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Why Regime Change in Iran is dangerous for America and its allies

Vugar Bakhshalizada

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Iran is in a deep social and economic crisis. Despite its foreign policy successes in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, the Iranian regime has failed its citizens at home. Since December, 2017, the people in Iran took to the streets to protest the economic situation, corruption, nepotism, mismanagement and democratic deficit in the country. From that time on, the protests have been taking place on a weekly, if not daily, basis with protesters chanting slogans like “Death to Khamenei”, “Let go off the country” etc.  Amid nation-wide protests in Iran, the Trump administration on 8 May withdrew the US from JCPOA, a deal which allegedly prevented Iran from developing nuclear weapons in return for easing sanctions regime on the country. By withdrawing from the deal, the US brought back the sanctions and started what it called “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran. While the current economic crisis is largely Iran’s own making, the re-imposition of US sanctions by the Trump administration has hugely worsened the situation. Since then, Iranian currency, the rial, has lost more than 70% of its value, inflation skyrocketed over a night, and purchasing power of Iranians has been continuously diminishing. All this increased internal pressure on the Ayatollahs. It is justifiably believed that the regime is now much more vulnerable to an internal pressure than ever before, which may ultimately dethrone the theocratic government.

Amid rising tensions between Washington and Tehran, the Trump administration held a conference in Warsaw, Polish capital. The conference is said to be aimed at “changing Iran’s behavior” in the Middle East, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put it mildly. Despite American denials, the US is currently pursuing a “regime change” in Iran, and Warsaw Conference was a part of this policy to build an anti-Iran Coalition that consolidates the impression that the world is lining up behind Trump’s hardline approach to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Although the Trump administration was correct to withdraw from the Iran deal, which did never address the threat Iran’s growing ballistic missile arsenal poses on the regional and global security, and start its “maximum pressure” campaign on the Islamic Republic, which is obviously aggressive and malign actor in the Middle East, the regime change policy would not be a wise policy to employ in order to successfully contain and confront Iran. There are certain reasons for the US to not pursue a dangerous regime change in Iran.

Firstly, the peace is too fragile in Iran. If the regime falls, it is highly likely that Iran without a strong central government will potentially end up in a protracted civil war. This will further destabilize not only Iran, but also the whole of the Middle East, which is definitely not in the very interest of either the US or its allies. Historical records show that when the central government weakens in Iran, the periphery of the country tries to gain more autonomy and even independence. In its turn, this causes more bloodshed and destabilization in the country. Among others, the Kurds are the most likely minority that will take up arms in the event of a massive disobedience in Iran. The Kurds, led by the founder of Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran – Qazi Muhammad, established the Mahabad Republic in 1946 with the help of Soviet Union. So, there is no reason for them to not try doing the same again when the circumstances allow them. The Beluchis, the Iranian Turks and others will follow the suit, which will make Iran falling into a pure Hobbesian state of anarchy. From both ethical and strategic perspectives, watching Iran sliding into a devastating civil war is definitely not in the interests of the West.

Second reason is that if Iran gets destabilized and slides into a civil war, the massive amount of Iranians will possibly try to flee the country. Since European Union is the most likely destination for them, the new wave of millions of refugees will knock the doors of the EU via Turkey, who are already burdened by the inflow of millions of Syrian refugees. Considering the rise of far-right and mostly pro-Russian parties throughout Europe, the influx of millions of refugees would certainly face a backlash from the populace and empower illiberal parties in Europe. Furthermore, Turkey, which is a strategically important NATO ally, would be destabilized, too. Turkey currently hosts about 4 millions of Syrian refugees. However, the public has been increasingly hostile towards the refugees, resulting in clashes between the locals and Syrians from time to time. Moreover, Iran prevents Afghan refugees from reaching Europe as well. Therefore, if it falls, not only Iranians, but also Afghans will easily reach Europe. Considering the fact that the civil war in Syria with its 26 million population shook the EU, a new civil war in Iran with its 80 million population would completely change political landscape of Europe. In this sense, the destabilization of Iran benefits neither the US nor its vital allies in Europe.

