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How to End the War in Yemen in 2020?

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The Yemen conflict is striking in that the entire global community and all the actors involved have achieved a singularly powerful consensus that there is no future for a solution achieved by force and a political solution is the only option. Since June 2015, this thought has permeated UN documents, speeches delivered by politicians and by heads of the UN Secretary General’s special missions to Yemen. The scale of the humanitarian disaster in Yemen has surpassed record highs: there are over 100,000 dead, the number of refugees is running into the millions, and the number of people who need external aid to survive has long ago exceeded 24 million, which is about 80% of the country’s total population. Major damage has been done to the artificial irrigation systems that form the material foundation of the thousand-year-old civilization of this unique country, and this damage will continue to prevent Yemenis from going back to their customary lifestyle for years to come.

Many convincing texts have been written about the war’s negative impact on international relations, including GCC states themselves, about the geopolitical struggle surrounding Yemen due to the rivalry over influence in the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait and the Red Sea, and about the eroding system of international law in areas bordering on the conflict zone. In addition to introducing new threats to the health of Yemen’s suffering population, the COVID-19 global pandemic has delivered another blow to Yemen in the shape of a sharp drop in the humanitarian fund: incoming funds have shrunk to nearly just a third of the 2019 figure (from USD 3.6 bn to USD 1.3 bn).

In 2020, the expert community has demonstrated unprecedented unanimity in focusing on clearing the hurdles blocking a Yemen crisis settlement: the community has been hoping to prevent the disaster from growing into an unprecedented humanitarian and political collapse that would have even more profound and detrimental consequences for Yemen and all neighbouring regions. Not by chance have Russia and the EU spearheaded these discussions and found far more points of intersection than differences during their communications.

By the end of the year, experts, politicians and Yemen’s people have once again started to hope owing to the possibility of a Joint Declaration (JD) on a ceasefire being signed and to the partial lifting of the economic and transport blockage imposed by the command of the Arab Coalition (AC) in March 2015. Contextualised within a record POW swap held in October, when over 1,000 people returned home, making it the biggest prisoner exchange since the start of the war, this initiative proposed by Martin Griffiths, UN Special Envoy for Yemen, is perceived by many as a chance to put back on the agenda a comprehensive crisis settlement, for which Russia has been consistently striving for. Hopes have also been raised by reports about progress being made at the Riyadh simultaneous talks between Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, Yemen’s Internationally Recognised President (IRP), and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) on implementation of the Riyadh Agreement (RA) they signed back in November 2019. This agreement provides for forming a government with their joint participation. Both processes, the JD and the RA, essentially concern two unconnected hotbeds of military hostilities within the Yemen conflict area, those between the AC and the Sanaa Alliance (SA) forces in the North, on the one hand, and in the “Houthi”-free South, on the other hand, between the AC’s wings represented by the IRP and the STC.

Yet, if we take a closer look, these seemingly positive trends are moving in opposite directions and could ultimately generate new clashes. If we compare the two documents, the RA that was signed under the auspices of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in 2019 but has not so far been implemented, and the JD that has not yet been signed, we will see that they have radically different goals. The RA is intended to bring back to Aden the IRP’s offices that had been pushed out by the STC in August 2019; the objective is to consolidate the wings on the grounds of continuing the war with the SA, while the JD is intended to affect a ceasefire between the AC and the SA in order to put an end to the war.

The main difficulty in implementing the RA is that its signatories, the IRP and the STC, are unwilling to look for ways to align their contradictory views of Yemen’s future. The IRP advocates Yemen’s integrity and federalisation, while the STC is officially fighting to have South Yemen restored within the 1990 boundaries of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen. The STC is consistently staking claims to represent the interests of the South at any future talks; the STC has warned the UN that the crisis cannot be settled unless this claim is taken into account. The National Dialogue Conference (NDC) that concluded in January 2014 taught us that the “Southern Question” could have a significant impact on Yemen’s political developments. The UN Security Council praised the NDC Document signed at the end of the conference, but it was not recognised by the leading factions of the South, which ultimately reduce the value of this achievement.

