Let us analyze Iran’s current demographics, which – as happens everywhere – is at the basis of the labor force complexion and of the public investment volume, as well as productivity and private spending.
During the first years of Islamic revolution, soon after the advent of the regime, there was a 2.5 million increase in births. In the 2000s, the annual increase of newborns was only one million approximately, while currently there is a phase of further reduction in births.
There is also migration – another decisive factor in demographics – which, as already noted, is always at the basis of every country’s economic structure.
According to the 2016 population survey, the latest effective one carried out by the ayatollah regime, as many as 1.8 million Iranians -i.e. 2.2% of the current 82.407 million people – are of foreign origin.
Hence the presence of a wide share of young or very young people.
As can be easily inferred, this leads to a high rate of unemployment and youth unemployment, in particular.
As often happened in the past, there is also the regimes’ tendency to push the excess of working age population out of the country, also by means of war.
Considering the official data of September-October 2018, in the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran the average unemployment rate is 12.2%.
According to the latest data, however, women’s unemployment rate is already equal to 19.8%, while the unofficial statistics of real unemployment among young people alone was 28.40% in the first quarter of 2018, with regional peaks of 35% and even 38% in some peripheral areas.
Another secondary, but inevitable effect of youth unemployment is the brain drain, as a result of which every year 150,000-180,000 graduates leave Iran.
A hidden tax that deprives Iran of 50 billion tax revenue, in addition to the loss of public (and family) costs for higher education.
Nevertheless, after 2015 – the year of the JCPOA with P5 + 1, i.e. China, France, the Russian Federation, Great Britain and the United States, as well as Germany’s participation – there was a significant economic growth that, however, did not facilitate Iran’s access to Iranian capital and assets which had been frozen due to sanctions.
Iran’s total frozen assets are still between 100 and 124 billion US dollars, with approximately 50 billion dollars which have recently been refrozen in the United States alone.
Hence the sanction phase has been characterized by a real collapse of the Iranian economy.
From a GDP growing by a yearly 6% in 2010, in 2015 – exactly the year in which the JCPOA was signed – Iran certified a mere 1.5% GDP increase.
In 2016, as a result of the lifting of some sanctions against it, the GDP grew by 12.5% and by over 4% in 2017.
Hence a record growth in 2016 – due to the JCPOA -but later considerable growth rates were still recorded, certainly higher than the miserable growth rates of the European GDP in those same years.
Before the US unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, international banks had also predicted a 4.8% increase of Iranian GDP in 2018.
The current rate is instead 1.8%.
Sanctions, especially those regarding currency, always reach the target.
Currently, however, the US unilateral sanctions do not excessively affect Iran’s military system, which is mainly based on domestic technologies and patents and does not fear to be significantly damaged by the embargo and sanctions against it.
Nevertheless, since the announcement of the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal last July, the value of the Iranian currency has halved. So far the riyal has even lost 80% of its value as against the dollar.
Moreover, due to some natural disasters, Iran is currently forced to import much food from abroad, just now that its currency is worth ever less.
Moreover, as always happens, the great devaluation has led to high inflation: currently the Iranian inflation rate is realistically about 24%, while the Iranian government reports a 10.2% rate.
Iran has still approximately 90 billion US dollars of reserves, with the extraction of 3.79 million barrels / day (data of June 2018), but production will certainly decrease, considering the new partial sanctions imposed by the USA.
To the delight of Saudi Arabia, above all, whose crude oil production has a direct inverse correlation with Iran’s.
At strategic and military levels, if Iran wants to organize a war action, its first step will be the Strait of Hormuz.
Over 30% of the maritime oil traffic transits through this waterway (i.e. 18.5 million barrels / day),considering that it is the most used route by all the Arab exporting countries.
Nevertheless, the Strait of Hormuz which, at its narrowest, has a width of 33 miles, is also the waterway used for most Iranian oil exports. This significantly limits the possibility of a generalized block of the Strait of Hormuz, not to mention the fact that the headquarters of the US Firth Fleet is at short distance from Manama, the capital of Bahrain.
