What does the future hold for Iran?
The American sanctions on Iran went into effect this week and a large number of companies stopped doing business with Iran so as not to lose their permission to continue to be active in America’s economy. The sanctions will turn more severe in three months time and will include banks and energy industries, with the result that Iran will lose much of its income, the major part of which stems from oil, gas and related products. It seems that only China intends to continue its regular – or almost regular – economic ties with Iran and Russia, too, will probably not entirely halt its economic ties with the Ayatollah regime.
This article will explore two possible scenarios that could take place over the next two years. Both are based on the following basic assumptions:
1. President Trump will continue to pressure Iran in every conceivable economic way and that US pressure will bring the Iranian economy to its knees and possibly to a state of total collapse.
2. If Iran does not engage in armed violence, Trump will refrain from military action as well. If Iran employs military measures against sea travel in international waters – the Straits of Hormuz and Bab el Mandeb – the US armed forces will strike Iran mercilessly.
3. President Trump will get even with Iran if it uses “proxies” in order to attack American interests.
4. Iran will attempt to get through the coming two and a half years quietly, hoping that Trump is to be defeated and followed by a Democratic president who will reinstate the nuclear agreement and remove the sanctions.
5. European leaders will continue to support Iran with words, but they will not be able to force European industries to do business with Iran.
6. European leaders are worried that Iran’s regime will collapse and lead to general chaos, with everyone fighting everyone else and a new wave of millions of immigrants attempting to reach Europe. That is the reason Europe’s leaders are trying to resuscitate the Iranian regime in every way they can.
There are two possible scenarios:
Scenario I: Negotiations
The best outcome for the Ayatollah regime and the worst for the Middle East and the entire world is a return to the negotiating table along with world powers in response to American demands.
Iran will use negotiations to gain time until the 2020 elections, in the hopes that Trump loses and a Democrat wins the presidency. The Iranians are convinced that a Democratic president will return to the 2015 nuclear agreement and remove the sanctions renewed by Trump. The Ayatollahs are negotiating wizards and will succeed in dragging out negotiations for years while creating a false picture of progress, keeping Trump, American politicians and the world media calm. Iran knows that from the start of 2020, Trump will do anything that he feels will lead to his reelection and will therefore present Iranian flexibility as his negotiating achievement.
Anyone following the development of the US-North Korean affair sees a similar picture: During the Singapore meeting we saw Trump impressed by Kim, his “new-found friend” and optimistic declarations from both participants. However, during negotiations taking place far from the cameras, things are much more difficult and it is entirely unclear whether Kim will actually dismantle his nuclear project and the long range missiles threatening the US. It is obvious that Kim wants to gain time in order to heighten the pressure on the United States, which even during the Trump era, prefers to stay out of war and has no desire to exchange salvos of ballistic missiles with a regime that has no restraints and puts no value on human life.
Iran’s rulers hope to travel a similar route with Trump: They will meet him, smile at the cameras, scatter optimistic declarations in order to achieve positive public opinion, while trying to blacken Trump’s name and create an image of him as a troublemaker – all this to lower his chances for reelection. They know all about the hatred leveled at him from large sections of the American public, and they will try to fuel the fire of that enmity during the negotiations. They will create an image of a country willing to compromise and ease up, in order to give the anti-Trumpers a weapon to use against a president who does not want to reach an agreement similar to that granted them by Obama.
Anyone with the slightest understanding of the Middle East realizes that the very fact of the United States entering into negotiations with the Iranians is an Iranian victory. They will use the negotiations to gain time while Trump’s political clock approaches November 2020. The negotiations will leave the Ayatollah regime intact, and despite the dire economic situation, they will survive Trump’s four year term and then continue exactly as they did before his election: Resume their military nuclear project, continue manufacturing long range ballistic missiles and continue threatening the stability of the Middle East and the rest of the world.
Scenario II: A systemic collapse
Developments in Iran over the past several months are leading the country to a collapse of its economic system, from which it is a short road to the collapse of the regime. Inflation is rampant at about 130%, local currency has lost 80% of its value and is still going down. The reason behind this negative development is the public’s lack of faith in the Iranian currency and a general feeling of pessimism with regard to Iran’s economy’s ability to survive the severe and strict sanctions to which it is going to be subjected.
There are demonstrations taking place in a good many Iranian cities almost every day. The public has lost its fear and is turning its anger towards a regime that wasted the 150 billion dollars in cash it received from Obama in 2015 on the needless wars in Yemen, Syria and Iraq – let alone the pockets of Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Gaza’s Hamas, refilled with hard-to-get Iranian funds by the Ayatollahs. Chants heard at the protests include “Death to the dictator” and “Not Falestin and Lebanon – Iran first!”
The drought that hit large parts of the country has turned millions of farmers, especially in the Asfahan Province, into hungry, thirsty and embittered citizens. They complain – justifiably so – that the country has not invested in improving the water infrastructure, in drilling for water, building dams and bringing water from other areas. Instead, it invested its monies in useless wars and the bank accounts of corrupt leaders.