Thirdly, Iran may turn to be a launching pad for radicalized Shias, who will blame the West and Sunni Gulf Monarchies for the fall of Islamic Republic. For this matter, they will want to take revenge. Considering the fact that Iran has the largest arsenal of ballistic and cruise missiles in the Middle East, these missiles could easily fall into the hands of highly radicalized Shia militias and terrorists, who would be eager to take a revenge from the West. This would immediately put the US, Europe and American allies in the Middle East at a serious risk. Historical records show that this has a high possibility to happen. For example, after the ouster of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the country turned to be safe haven for Al-Qaida and other Salafi terrorists. In fact, it was the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 that led to the establishment of Islamic State of Iraq in 2006. Therefore, the US should be careful not to make the same mistake in Iran, which may lead to the establishment of Shia version of so-called “ISIS” in Iran.

In sum, to make things clear, Iran is a malign actor in the Middle East, and damaging Western interests any place, where it is possible. Therefore, it should be confronted and contained in order to make sure the Islamic Republic does not threaten American allies in the region and outside of it. Iran must also be prevented from gaining nuclear technology.  Furthermore, the US has a moral and strategic obligation to make sure that Iran, one of the main backers of murderous Assad regime, does not turn the Levant region into a Shia front to wage a full-fledged war on Israel and threaten its Jewish population with total annihilation. However, this should be done in a way that does not threaten America’s other allies in both Europe and the Middle East. Therefore, the US should fear a “regime change” in Iran rather than cheering it.

Vugar Bakhshalizada is a student of International Relations at ADA University, Azerbaijan. Mr. Bakhshalizada has been writing political commentaries, mostly covering Middle Eastern Events, at Jerusalem Post and numerous local media outlets in Azerbaijan. Furthermore, he is a defense industry enthusiast, writing different pieces about the developments in Turkish Defense Industry

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Middle East

US-Iran Tension: Avert any big disaster to humanity

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US-Iran tension is growing to a dangerous level. Irrespective of who is right and who is wrong, but everyone agrees that it is leading toward a big disaster. Human life and natural resources are at stake. Irrespective, who will suffer more and who will suffer less, but it is human life, which is the most precious thing in this world, is at stake.

Middle-East is an oil and gas-rich area and meets the major portion of world energy demand. Any disturbance in this region will have a severe impact on the global economy. Whether one is right or wrong, will be the victim of this crisis directly or indirectly.

This war will be not like the Iraq war or the Libya War. As at that time, there was only one superpower and the world was unipolar. There was no resistance from any corner of the world. US and allies, without any resistance, conducted the war and achieved their desired results. But a lot of resistance was witnessed in case of Syrian War. The whole scenario has been changed, the calculated results were not achieved yet. Finally, the US has decided to pull back its troops. Similarly, Afghanistan case is not ideal, after spending trillion dollars, and fighting for 17 years, not gains on the ground and finally has to pull back.

It may not be limited to only US-Iran but may engulf the whole region. As traditional rivals are waiting for an appropriate opportunity to settle their old disputes. Whether, it is Arab-Iran, or Israel-Iran, or Arab-Israel enmity, may it spread to a much wider sphere than expected. It is in control of a few countries to start or refrain the escalation, but once it has been broken, it may be beyond the control of either country.

Especially, Russia and China are not sleeping at this time. They are in a strong position to offer resistance. It should not be taken an easy task like Iraq or Libya war. It is difficult to predict the exact reaction of Russia or China, but anticipated resistance.

If we expect, US or Iran to avert this foreseeable war will be not a realistic approach. As if they were to avoid any disaster, they should not have created so hype and should not have moved to this stage. They may not accept total hegemony of the US in this part of the world. They have heavy stakes in the middle-East and cannot be spectators only.