Understanding that finding a solution to the pivotal problem of national unity is crucial for settling the crisis inevitably means to understand that it is the Yemenis themselves who have the principal right to decide this matter. Otherwise, progress in implementing the RA or achieving peace in Yemen, in general, can hardly be expected.

Let us suppose that the joint government envisaged by the RA is, indeed, formed. What will the united military and law enforcement block do now if, in the year since the RA was signed, pro-Saudi and pro-Emirati wings of the AC, represented by the IRP and the STC, have failed to move from confrontation to compromise in the southern governorates of Shabwa and Abyan? The situation in Hadharamaut, Yemen’s largest governorate, which various AC wings have divided into Inner and Coastal Hadhramaut, continues to intensify. In August 2020, the STC officially announced it had suspended its participation in the RA since its adversary had been building up its military presence at the points of contact. Even so, let us suppose that the parties make progress in finding solutions to all these problems. Under the RA, compliance with the so-called RA military section should constitute the next step; this involves moving all IRP-STC military bodies, consolidated under a united command from the South, and redeploying them in the North to engage the SA forces. This manoeuvre can only impede the UN’s simultaneously implemented project, the JD envisioning putting a freeze on the situation on all fronts. Additionally, if the current IRP’s government signs the JD without waiting for a new government, including the STC to be formed, the JD’s legal status will be flawed. Anyone can see that, while these events do raise people’s hopes when they are considered separately, they are, in fact, disjointed and divergent, which breeds suspicions among the Yemeni actors immediately involved and reduces their positive value.

Sadly, year in year out, we see Yemen’s hopes of a speedy settlement of the military conflict disappear as if dashed against an invisible wall; in the long run, these hopes repeatedly turn into increasingly dangerous humanitarian, geopolitical and military-political situations.

Recently, international fora have been voicing more and more well-founded criticisms of the UN Security Council Resolution 2216 adopted in April 2015. There are many reasons for such critical statements but the main one is that, during the past years of war, the balance of power in the crisis area has utterly changed. One major impediment to the resolution being revised appears to be the conviction that this resolution is the only guarantee of the IRP status as the bulwark of a settlement that would prevent Yemen from descending into uncontrollable chaos, which is generally taken to mean terrorist threats and the country’s uncontrollable collapse. The same conviction permeates the IRP’s official stance as it gives this resolution (as well as the NDC’s decisions) pride of place on the IRP’s negotiating platform at all talks. We should not forget that the resolution recognises that the “Houthi” capitulating and the IRP returning to Sanaa is the only acceptable scenario for putting an end of the AC’s campaign in Yemen.

During nearly six years of war, the situation on the ground has changed so much that these goals now appear virtually unattainable. The expert community acknowledges this. Yemen today has no single political influence centre (PIC), single government, or even single parliament. Since March 2015, the IRP has been almost permanently stationed in Riyadh and all Yemen’s domestic political scene could not fail to notice this. In addition to the unrecognised authorities in Sanaa, including the Houthi movement (Ansar Allah), which controls the greater chunk of the territory in the North, home to three-quarters of Yemen’s population, the STC led by General Aidarous Zubaidi has been active in the South and, with the UAE’s support, has gained such influence that even Saudi Arabia, leader of the AC, has to take it into account. A question begs to be asked: if the IRP and the STC could engage in talks on establishing joint authorities, why cannot this model be extended to another PIC in Sanaa? Maybe the reason does not lie in Iran’s hostile influence on the Houthi, which is presumed to have initiated the entire conflict?

During armed clashes between the AC’s wings in Aden in August 2019, the STC and the UAE defended their actions, accusing the IRP of being under excessive influence from the radical religious faction of the Al-Islah party, which had been integrated into the IRP’s offices during the latter’s stay in Riyadh. The STC also claimed that the IRP had been influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood (banned in Russia as a terrorist organisation) as part of the Al-Islah. This was the STC’s principal motive in declaring the South a self-governing territory in order to combat AQAP and IS, banned terrorist groups adhering to the ideology of so-called jihadist Salafism. Let us note that the unrecognised SA authorities in the North did succeed in clearing these groups from the entire territory they control. This ideological aspect of the differences between the STC and the IRP is sufficiently important to merit special attention. Yet, the RA did not address this aspect, which, like the unity issue, will certainly continue slowing down the entire settlement process.