Obviously the only relatively credible threat of blocking the Strait of Hormuz is enough to make the oil barrel price rise significantly – and therefore this is what really matters.
Hence there is a direct link between the pursuit of the Iranian natural strategic goals and the increasingly difficult situation in Iran, subject to new and certainly not negligible unilateral US sanctions.
The more Iran wants, the more it will be punished on the markets and in the international geopolitical system.
Both the current US sanctions of last November and those imposed before the JCPOA, regard precious metals, the acquisition of US banknotes, or of technologies directly or indirectly linked to oil extraction or weapon manufacturing, as well as to the operations of oil transport and storage.
Obviously all payments to Iranian institutions or individuals cannot be made through US banks.
Hence, while a direct confrontation between Iran and the United States is currently unlikely, tension between the two countries is still conceivable – an escalation that also implies, at certain stages, war or semi-war operations.
A further variable of this scenario is Iran’s use of indirect or “hybrid war” strategies in the areas near Hormuz, or in any Middle East region where Shiites or the Iranian Armed Forces – above all, the Pasdaran – can start a war of attrition with the typical methods of hybrid war, guerrilla warfare, proxy war or strategic friction.
In particular, the ships of the Arab countries which are Iran’s “enemies” will be attacked by Iran in various ways, even without the possibility of identifying the attackers.
It is a highly likely scenario, but only if the Shiite republic feels to be encircled or under attack by Israel, the USA or the Middle East Sunni powers.
In fact, the Yemeni Houthi rebels have already attacked Saudi Aramco ships, during their crossing of Bab el-Mandeb Strait. If Saudi Arabia responded in the same way, this would give rise to a “small war” in the Strait, which is precisely what Iran wants, without ever directly creating the opportunity.
Approximately 5 million barrels / day transit through Bab el-Mandeb Strait to the Mediterranean, and the other way round.
Hitting these routes, without direct actions by the Guardians of the Revolution or by the less trusted Artesh, could be a possible option for Iran.
In so doing, however, Iran would antagonize Europe which, indeed, count for nothing strategically and militarily – but this could set a precedent for a US military action, with or without its regional allies.
Hence if we put in place a series of international financial, political and military pressures, we can think that – in the future – the USA can sit back to the negotiating table with Iran.
Currently, it seems that the United States is leaving the Iranian affair to Saudi Arabia and Israel – but probably it will not be enough.
Hence, according to the basic ideas of Iran’s current leadership in power, the negative reaction to the growth of Iran’s power does not depend on its threatening nature, but on the fear for the growth of a new Middle East actor, namely Iran.
Therefore, again according to the Iranian ruling class, only by pursuing the goals of Iran’s great autonomy and of an evident and significant power projection, will it be possible – in the future – to have an acceptable level of security for Iran and a good level of geoeconomic stability.
The Iranian leaders’ strategic-military theory, however, places both conventional and unconventional threats on an equal footing.
Nevertheless, according to Iran’s leadership, Iran’s expansion is related to the mere security and stability of the country and has exactly no expansionist aims.
This is what Iran’s leaders maintain. But how can peaceful expansion of commercial networks and routes be pursued if currently Iran has to move between potential or overt enemies?
Hence, as the Iranian leaders maintain, if their economy is further put in crisis, the Iranian government will start bilateral or trilateral negotiations with its neighbouring countries, thus creating transport, financial and commercial networks, besides the stable exchange of labor force, national currencies, goods and services.
The Iranian leaders think that, in this vast region, their country could arrange its new economic development, outside the framework of relations with the USA and, possibly, with the weak EU.
In other and even much clearer words: railways, roads, trade and IT networks between Iran and the Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.
This is one of the implications of the decisive role played by Iran in the Syrian war.
In terms of national defense, the Iranian Shiite leaders believe that the most important course of action in this sector is the establishment of excellent relations with the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, while a Saudi-Turkish axis is also emerging in the Iranian decision-makers’ minds.
