Iraq will be crucial for the success of the Iraqi protest movement. Though it is too early to tell if these protesters can flush out Iran’s deep-rooted influence in Iraq entirely, supporting genuine pro-sovereignty Iraqi leaders will leverage their initiatives. These leaders, and the protests movements they represent, are exposing cracks in Iraq’s circles of power as they stand resilient in the face of increasingly violent crackdowns. 

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