Why is the strengthening of the IRP’s actual role in the settlement process important? The IRP alone has the legal right to make sovereign decisions that the global community has to take into account since it recognised the IRP in 2015. The IRP can spearhead initiatives for ending the war. This idea seems naive to many but it might, in time, give the IRP a chance to turn the tide that has long been going against it.

There is a widespread opinion that the IRP’s standing in the Yemen crisis rests mostly on this resolution and any steps to amend it will automatically undermine it. We will attempt to prove the opposite by studying the resolution’s real influence on the IRP’s standing on Yemen’s scene and on the tactics adopted by the UN mission in Yemen, which the settlement process had depended on.

The most dramatic turning point in the crisis was probably the collapse of the three-month-long Kuwait round of talks between April and August 2016. That round was attended by three delegations: two represented the SA (Ansar Allah and the General People’s Congress, GPC) and one the IRP. The format of the talks did not fully align with the idea of the resolution that considered the civil war in Yemen to have divided the state into two camps, one supporting the legal authorities (IRP) and one consisting of “Houthi rebels” accused of a coup. The delegation of the GPC, then led by Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, did not fit into this view at all, since Sanaa’s delegation by definition represented “rebels.” If the GPC were part of the rebellion, it would be groundless, to put it mildly, to accuse the Houthi of being pro-Iranian. In 2001–2011, President Saleh was known to be an important strategic partner of the USA in the region; he lost that status and U.S. support only at the start of the “Yemeni revolution” in early 2011. Clearly, the GPC delegation’s arrival in Kuwait acknowledged the true state of affairs in Yemen. Consequently, the “disconnect” with the particular concept of the conflict underlying the resolution was let slide. Another “disconnect” resulted, however, in the collapse of the talks. In June–July 2016, after much intense and sincere work, the Yemeni delegations achieved an understanding on a conflict settlement mechanism. This was built on forming an emergency collective supreme command body to be in charge of all the heavy weapons so that this body would be working in a climate conducive to launching inclusive peace talks for paving the way for deciding democratically the issue of Yemen’s legitimate authorities. By late July, nothing was left of that joint Yemeni breakthrough owing to the discrepancy between the principle approved at the talks and the formula British experts used in drafting the resolution.

The tragedy of that failure is that the chance to put an end of the war back in 2016 was lost. The Kuwait round of talks and its outcome was vividly reminiscent of the famous historical precedent in Yemen when, back in 1965, at the height of the civil war in the YAR, the Yemeni parties, republicans and royalists held a restricted-attendance conference at the village of Al-Hamri in Amran Governorate and agreed the concept for the peace formula. Even the dethroned monarch himself approved the decisions adopted at that conference, although they granted victory to the republicans. Following the al-Hamri conference, the YAR civil war continued for nearly five years, until 1970, when foreign actors – Egypt and Saudi Arabia, finally agreed between themselves and Saudi Arabia officially recognised the YAR. Back then, however, the al-Hamri formula formed the foundation of the reconciliation granting the Zaidiyyah tribes, who had supported the king, the right to participate in republican government bodies. It is important to emphasise that the Yemenis voluntarily gave up on the idea of a “clean” unilateral victory for the sake of preserving national unity and for their country’s future.

The main political outcome of the Kuwait round’s collapse was the joint decision made by Ansar Allah and the GPC to form a coalition government in Sanaa with parity-based representation of the parties and to recognise the validity of Yemen’s constitution. That autumn, the Parliament elected at Yemen’s latest elections, in 2003, resumed its work in Sanaa (although not in full muster). The GPC held the parliamentary majority, although the unrecognised regime in Sanaa was still known as the Houthi regime. This resumption of parliamentary activities was the decisive factor in the subsequent course of the armed hostilities since the bureaucracy, the military and law enforcement in the North were still looking to the GPC leader.