A new Turkish-Iranian axis organized by the Russian Federation, leading to peace between Iran and Turkey – peace that regards Syria which, however, in the Turkish leaders’ view, could lead to a financial and oil alliance between the two countries, an alliance to which Russia would not be alien.
Furthermore, according to the Iranian leaders, the fight against Daesh-Isis was an operation to make Iran’s borders safe, especially with the Pasdaran’s interventions in Syria and Iraq.
The other strategic project pursued by the Iranian leaders is a stable and strong alliance with the Russian Federation.
From Iran’s viewpoint, all its recent military operations – even using the new scenario created by the “Arab springs” – have exploited the chaos spread by ISIS, for example in Iraq, with a view to creating a stable corridor between the Iranian territory and some Iraqi areas, exactly as it is happening in Syria in the new green line between Iran and Hezbollah’s Lebanon.
A geopolitics of “corridors”, which are at first military and then economic corridors.
Assad is therefore crucial for all Iranian projects, since he can link Iran with the Mediterranean.
With possible threats, especially asymmetric ones, by Iran, which could be launched from the Lebanese coast not only against the “traditional” opponents (Israel and the USA, of course), but also against the whole transit of goods to the Southern coasts of the EU which, obviously, has not yet realized it.
There will be Iranian naval bases on the Lebanese coast in the future.
Hence, within all this conceptual mechanism, we can see Iran’s current and future choices in the field of military and foreign policy:
1) increase of commercial ties with the countries bordering on the Shiite republic, through agreements including monetary, export, labour and financial support arrangements to leave the dollar area, as China and Russia do;
2) use of these relations for creating an “external circle” useful for Iran’s defense, with obvious needs to use remote positions for missiles and for anti-aircraft artillery, with the future establishment of a sort of “Shiite NATO”, which could be linked to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO);
3) creation of a balance between the loss of Iranian positions in the US market and the opening up of new opportunities in the European and Middle East markets, with the Iranian economic expansion to Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan;
4) future expansion of proxy wars in Yemen and, possibly, also in Saudi Arabia, possibly with an Iranian “seduction” operation vis-à-vis Manama and other Gulf Emirates, obviously in addition to further strengthening the link between Iran and Qatar;
5) probable direct threat to Israel, through Hezbollah, so as to verify the Israeli relations with European countries and the USA. The basic question of Iranian leaders is always the same: will Europeans, or even Americans, be willing to “die for Jerusalem”?
6) Planned mounting of tension in Bab el-Mandeb Strait, but with short demonstrative actions, of which Iran itself will be the first to observe their impact on the oil market and on the military structure of the Middle East;
7) Iran’s probable future creation of a sort of “Shiite common market”, but also open to other Sunni countries, which – however – will go along Khomeini’s traditional policy line: to expand the “revolutionary” Iran in the Central Asian axis, by unifying many countries having Shia minorities, such as Uzbekistan, the Hazarasin Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and the Shia minorities in Pakistan, to which Iran could ensure social peace. A possible future strategy for Iran will be strengthening Shiite minorities so as to later deal with their Sunni governments.
Hence, many signals will be sent to us by Iran in the coming months and years.
Israel-Palestine Conflict Enters into Dangerous Zone
Since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in mid-April 2021, tension has escalated, with frequent clashes between police and Palestinians. The threatened eviction of some Palestinian families in East Jerusalem has also caused rising anger. But when Israeli security forces entered and attacked the unarmed Muslim worshipers, damaged the property, and humiliated the families, the situation turned into conflict.
Since the irrational and illogical creation of the Jewish State in the middle of the Muslim World, the tension started and emerged into few full-fledged armed conflicts and wars like; 1948–49, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, and 2006 wars/ conflicts. Tensions are often high between Israel and Palestinians living in East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank. Gaza is ruled by a Palestinian group called Hamas, which has fought Israel many times. Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank complain that they’re suffering because of Zionists’ expansionist actions. Israel’s severe violations of human rights and extreme atrocities against Palestinians left Palestinians with no option other than protest and agitate. But Israel suppresses them and uses all dirty tricks to keep them silent.