Iran’s citizens know well that every one of the regime’s leaders took care of their own, buying homes in China, Russia, South America or other havens where no questions are asked, no one’s past is checked and no one is put on trial for involvement in human rights violations. The Iranian public knows that its leaders and their families will flee the country to those ready and waiting sanctuaries as soon as they feel the end of the game is near – and to hell with the country and everyone in it.
One of the unanswerable questions at this point is how loyal the armed forces will be to the Ayatollah regime and how much they will do to stop the protests. It is reasonable to assume that the Basij, the civilian guards, will be loyal to the regime while attempting to avoid confrontation with local citizenry in order to prevent fanning the flames. Over the last year, that restraint was evident when damage was inflicted on police stations that serve them. The Revolutionary Guards will probably show more cruelty, but will be held in reserve for last ditch fighting. The army will be called to suppress protests only as a last resort, as the regime is not entirely sure whether its loyalties lie with the people or the government.
If street demonstrations continue, it is probable that ethnic minorities will begin to get into the act with violent partisan activities against the regime. The Baluchi, in southwest Iran and their armed Jondrallah militia will be the first to take advantage of government weakness. The Arabs in the Ahwad region will probably be the next group to declare a rebellion against the regime and the Kurds in northwestern Iraq will soon follow suit.
World opinion is crucial at this point. Support, even in the form of declaratory words, will encourage the public to go out to the streets, and will be of immense help if real aid also arrives from the countries that wish to see the collapse of the Ayatollah regime: Coded means of communication, arms, weapons, money and medical supplies for treating the wounded. The most effective and significant help is a credible threat to the Ayatollahs that any use of violence against protestors will be responded to by the bombing of Revolutionary Guard bases, communications centers and government institutions. That kind of threat will paralyze the regime’s ability to face a furious public and expedite the date its heads flee the country.
If there is a general systemic collapse in Iran, it might sink into a state of chaos with a battle raging and everyone fighting everyone else. People will take revenge on government leaders, their families and their property, thereby letting out their anger against the regime and its symbols. We can expect loyalists to set intelligence, police and Revolutionary Guard archives on fire to prevent their falling into the hands of their opponents.
The best thing President Trump can do is send a Twitter message to the Ayatollahs to this effect:
“My dear Iranian Leaders – Your time is up and the game is over. You are disturbing the stability of the Middle East, scheming of war and causing indescribable suffering to many millions of people, in and out of Iran. You lie and cheat shamelessly so that no one has faith in you. There will be no negotiating with you – not on anything. Because I do not believe a word you say. You have exactly a month to do the following:
1. Dismantle all the equipment at your nuclear sites, except for the Busheir power plant, removing all the dismantled equipment including centrifuges and enriched uranium to Russia.
2. Dismantle all the rocket and missile plants you have built
3. Dismantle all the ballistic missiles you have manufactured.
4. Bring back all the Iranian, Afghan and Iraqi forces from Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
5. Cease sending arms, weapons, communications and other military equipment to Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
6. Cease sending funds to Lebanon’s Hezbollah, to Shiite militias in Iraq and to Hamas.
7. Confiscate all the monies stolen by the regime’s leaders and return them to the national treasury.
8. Allocate the sums needed to develop water sources in the Isfahan region and to cleanse the earth and rivers in the Ahwaz region.
You have exactly a month to carry out every single one of these demands without exception, and do not request an extension because you will not be granted one.
If you do not meet any or all of these demands, all options will be open to us, including the use of force to defend ourselves and the peace of the region and the world against the revolution-fomenting ideology you have been exporting in such terrible fashion for 38 years. Read my lips because I mean every word I say and if you wish to survive, take me seriously.
A letter of this ilk will seen as a credible threat to the rulers of Iran. Ever since they seized the throne in 1979 they only act the way they should when they feel a tangible threat. That is what happened in 1980 when they unconditionally freed the US diplomats they had trapped in the American Embassy in Teheran because of the threat made by newly elected President Ronald Reagan, one which they perceived as authentic. It happened again in 1988 when they gave in to the Iraqis because the US downed an Iranian passenger plane by mistake. And so it was in 2003, when they froze their military nuclear plans because of the Western armies’ invasion of Iraq, fearing that they were next in line. Once that concern was gone in 2006, they returned to implementing their military nuclear program.
It is important to realize that the more credible the American threat, the more chance there is that there will be no need to make good on it. The Iranian regime is not suicidal and they know full well that absolutely no one will come to their aid if they are attacked by US planes or missiles. If President Trump sends them a message that makes it clear that he intends to take action against the Iranian regime if he must, they will give in, do what is demanded of them and possibly survive the angry Iranian masses.
This is the only way to achieve the desired result for 80 million Iranian citizens, the region and the world. Negotiating with them would be a disaster as it grants them a life insurance policy which they will exploit to its fullest on the backs of the Iranian common man, the region’s countries and the world. Only a believable threat can save Iran from total collapse and Europe from the influx of millions fleeing the Iranian hell. If Europe’s leaders want to avoid another wave of refugees, they will have to support the economic sanctions placed on Iran and join Trump’s credible threat – in the hopes of freeing the world from the Iranian nightmare during Trump’s first term of office.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Israel National News