Understanding that finding a solution to the pivotal problem of national unity is crucial for settling the crisis inevitably means to understand that it is the Yemenis themselves who have the principal right to decide this matter. Otherwise, progress in implementing the RA or achieving peace in Yemen, in general, can hardly be expected.

The collapse of the Kuwait talks had another logical yet negative consequence: all subsequent UN peacemaking missions moved away from trying to achieve a comprehensive crisis settlement to striving instead to smooth out the urgent emerging problems of a mostly humanitarian nature. The Stockholm talks (December 2018) focused on the dangers to the humanitarian situation in Al Hudaydah, on the situation in Taiz and on POWs. Those talks were attended by two delegations representing only the IRP and the SA since GPC members were now part of the Sanaa delegation. The fate of the Stockholm agreements was lamentable primarily because the war that had created all those dangers was still raging. As of November 2020, the situation around Yemen’s port of Al Hudaydah, the largest on the Red Sea, continues to balance on the verge of a disaster, with all the military and humanitarian risks subsisting and augmented by a new environmental danger threatening the entire Red Sea basin: over a million barrels of petrochemicals might leak into the sea from the Safer floating oil storage facility built in 1974 and moored at Al Hudaydah.

The collapse of the Kuwait talks spurred on the political movement aiming for greater insulation of the South. This movement was launched in 2017 and has already resulted in the above-mentioned events in Aden in August 2019. The IRP could no longer be present in the provisional capital, this making the AC’s Saudi wing very vulnerable because the South, which had been proclaiming its loyalty to the AC since the start of the campaign, in this particular instance preferred its rival, the STC, thus taking a step toward a rift. The struggle between the AC’s wings in the South has a disintegrating impact on that region of the country.

In 2020, the UN mission in Yemen focused primarily on the urgent new situation that emerged on the eastern front of the military operation in the North as the SA’s forces advanced against the centre of the Ma’rib Governorate. From the start of the war, that region was the IRP’s main military foothold in Yemen. It is hard to predict whether the UN initiative will be successful and how long the breather will last if the JD is, indeed, signed.

***

Summing up our analysis of the impact the Resolution has on the real issues of the conflict, we can state that it was not conducive to the IRP performing the role expected of it by the international community, namely, to put the speediest end to the war, as envisaged in the Resolution itself. The Resolution did not help search for a comprehensive conflict settlement either; it also resulted in the UN mission switching its focus to secondary issues emerging because the war continued unabated.

The Resolution was not suited to the Yemeni crisis situation from its inception (Russia abstained during the vote for this very reason) and its influence on the IRP’s standing in Yemen can be only seen as counterproductive.

A new formula needs to be developed for settling the Yemen crisis with the participation of Yemenis and taking account of their wishes; this formula needs to focus on the real national problems that have been artificially pushed into the background. It appears that, without such a formula, all the contradictions and “disconnects” described in the article in the actions of the parties on the Northern and Southern fronts of the Yemeni conflict will most likely generate another go-round in the crisis.

Even though Yemeni PICs have different visions for the country’s future, their actions clearly demonstrate a desire to reinstate Yemen’s statehood and sovereignty either in the pre-1990 unification mould (the STC and other factions of the South Yemen Movement – al-Hirak), or in the post-1990 unification mould (the IRP and the SA). The chaos in the conflict zone cannot be overcome without a cooling down of the geopolitical passions that attract an expanding circle of foreign actors. Yet, to achieve this goal, the UN needs to have a reliable new tool for launching a political process in Yemen’s format. The very history of the country gives sufficient reason to be optimistic concerning Yemen’s prospects and the willingness of all the principal actors to participate constructively. The risks generated by the COVID-19 pandemic do not appear to be the main stimulus prompting them to become involved. More likely, Yemen’s unique political culture, its adherence to common values and common sense, will kick in. We should not believe that only pre-fabricated scenarios in the spirit of political engineering are capable of ensuring the success of such talks. Every surprise foreign actors have faced and will continue to face in Yemen proves that the Yemenis themselves have equally rich potential for independent creative activity.