Geopolitics has been changed, regional alliances have emerged, and nations have re-aligned themselves. Much more complex changes have been witnessed after the war on terror. Public awareness has been enhanced, maybe some of the governments in this region have a different outlook, but public opinion is much more realistic and may play a vital role in the days to come. Old time’s friends may stand on the other side of the table. Some radical changes may be visible on grounds.

UN role was ineffective in the past and a little is expected in the future. In fact, the UN has been hijacked and curtailed to a very limited role practically. While one of its major mandates was to resolve the disputes among nations and avoid wars or war-like situations.

Under this serious scenario, there is a hope that all peace-loving nations and individuals, may peruse the UN and International Community do something to avert this bid human disaster.  We all share one world, we have the responsibility to save this world. Any loss of human life in any part of the world is considered the loss to the whole of humanity. And the destruction of natural resources may be considered a loss to humanity. Any damage to Environment or ecology or biodiversity may be a net loss to humanity. We all are son and daughter of ADAM and share a common world, common environment, common resources. We need to protect humanity, environment and natural resources.

It is strongly appealed to the UN, International Community and all individuals who believe in Peace, must act, and must act now, and must act strongly, to avert any bid disaster to humanity.

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Middle East

Chinese purchases of Iranian oil raise tantalizing questions

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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A fully loaded Chinese oil tanker ploughing its way eastwards from two Iranian oil terminals raises questions of how far Beijing is willing to go in defying US sanctions amid a mounting US military build-up in the Gulf and a US-China trade war.

The sailing from Iran of the Pacific Bravo takes on added significance with US strategy likely to remain focused on economic rather than military strangulation of the Iranian leadership, despite the deployment to the Gulf of an aircraft carrier strike group as well as B-52 bombers and a Patriot surface-to-air missile system.

As President Donald J. Trump, backed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, appears to be signalling that he is not seeking military confrontation, his administration is reportedly considering a third round of sanctions that would focus on Iran’s petrochemical industry. The administration earlier this month sanctioned the country’s metals and minerals trade.

The sailing raises the question whether China is reversing its policy that led in the last quarter of 2018 to it dramatically reducing its trade with Iran, possibly in response to a recent breakdown in US-Chinese trade talks.

“The question is whether non-oil trade remains depressed even if some oil sales resume, which I think it will. That’s the better indicator of where Chinese risk appetite has changed. Unfortunately Iran‘s reprieve will be limited—but better than zero perhaps,” tweeted Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, head of Bourse & Bazaar, a self-described media and business diplomacy company and the founder of the Europe-Iran Forum.

A Chinese analyst interviewed by Al Jazeera argued that “China is not in a position to have Iran’s back… For China, its best to stay out” of the fray.

The stakes for China go beyond the troubled trade talks. In Canada, a senior executive of controversial Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei is fighting extradition to the United States on charges of violating US sanctions against Iran.

Reports that Western companies, including Kraft Heinz, Adidas and Gap, wittingly or unwittingly, were employing Turkic Muslims detained in re-education camps in China’s north-western province of Xinjiang, as part of opaque supply chains, could increase attention on a brutal crackdown that China is struggling to keep out of the limelight.

The Trump administration has repeatedly criticized the crackdown but has stopped short of sanctioning officials involved in the repressive measures.

Bourse & Bazaar’s disclosure of the sailing of the Pacific Bravo coincided with analysis showing that Iran was not among China’s top three investment targets in the Middle East even if Chinese investment in the region was on the rise.

The Pacific Bravo was steaming with its cargo officially toward Indonesia as Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was touring his country’s major oil clients, including China, in a bid to persuade them to ignore US sanctions.

A second tanker, the Marshal Z, was reported to have unloaded 130,000 tonnes of Iranian fuel oil into storage tanks near the Chinese city of Zhoushan.

The Marshall Z was one of four ships that, according to Reuters, allegedly helped Iran circumvent sanctions by using ship-to-ship transfers in January and forged documents that masked the cargoes as originating from Iraq.

The unloading put an end to a four-month odyssey at sea sparked by buyers’ reticence to touch a cargo that would put them in the US crosshairs.

