Iran Is Running Out Of Steam: Its Strategic Retreat Is Most Visible At Regional Level. Tehran Is In A Perpetual Conflict With Its Neighbours By Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, Special To Gulf News
The setbacks start at home. Politically, Iran, which is gearing up for crucial parliamentary elections due on March 2, is badly polarised.
After nearly a decade of regional expansion, Iran is in for a strategic retreat. This time last year Tehran was counting its numerous regional and international gains. But from now on it seems that Iran will have to take stock of its regional and global losses, which are piling up by the day.
The setbacks start at home. Politically, Iran, which is gearing up for crucial parliamentary elections due on March 2, is badly polarised. The political division in Iran is at an all-time high and is eating into its domestic legitimacy and stability. The stimulus for this political polarisation is the simmering power struggle in the confusing, multi-layered Iranian decision-making strata. The battle between the regime’s hardline clerics headed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the dogmatic clique around the handicapped President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is serious and paralysing.
Iran is also looking very feeble economically. The financial strain is so dire that the rial has already lost more than 40 per cent of its value. As the economy flounders, business is being held back and investments are drying up. The European Union implemented last week a total ban on the import of Iranian crude oil and blocked trade in precious metals, among other steps. These measures, in addition to the unilateral sanctions already imposed by the US and the UN, are taking a big toll on Iran’s lifeblood – its oil revenue.
The usually bombastic Ahmadinejad has admitted that the current sanctions are “the heaviest economic onslaught on Iran in history … every day, all our banking and trade activities and our agreements are being monitored and blocked”. The economic sanctions and boycotts are crippling and Iran can do nothing about them except make counterproductive threats.
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Such irrational reactions have increased the country’s international isolation, which reached new heights at the start of 2012, when Brazil’s new President Dilma Rousseff refused to meet with Ahmadinejad during his visit to Latin America earlier this month. This comes on top of China’s growing frustration with Tehran’s latest threats to close the vital Strait of Hormuz. Losing close allies and old friends while making new enemies is becoming Iran’s new favourite game.
The announcement by the US Department of Justice on October 11, 2011, that two men had been charged in connection with an alleged Iranian Quds force plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Adel Al Jubeir, consolidated Iran’s exclusion and its reputation as an ostracised nation.