From our partner RIAC

Ph.D. in Economics, Senior Researcher at the Center for Arab and Islamic Studies, Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences

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Middle East

Iranians Will Boycott Iran Election Farce

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Iran and elections have not been two synonymous terms. A regime whose constitution is based on absolute rule of someone who is considered to be God’s representative on earth, highest religious authority, morality guide, absolute ruler, and in one word Big Brother (or Vali Faqih), would hardly qualify for a democracy or a place where free or fair elections are held. But when you are God’s rep on earth you are free to invent your own meanings for words such as democracy, elections, justice, and human rights. It comes with the title. And everyone knows the fallacy of “presidential elections” in Iran. Most of all, the Iranian public know it as they have come to call for an almost unanimous boycott of the sham elections.

The boycott movement in Iran is widespread, encompassing almost all social and political strata of Iranian society, even some factions of the regime who have now decided it is time to jump ship. Most notably, remnants of what was euphemistically called the Reformist camp in Iran, have now decided to stay away from the phony polls. Even “hardline” former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad realizes the extent of the regime’s woes and has promised that he will not be voting after being duly disqualified again from participating by supreme leader’s Guardian Council.

So after 42 years of launching a reformist-hardliner charade to play on the West’s naivety, Khamenei’s regime is now forced to present its one and true face to the world: Ebrahim Raisi, son of the Khomeinist ideology, prosecutor, interrogator, torturer, death commission judge, perpetrator of the 1988 massacre of political prisoners, chief inquisitionist, and favorite of Ali Khamenei.

What is historic and different about this presidential “election” in Iran is precisely what is not different about it. It took the world 42 years to cajole Iran’s medieval regime to step into modernity, change its behavior, embrace universal human rights and democratic governance, and treat its people and its neighbors with respect. What is shocking is that this whole process is now back at square one with Ebrahim Raisi, a proven mass murderer who boasts of his murder spree in 1988, potentially being appointed as president.

With Iran’s regime pushing the envelope in launching proxy wars on the United States in Iraq, on Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and on Israel in Gaza and Lebanon, and with a horrendous human rights record that is increasingly getting worse domestically, what is the international community, especially the West, going to do? What is Norway’s role in dealing with this crisis and simmering crises to come out of this situation?

Europe has for decades based its foreign policy on international cooperation and the peaceful settlement of disputes, and the promotion of human rights and democratic principles. The International community must take the lead in bringing Ebrahim Raisi to an international court to account for the massacre he so boastfully participated in 1988 and all his other crimes he has committed to this day.

There are many Iranian refugees who have escaped the hell that the mullahs have created in their beautiful homeland and who yearn to one day remake Iran in the image of a democratic country that honors human rights. These members of the millions-strong Iranian Diaspora overwhelmingly support the boycott of the sham election in Iran, and support ordinary Iranians who today post on social media platforms videos of the Mothers of Aban (mothers of protesters killed by regime security forces during the November 2019 uprising) saying, “Our vote is for this regime’s overthrow.” Finally, after 42 years, the forbidden word of overthrow is ubiquitous on Iranian streets with slogans adorning walls calling for a new era and the fall of this regime.

Europe should stand with the Iranian Resistance and people to call for democracy and human rights in Iran and it should lead calls for accountability for all regime leaders, including Ebrahim Raisi, and an end to a culture of impunity for Iran’s criminal rulers.

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Powershift in Knesset: A Paradigm of Israel’s Political Instability

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The dynamics of the Middle East are changing faster than anyone ever expected. For instance, no sage mind ever expected Iran to undergo a series of talks with the US and European nations to negotiate sanctions and curb its nuclear potential. And certainly, no political pundit could have predicted a normalization of diplomacy between Israel and a handful of Arab countries. The shocker apparently doesn’t end there. The recent shift in Israeli politics is a historic turnaround; a peculiar outcome of the 11-day clash. To probe, early June, a pack of eight opposition parties reached a coalition agreement to establish Israel’s 36th government and oust Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. While the political impasse has partly subsided, neither the 12-year prime minister is feeble nor is the fragile opposition strong enough to uphold an equilibrium.