It is worth mentioning that the United Nations Security Council has passed several resolutions to settle the Israel-Palestine issue peacefully. But Israel has not implemented either of them and kept using force to push them out and settle Jews in their land.
The State of Israel has been enjoying undue supported by the US, irrespective of who is president, but all of them support Israel unconditionally. Israel is the most favored nation of the US and the largest beneficiary of American aid, assistance, and support.
Ex-President Donald Trump helped Israel establish diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco. Donald Trump favored Netanyahu, dramatically moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. His daughter and son-in-law were the facilitators for his support to Israel.
Till last news, at least 56 Palestinians have died under an array of aerial bombardments of the Gaza Strip. Five Israelis were killed too. Rockets, bullets, and rocks are flying around Israel and the Palestinian territories with catastrophic intensity in the latest wave of violence that periodically marks the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Palestinian protesters run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli security forces amid clashes at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound on May 10, 2021, ahead of a planned march to commemorate Israel’s takeover of Jerusalem in 1967 Six-Day War. Security forces have set on fire the centuries-old holy Mosque. Serious communal violence has broken out within Israel between Arab citizens and Jews. Fires were lit, a synagogue burned, a Muslim cemetery trashed, police cars set aflame, and an Arab-Israeli man killed. The mayor of Lod termed it a “civil war.”
The ferocity of the fast-escalating conflict might be extremely dangerous as Israel uses hi-tech, advanced, lethal weapons. A week ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed close to losing power after the climax of four inconclusive elections. The outbreak of hostilities has allowed him the opportunity to make his latest appearance as a tough guy and ended coalition talks by rival politicians. He might politicize the conflict in his favor.
There is a severe danger of spreading this conflict to a large-scale war, which might engulf the regional countries. There already exists tension among Israel and few regional powers. The recent Israeli attacks on Russian bases in Syrian may also widen the conflict.
Any war in the middle-East will have dire consequences globally. It is appealed to the UN and all peace-loving nations and individuals to speed up all-out efforts to stop the conflict at this initial stage and avert further bloodshed. It is demanded that the Israel-Palestine issue must be settled according to the resolutions passed by UNSC. Wish immediate peace, sustainable peace, and permanent peace in the Middle East and globally.
Why the West Want to Stop Iran Becoming a Nuclear Power?
Iran is a regional powerhouse in the Middle East only rivals Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey. The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran is centuries old in terms of sectarian differences of Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. The thousand year of schism of Islam presents in the Middle East. Moreover, the Islamic Revolution made Iran a fundamentalist impulsive state hostile to the West and Sunni neighbors. Iran is trying to be a nuclear power since 2007 following the great powers and other nuclear states. Iran has always interpreted its nuclear ambition as only to acquire energy and always express against use it as weapon. But this is not true at all as it is going to acquire it to show power against the rival Saudi Arab, the West and USA. There are convictions that the Western Powers let India, Pakistan and Israel to be a nuclear power but they are now against Iran. But this is not the case as several Reasons are behind to stop Iran to be a nuclear power.
Firstly, if Iran becomes a nuclear power, it will simply emerge as the sole regional superpower in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, the ally of the West will not be a match for Iran. The Middle Eastern ‘balance of power’ will not be maintained. This will lead to very severe repercussions and the chance of maintaining future ‘balance of power’ in the reason will be in disarray. As a result, Saudi Arabia will want to acquire nuclear weapon to counter Iran in the region. As Saudi Arabia has money, either it can acquire nuclear weapon by researching or to buy weapons or technology from Pakistan.
From 1990s, Pakistan is selling nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea. As the economy of Pakistan is in great disarray, it might sell its nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia for billons of dollar. Turkey might try to acquire nuclear weapon to counter Saudi Arabia and the Egypt will want to acquire nuclear weapon to counter Turkey. It will start a sick competition in the Middle East to acquire the nuclear weapons which later may spread throughout the world. The efforts of Nuclear Proliferation will be null and void in a decade.
Another problem will arise if Iran becomes a nuclear power in terms of the failure of calculating nuclear deterrence. It is not unknown that USA acquired nuclear power first, then USSR acquired to counter or balance the power of USA, then it was the beginning of arms race. India acquired nuclear weapon to balance China in the region after the loss of 1962 war. Pakistan countered Indian nuclear power as it is unable to fight and win a war against a mighty power like India. Western powers primarily imposed sanctions on them but later withdrew. But if Iran acquired it, the nuclear deterrence or the calculation of nuclear war threats will be complicated. Who will counter who, who will attack who the probability or the calculation of the probability will be huge. There will be miscalculations and chances of total devastating war will be huge. Nuclear power Israel might attack Iran as preemptive action. In this indicating situation, Waltzs’ nuclear deterrence does not work.
Secondly, Iranian world view and ideology does not support the idea of Westphalia world order. The leaders of Iran and its revolution including Ayatollah Khomeini declared in 2013, they want to unite the believers (Muslim Ummah); they want to vanquish the dominance of the Western powers, USA and its allies. Iran is now influenced by Radical Islamist Syed Qutb according to Henry Kissinger, and working both with Shiite and Sunni Radical organization. According to Kissinger, Iran has connection to Al-Qaeda and Taliban as they armed them. Iranian leadership thinks that they are on a Holy War (Jihad) against the unbelievers and these ideas are making the nuclear program even threatening. If Iran has nuclear weapon, can be in the hands of terrorist organizations or the radical and impulsive leadership might be threat to the nearby states, US allies, Russia, China or Israel. Any impulsive leadership can use it to wipe out the unbelievers in fighting a Jihad. Even they can use the nuclear arms as bargaining chip with the West or neighboring countries as North Korea did.
Thirdly, Iran already has its own nuclear delivery system and missile technologies. This made Iran a more ready nuclear power than previous nuclear powers like India and Pakistan, have been. So the only way to inhibit the nuclear capability of Iran is to reduce its capability to enrich Uranium. Iran has thousands of Uranium centrifuges and they wanted to reduce capacity of the half of the centrifuge to only 5 percent Uranium. According to Iran they will not enrich Uranium to 20 percent. This 20 percent Uranium is not important as 5 percent Uranium as this 5 percent Uranium is the threshold from where in a few months Iran can produce weapon category Uranium which make Iran as more unreliable.
In 2015 Iran signed Joined Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a nuclear treaty with the five members of United Nations Security Council (P5) plus Germany which is called P5+1. As a result sanctions were withdrawn from Iran by the West. Ex-President Donald Trump declared withdrawal from the deal in 2018 and imposed the sections on Iran. Iran in 2019, Iran breached the limit set on the deal and IAEA confirmed it. After the Baghdad Airstrike killed Qasem Solaimani, Iran wanted to increase its nuclear capability. The good news is, in December 2020, America desired to rejoin the deal, and the new Biden administration is working on it.
Iran is a pivotal country in the Middle East. Anything Iran does may echo in the region. Middle East is already a complicated region with a lot of conflict and potential problematic issues. To sustain peace in the region including the balance of power, world powers are working on it. Time will tell how fruitful the initiatives are. The West must ensure that Iran respect and be a part of the Westphalia order which is a good start.
Escalation of violence in Jerusalem
According to some analysts, a clause of the Emirates-Bahrain and Israel agreements opens the door to the prayers of Jews in the sacred place
On the afternoon of May 10, the Al-Qassem brigade in Gaza gave an ultimatum to the Israeli occupiers to leave the Al-Aqsa complex and release the prisoners. An hour later, missiles were fired from Gaza towards Jerusalem. An anti-tank missile was fired at an Israeli army jeep near the Gaza border. Subsequently, other volleys of missiles were fired by other resistance groups at targets near Gaza.
The Israeli military canceled the start of a large-scale maneuver it had planned to carry out over the next 30 days. That move was seen as a preparation for an all-out attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon. Yesterday Hezbollah announced a general mobilization of its forces to deter a potential surprise attack. Israeli troops are now on alert for potential escalation within Israel and Gaza. After four elections, Israel still does not have a new government. Prime Minister Netanyahu is on trial for corruption. A broader war that can turn into a victory could help him avoid judgment and get votes in the next election. According to Jewish tradition, the ancient Jewish temple was located exactly where the Al-Aqsa mosque is now located. The Zionist movement aspires to rebuild the third temple, but in order to do so they must first remove the mosque.
