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Dire straits: Iran’s search for allies – part two

17 May 2018

The first part of this paper examined some of the issues that are a cause of major concern for the regime in Tehran. They include a distinctly hostile President of the United States who, while he has not enunciated it in as many words, has placed the issue of regime change on the table. President Trump has authorised strikes on targets in Syria and has, by conducting those, killed armed personnel from Syria, Russia and, likely, Iran. He has, moreover, withdrawn the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, also known as the Iran Nuclear Agreement) and has re-imposed nuclear sanctions on Tehran.

Keeping up the pressure on Tehran, the US and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) took combined action to disrupt a currency exchange network spread across Iran and the UAE that provided hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, an entity that Washington has designated a terrorist group. The Office of Foreign Assets Control at the US Department of the Treasury subsequently designated nine Iranian individuals and entities, including Iran’s Central Bank, for their complicity in that operation on 10 May. Not satisfied with that, on 15 May, the Trump Administration designated the head of the Central Bank, Valiollah Seif, as a terrorist, making it virtually impossible for the bank to conduct business anywhere in the world, further constraining Iran.

The change of attitude towards Iran is in stark contrast to the approach taken by the Obama Administration in its dealings with it. Gone is the virtual obsequiousness and the do-almost-anything-to-effect-an-agreement attitude. Absent from the current administration’s approach is the willingness to halt an investigation into cocaine-smuggling into the United States by Hezbollah in order to ensure that Tehran entered into an agreement to halt its nuclear programme, albeit temporarily, as the Obama Administration allegedly enacted.

Key points:

  • Iran’s rulers are concerned that their regime faces increasingly difficult challenges.
  • Russia wants to retain its foothold in the Middle East to maintain its influence there while ensuring that it continues to be perceived as a great power.
  • Turkey’s leaders are growing increasingly concerned that their country’s sovereignty and, by extension, their hold on power, is at stake.
  • Those issues have motivated the three countries to come together but it remains unclear if the grouping will last for any reasonable length of time.
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