Mr. Netanyahu currently serves as the caretaker prime minister of Israel. While the charges of corruption inhibited his drive in the office, he was responsible to bring notable achievements for Israel in the global diplomatic missions. Mr. Netanyahu, since assuming office in 2009, has bagged several diplomatic victories; primarily in reference to the long-standing conflict with Palestine and by extension, the Arab world. He managed to persuade former US President Donald J. Trump to shift the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the contentious city of Jerusalem. Furthermore, he managed to strike off the Palestinian mission in Washington whilst gaining success in severing US from the nuclear agreement with Iran. To the right-wing political gurus, Mr. Netanyahu stood as a symbolic figure to project the aspirations of the entire rightest fraction.

However, the pegs turned when Mr. Netanyahu refused to leave the office while facing a corruption trial. What he deemed as a ‘Backdoor Coup Attempt’ was rather criticized by his own base as a ruse of denial. By denying the charges and desecrating the judges hearing his case, Mr. Netanyahu started to undercut the supremacy of law. While he still had enough support to float above water, he lost the whelming support of the rightest faction which resulted in the most unstable government and four inconclusive elections in the past two years.

While Mr. Netanyahu was given the baton earlier by President Reuven Rivlin, he failed to convince his bedfellow politicians to join the rightest agenda. Moreover, Mr. Netanyahu probably hoped to regain support by inciting a head-on collision with the Palestinians. The scheme backfired as along with the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the tremors overtook Israel’s own Arab-Jewish cities resulting in mass chaos. The burning of Mosques and local Synagogues was hardly the expectation. Thus, both the raucous sentiment pervading the streets of Israel as well as the unstable nature of the Netanyahu-government led the rightest parties to switch sides.

As Mr. Netanyahu failed to convince a coalition government, the task was handed to Mr. Yair Lapid, a centrist politician. While the ideologies conflicted in the coalition he tried to forge, his counterparts, much like him, preferred to sideline the disputes in favor of dethroning Netanyahu. Mr. Lapid joined hands with a pool of political ideologies, the odd one being the conservative Yamina party led by the veteran politician, Mr. Naftali Bennett. While Mr. Lapid has been a standard-bearer for secular Israelis, Mr. Bennett has been a stout nationalist, being the standard-bearer for the rightest strata. To add oil to the fire, the 8-party coalition also includes an Arab Islamist party, Raam. A major conflict of beliefs and motivations.

Although the coalition has agreed to focus on technocratic issues and compromise on the ideological facets, for the time being, both the rightest and the leftish parties would be under scrutiny to justify the actions of the coalition as a whole. Mr. Bennett would be enquired about his take on the annexation of occupied West Bank, an agenda vocalized by him during his alliance with Mr. Netanyahu. However, as much as he opposes the legitimacy of the Palestinian state, he would have to dim his narrative to avoid a fissure in the already fragile coalition. Similarly, while the first independent Arab group is likely to assume decision-making in the government for the first time, the mere idea of infuriating Mr. Bennett strikes off any hope of representation and voice of the Arabs in Israel.

Now Mr. Netanyahu faces a choice to defer the imminent vote of confidence in Knesset whilst actively persuading the rightest politicians to abandon the coalition camp. His drive has already picked momentum as he recently deemed the election as the ‘Biggest Fraud in the History of Israeli Politics’. Furthermore, he warned the conservatives of a forthcoming leftist regime, taking a hit on Naftali colluding with a wide array of leftist ideologies. The coalition is indeed fragile, yet survival of coalition would put an end to Netanyahu and his legacy while putting Naftali and then Lapid in the office. However, the irony of the situation is quite obvious – a move from one rightest to the other. A move from one unstable government to a lasting political instability in Israel.