According to an investigation by Terrestrial Jerusalem (TJ) an Israeli non-governmental organization, the claims contained in the normalization agreements between the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Israel (known as the “Abraham Accords”) mark a “radical change in the status quo and have far-reaching and potentially explosive consequences ”. The violence that is taking place these days depends on those agreements.
According to the status quo established in 1967, only Muslims are allowed to pray on al-Haram al-Sharif [the Noble Shrine in Arabic, i.e. the Temple Mount], Temple Mount, according to the Jews, also known as the Al mosque complex Al-Aqsa. Non-Muslims can visit the site, but not pray. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, confirmed this status quo in a formal statement in 2015. However, a clause included in the recent agreements between Israel and the Gulf states indicates that this may no longer be the case. According to the joint statement between the US, Israel and the UAE issued on August 13, 2020, by US President Donald Trump: “As set forth in the Vision for Peace, all Muslims who come in peace may visit and pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque, and Jerusalem’s other holy sites should remain open for peaceful worshippers of all faiths”.
But Israel defines Al-Aqsa as a ‘mosque structure’, as in the statement, clarifies TJ’s report: “…according to Israel (and apparently to the United States), anything on the Mount that is not the structure of the mosque is defined as ‘one of Jerusalem’s other holy sites’, and open to prayer by all–including Jews”, says the statement.
“Consequently, this choice of terminology is neither random nor a misstep, and cannot seen as anything but an intentional, albeit surreptitious attempt to leave the door wide open to Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, thereby radically changing the status quo”.
The same statement was repeated in the agreement with Bahrain.Palestinians have long been concerned about possible attempts to partition the holy mosque, as happened with the Ibrahimi mosque [Tomb of the Patriarchs for Jews] in Hebron.
A Temple Movement has developed over the years, consisting largely of “far-right nationalist religious Jews seeking to change the status quo” reports TJ. Some ask for prayer for the Jews inside the sacred complex, while others aim to build the Third Temple on the ruins of the Dome of the Rock which, according to Messianic prophecies, would announce the coming of the Messiah.
Over the years, the Israeli NGO Ir Amim has published numerous reports of this once marginal group, but which is now part of a dominant political and religious trend and enjoys close ties with the Israeli authorities.
These activists believe that allowing Jews to pray as a whole and divide the sacred site between Muslims and Jews is a step towards sovereignty, to one day achieve their ultimate goal, the construction of the temple.
A more brazen statement was included in the “deal of the century”, the plan for the Middle East unveiled in late January 2020 by Trump and Netanyahu in the White House.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, was the most prominent person working on the proposal, while Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the US, was credited with formulating the agreement.
The plan stipulates that “the status quo of the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif should remain unaffected”, but the next sentence also says that “people of all faiths can pray on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif”.
The clause caused controversy and prompted David Friedman, US Ambassador to Israel, to retrace his steps during his press meeting on January 28, 2020. “There is nothing in the plan that would impose any alteration of the status quo that is not subject to agreement of all the parties”, he said.
Friedman’s quick retraction of the sentence contained in Trump’s plan attests that Dermer probably inserted it and that Kushner did not understand it. The fact that it was Friedman who retracted and not the White House also means that the language of Trump’s plan is still official and decisive when it comes down to it.
The normalization agreements come after the Israeli authorities installed loudspeakers on the east and west sides of the Al-Aqsa complex without the permission of the Waqf (Islamic institution).
The sacred complex is administered by the Islamic Waqf based in Jordan. According to the status quo, Israel is only responsible for security outside the gates. In his report, TJ notes that the agreement does not mention the Waqf and its autonomous role.
Meanwhile, Israel has killed 20 Palestinians in Gaza and injured hundreds in Jerusalem as tensions in Al-Aqsa flare up.
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