“Somebody in China decided that the steep discount this cargo most likely availed … was a bargain too good to miss,” Matt Stanley, an oil broker at StarFuels in Dubai, told Reuters.

The Pacific Bravo, the first vessel to load Iranian oil since the Trump administration recently refused to extend sanction exemptions to eight countries, including China, was recently acquired by China’s Bank of Kunlun.

The acquisition and sailing suggested that Bank of Kunlun was reversing its decision last December to restrict its business with Iran to humanitarian trade, effectively excluding all other transactions.

The bank was the vehicle China used in the past for business with Iran because it had no exposure to the United States and as a result was not vulnerable to US sanctions that were in place prior to the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program.

China’s willingness to ignore, at least to some extent, US sanctions could also constitute an effort to persuade Iran to remain fully committed to the nuclear accord which it has so far upheld despite last year’s US withdrawal.

Iran recently warned Europe that it would reduce its compliance if Europe, which has struggled to create a credible vehicle that would allow non-US companies to circumvent the sanctions, failed to throw the Islamic republic an economic lifeline.

In a letter that was also sent to Russia and China, Iran said it was no longer committed to restrictions on the storage of enriched uranium and heavy water stocks, and could stop observing limits on uranium enrichment at a later stage.

Russian president Vladimir Putin warned in response to the Iranian threat that “as soon as Iran takes its first reciprocal steps and says that it is leaving, everyone will forget by tomorrow that the US was the initiator of this collapse. Iran will be held responsible, and the global public opinion will be intentionally changed in this direction.”

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Middle East

The Iran Question

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Will there be war with Iran?  Will there not be war with Iran?  The questions are being asked repeatedly in the media even though a single carrier task force is steaming up there.  The expression is old for the latest carriers are nuclear powered.  Imagine the mess if it was blown up.

There are two kinds of weapons in the world … offensive and defensive.  The latter are cheaper, a fighter plane compared to a bomber.  If a country does not (or cannot afford to) have offensive intent, it makes sense to focus on defense.  It is what Iran has done.  Moreover, its missile centered defense has a modern deadly twist — the missiles are precision-guided. 

As an Iranian general remarked when questioned about the carrier task force:  some years ago it would’ve been a threat he opined; now it’s a target.  Iran also has a large standing army of 350,000 plus a 120,000 strong Revolutionary Guard and Soviet style air defenses.  In 2016 Russia started installation of the S-300 system.  It has all kinds of variants, the most advanced, the S-300 PMU-3 has a range similar to the S-400 if equipped with 40N6E missiles, which are used also in the S-400.  Their range is 400 km, so the Iranian batteries are virtually S-400s.  The wily Putin has kept trump satisfied with the S-300 moniker without short-changing his and China’s strategic ally.  The latter continuing to buy Iranian oil.

Iran has friends in Europe also.  Angela Merkel in particular has pointed out that Iran has complied fully with the nuclear provisions of the UN Security Council backed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action i.e. the Iran nuclear deal.  She is mustering the major European powers.  Already alienated with Trump treating them as adversaries rather than friends, they find Trump’s bullying tiresome.  President Macron, his poll ratings hitting the lowest, is hardly likely to engage in Trump’s venture.  In Britain, Theresa May is barely able to hold on to her job.  In the latest thrust by senior members of her party, she has been asked to name the day she steps down.

So there we have it.  Nobody wants war with Iran.  Even Israel, so far without a post-election government does not want to be rained upon by missiles leaky as its Iron Dome was against homemade Palestinian rockets.

Topping all of this neither Trump nor Secretary of State Pompeo want war.  Trump is as usual trying to bully — now called maximum pressure — Iran into submission.  It won’t.  The wild card is National Security Adviser John Bolton.  He wants war.  A Gulf of Tonkin type false flag incident, or an Iranian misstep, or some accident can still set it off. 

In Iran itself, moderates like current President Hassan Rouhani are being weakened by Trump’s shenanigans.  The hard liners might well want to bleed America as happened in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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