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The Gaza War

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Destruction in Gaza following an Israeli strike in May 2021. UNOCHA/Mohammad Libed

On May 22, 2021, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei’s website, posted a congratulatory message from one of the Hamas group’s leaders, Ziad Nakhaleh. In his message, Ziad Nakhaleh addresses Khamenei and says, “Qasem Soleimani’s friends and brothers, especially Ismail Ghani (Iran’s IRGC commander) and his colleagues, led this battle and were present with us during our recent conflict with Israel. … We pray for the preservation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its brave soldiers.”

Since the regime’s establishment 42 years ago, Iran has been instrumental in inflicting war and chaos regionally. When Iran finds itself cornered and entangled with its internal problems or facing an impasse, a war or bloody conflict gets ignited by the regime to divert the Iranian people’s attention. This undeclared policy of the Iranian regime frees itself from the most pressing internal issues, even temporarily.

Today’s Iranian society is like a barrel of gunpowder ready to ignite. Last year, the Iranian parliament declared that more than 60 percent of Iranians live below the poverty line. According to the media close to the regime, close to 80% of the population below the poverty line this year. It is worth mentioning that Iran is one of the top 10 wealthiest countries globally, despite the challenges of the current sanctions.

This poverty is mainly the result of rampant institutionalized government corruption. According to Qalibaf, the current speaker of Iran’s parliament, only 4 percent of the population is prosperous, and the rest are poor and hungry. The two uprisings of 2017 and mid-November 2019 that surprised the regime were caused mainly by extreme poverty and high inflation. The regime survived the above widespread uprisings by opening direct fire at the innocent protestors, killing more than 1500 people. There is no longer any legitimacy for the regime domestically and internationally.

The explosive barrel of the Iranian discontent is about to burst at any given moment. To delay such social eruption, Khamenei banned the import of COVID-19 vaccines from the US, Britain, and France, hoping the people will be occupied with the virus and forget about their miserable living conditions.

On the other hand, the Iranian regime is in the midst of new negotiations with the western countries regarding its nuclear program. These negotiations may force the regime to abandon its nuclear plans that have cost billions of dollars, its terrorist activities in the region, and its ballistic missiles stockpile. This retreat will inevitably facilitate the growth and spread of the uprisings and social unrest across Iran.

The Deadlock of the Regime

The regime is facing an election that could ignite the barrel of gunpowder of the Iranian society. In 1988, when Khamenei wanted to announce Ahmadinejad as the winner of the presidential ballot boxes but faced opposition from former Prime Minister Mousavi. Widespread demonstrations were ignited. The same scenario is repeating itself in this year’s presidential election, where Khamenei intends to announce Raisi as the next president of Iran. There is a legitimate fear that demonstrations will ignite once again.

To avoid the happening of the same experience, Khamenei is forced to make an important decision. Like any other dictator, he pursues a policy of contraction during these challenging and crucial times, deciding to favor those loyal to him and his policies. Khamenei needs a uniform and decisive government to exert maximum repression on the Iranian people.

By disqualifying the former president (Ahmadinejad), the current vice president (Jahangiri), and most importantly, his current adviser and speaker of the two parliaments (Larijani), he has cut loose a large part of his regime. One way or another, Khamenei’s contraction policy is going to weaken his grip on power.

On the other hand, the Iranian regime must comply with the West’s demand for nuclear talks. In 2021, the political landscape is entirely different from 2015 in the balance of regional and global forces. The regime’s regional influence in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria has been severely weakened.

There is an explosive situation inside Iran. The resistance units spread throughout Iran after the 2019 uprising and have rapidly increased in recent months. They are spreading the message of separation of religion from the government, plus equality between men and women in a society where women do not have the right to be elected as president or a minister. The resistance units call themselves supporters of Maryam Rajavi, the Iranian regime’s sworn enemy. These units can direct a massive flood of people’s anger towards the Supreme Leader’s establishments with every spark and explosion.

Khamenei wanted to force the West to lift all sanctions and demonstrate a show of force within Iran and the region by initiating the Gaza war. The Gaza war was intended to divert the attention from Khamenei’s decisions on Iran’s presidential election. In this situation, the regime wanted to break its presidential deadlock by firing rockets through Hamas and carrying out a massacre in Israel and Palestine.

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