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Sanctions on Iran are working

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The US relationship with Iran is complicated leading back to the US support for the overthrown of the elected government of Iran and the installation of a Dictator aka the Shah, the US support of Saddam Hussein in the Iran vs Iraq war, and of course after 9-11, with the invasion of the neighboring countries of Afghanistan and Iraq.  Recent overtures of a limited peace seem shocking, but based on recent reports on the Iranian regional influence, a sensible picture is taking shape.

Iran has come to the table now for two reasons: the international sanctions put in place against Iran are crippling its economy and Iran has made a strategic decision that regional influence is more important than nuclear weapons… for now.

Starting with the latter point, for some time, countries have followed a tried and true method to ward off a US invasion: get nuclear weapons.  This is the Path that Iran has flirted with for some time, with limited success.  But, in recent times, with the US invasion of two neighboring countries, Iran has decided that friendly neighbors are more important than nuclear weapons.

Starting in Afghanistan, Iran tried to play nice with the US in the beginning, coordinating attacks on the Taliban (also Iranian enemies) and providing intelligence.  After Bush’s Axis of Evil speech, that stopped.

In Iraq, Iran saw a strategic, political opportunity to influence the politics with resources and military assets, guiding the Shi’ite majority in the country to political power with the Sunni strongman and his power base evicted.  Now an Iranian friendly, Shia majority holds political power in a country where that was unthinkable a decade ago.

This policy continues now, with Syria.  When it finally looked as though the Iranian ally Assad would possibly be overthrown (most likely by Sunni supported forces) the Grand Ayatollah decided that this could not happen, and that they would fully support the crumbling regime with resources, and military assets in the form of Hezbollah fighters.

Just one problem here: all of these operations cost money, a lot of money.  Estimates of Iran’s support for Assad are in the $600-700 Million dollars per month range, meanwhile Hezbollah’s world wide operations only bring in about $1-2 Billion per year.

Iran’s economy, meanwhile, is reliant on oil, which is becoming more and more difficult to export due to US /EU sanctions.  Before the fiscal pressures of support and funding a war in neighboring countries, Iran already has having trouble.  Now it is approaching a critical choice: abandon Assad, cut supply lines to Lebanon,and hope for the best, or get the sanctions lifted and get some cash coming in.

So, enter new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.  He understands this situation and he would like to make the best of it.  Surrender Nuclear weapons in exchange for lifting of sanctions, so that Iran can continue to be a Shia focused counterweight to Saudi Arabia in the region.

With more resources at their disposal through international trade, Rouhani and Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Hezbollah commander Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the Iranian commander of the Quds Force Qassem Suleimani would continue their support for Assad, the Shia in Lebanon and Iraq.

While it appears that the US Sanctions are having one desired effect, the possible abandonment of the pursuit of Nuclear Weapons, any agreement along these lines could lead the US to deliver a victory to Assad’s forces in Syria, and continue Iran’s expanding influence in the region.

I don’t envy the Obama administration in its choices here, but the removal of nuclear weapons from the world is a very tempting carrot which may be met with the stick of an even more powerful regional Iran.

Good Articles on the topic, well worth reading:



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Written by Walt

October 3rd, 2013 at 9:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized