At the same time, each country has its own project in which it occupies a leading position, using military, economic or financial strength. Reliance on the army, who has it (Egypt or Turkey), or Islamist formations of those who do not have a sufficiently powerful army (like Qatar or Saudi Arabia), or hired private militarized structures (UAE) turns the region into an arena of struggle for transportation, energy, water and strategic areas. And the end of the confrontation is not visible.
At the same time, alliances of the most unexpected participants in the Middle East arise and break up continuously (as a union of conservative Arab monarchies and Israel formed on an anti-Iranian basis). The influence exerted on the region by external forces (the US and NATO) is often exaggerated or, on the contrary, underestimated (Russia after the start of the actions of the Russian Aerospace Force in Syria). Local players, experimenting with modern military technologies and allied irregular organizations, are able to influence the situation in the region on a much larger scale than during the period of the classic use of military force (which fully applies to Iran). Important and internal differences in their power and power structures, little-known outside of these countries. Let us consider some aspects of internal policy and foreign military activity of Iran, analyzed on the basis of materials by the expert IBI, Yu. B. Shcheglovina.
"Liberals" against "conservatives"
According to analysts close to the Pentagon and the US State Department, given the level of support for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani by "moderate conservatives" and "liberals" in the Iranian political elite, he confidently wins the presidential election in May. Americans rely on leaks from the meeting of the Council of Experts, held in Tehran from 7 to March 9. In addition to the council members, key figures were present representing all areas of the country's political elite, including “conservatives”. Two months before the elections, the Council of Experts is ready to name candidates who could take part in them. It is clear that the "conservatives" will not be able to unite around a figure that would compete Rouhani.
The struggle between "conservatives" and "liberals" in Iran is for the preservation by this or that group and the business connected with it of the dominant positions in the country's economy, with a general course towards modernization. The IRGC and business circles that are guided by it are not against establishing long-term business contacts with Western countries. The essence of their struggle against Rouhani and his supporters is to prevent them from occupying key places in the new economic reality. Under the conditions of the IRGC sanctions, he was most adapted to running a shadow business to circumvent the embargo through his companies. The opening of the market severely limits the “guards” in the choice of means. Hence the attempt to find a presidential candidate who would have a chance to win against Rouhani. The task is to consolidate around a single bidder, since the experience of dispersing the votes of the conservative flank between four persons led to the victory of Rouhani’s supporters. Apparently, he is confident in his chances of being re-elected even with rivals from among the “conservatives”. Most likely, he has the support of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
At the meeting of the Council of Experts, in addition to the presidential election, the question of Khamenei’s successor was also discussed, which is more important for shaping the foreign policy of Iran. In favor of re-election Rouhani speaks and the positive economic dynamics of Iran. The president was able to lead the country through a complex maze of external problems, economic reforms and the beginning of an active political and diplomatic dialogue with the West. The Iranian nuclear program (INP) was supported with reservations by all layers of the Iranian elites, including rahbar Khamenei.
The main achievements of Iran in the economy are oil production growth from 2,8 million to 3,8 million barrels per day, falling inflation from 45 to 8,7 percent and lifting Western sanctions in January 2016. The unemployment rate among Iranian youth remains high - 30 percent. 20 percent of university graduates can not find work. But the solution of these problems is associated with the president’s policy of breaking through external isolation and embedding the country's economy in the global financial market. At the same time, the majority of the population and the business elite do not believe that the West will cooperate with the “conservatives” as well as with the “liberals” - and rightly so.
For all that, the “conservatives” do not lose hope for the nomination of a single candidate. February 23 held a conference of the Popular Front of the Islamic Revolutionary Forces, which became the primaries of conservative forces. 23 candidates have been nominated, which indicates a variety of trends, but only four can compete for the title of favorite. These are Kalibaf, Mohsen Rezai, Saeed Jalili and Hamid Bagai. At the same time, they are all inferior in popularity to Ibrahim Raisi, who since March 2016 has been the main custodian (main manager) of Astan Quds Rizawi Foundation, which is responsible for managing key sites for worship and the largest mosques throughout Iran. Raisa is taken out of the formal brackets of conservative presidential candidates precisely because many are inclined to consider him a real candidate for the post of Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Among the remaining candidates, we note the current head of the judiciary, S. Larijani, his predecessor M. Kh. Shahrudi and H. Rouhani himself. However, the latter sees himself now primarily as president. They put serious forces in business on him. And Larijani and Shahrudi were mired in mutual quarrels and accusations, which seriously weakened their chances.
Raisi remained above the fight inside the conservative wing, which makes him an ideal candidate for the presidency from this political segment. But once he agrees, he will be drawn into the inner-party struggle, and if he loses the election, he may lose credibility and lose his chance of becoming a real successor to Ayatollah Khamenei. The latter may ask Raisi to head the list of “conservatives” in the presidential election, but by doing so will, in any case, remove him from the list of candidates for his successor.
If Raisi refuses to participate in the presidential elections, the "conservatives" have only one candidate who will fight on equal terms with Rouhani. This is Larijani’s parliamentary speaker, close to Ayatollah Khamenei, and although he does not enjoy the support of extreme “conservatives,” he can rally the “moderate” and “traditionalists.” But he is not interested in the position of president. Some experts argue that the speaker will support the candidacy of the current head of the Islamic Republic of Iran at the request of Ayatollah Khamenei. The same experts say: the management of the IRGC will not break spears in order to prevent Rouhani from reelection. They are satisfied that relations between the US and Iran in the short term will not improve to the level at which the IRGC begins to lose ground. It seems that the IRGC (or part of the leadership of the organization) agreed with the president’s circle on the separation of powers and the economic pie. This makes Rouhani's re-election inevitable.
Struggle of economic power subjects
According to experts, the relationship between the Iranian Ministry of Security (Vaja) and the intelligence service of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is experiencing a deep crisis. The head of Vaja, M. Alavi, publicly voiced the desire of his department to receive most of the funding through budget items allocated to national security. The management of the IRGC also claims to increase the share of its funding. The motivations of the parties are as follows. Vaja is responsible for maintaining internal security, with the function of countering separatist groups in Balochistan on the border with Pakistan and Khuzestan. In the first, the Baluchis are anxious to the authorities, in the second - the ethnic Arabs-Ahwaz. Both those and others, according to Vaja, are supported and sponsored by Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Directorate. The IRGC focuses in its demands on a key role in conducting missions abroad, primarily in Syria and Iraq. He spends a lot on equipment and training of Shiite militias in the countries he oversees.
The IRGC has been charged with contacts that require money, with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan J. Talabani and the Workers Party of Kurdistan, with the Taliban from the pro-Pakistani factions in Afghanistan, not to mention the financing of the Lebanese Hezbollah. The scale of Vaja’s activities is at first modest. Work with the Baluchs and Ahvazs are two major major projects of the Ministry. At the same time, the Baluch’s combat activity has recently been reduced thanks to coordinated joint actions with Pakistani colleagues. In Khuzestan, the latest serious attack took place this January. At the same time, Vaja analysts predict a worsening of the situation in this oil province of Iran due to the fact that the leaders of the main terrorist group “Arab Movement for the Liberation of Khuzestan” (HNA) met in Tunis in December 2016 and received assurances from them increase funding. HNA militants were tasked with preparing an attack on the oil infrastructure of the Yadavaran field under the joint management of the Iranian National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) and the Chinese Sinopec.
Vaja predicts not only the creation of increased risks for oil production through Ahvaz militants, but also a worsening of the investment climate in the country. Alawi took the initiative to review the system of internal security in this province, which will be done with the involvement of a large number of agency employees, and hence the finance. He proposes to modernize Vaja for timely adequate response in case of attacks on foreign investors and the scope of their capital throughout the country. At the same time, he recommended the government to pay attention to the activities of firms and funds affiliated with the IRGC, which should ideally finance its operations. It is unnecessary to speak about the corresponding reaction of the IRGC management.
According to experts, the struggle between competing security agencies has a different nature than the desire to redistribute the budget in their favor. The main motive of the initiative of Alawi, who would never have decided alone to challenge the IRGC, is the desire of people from the circle of President Rouhani to cut funding for the main opponent - the IRGC, to weaken his position in the election race. The chief architect of the current clash was the former head of Vaja, now a member of the Supreme National Security Council and advisor to President Rouhani Ali Yunusi. Alawi - his creature and all his initiatives are previously coordinated by Yunusi.
Last March, at the height of the IRGC campaign to overthrow the current Iranian president, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei asked him to intervene and become Rouhani’s advisor to save him. This request illustrates how close Yunusi is to Ayatollah Khamenei. Yunusi then stabilized the situation, and now, apparently, he decided to go on the offensive. It is directly related to the formulation of the main threats to national security and to the recommendations regarding budget financing in this area. Cuts in appropriations will weaken the positions of the IRGC and strengthen Vaja’s capabilities primarily within Iran, which is a priority for the opposing sides on the eve of a decisive vote. The dispute between the two main competitors in the field of security will allow Yunusi to redistribute part of the financial resources and, possibly, authority in favor of his “native” Vaja.
Intrigues around the drone
The top commanders of the US power unit issued a joint memorandum for the White House on the growing potential threats of using "home drone" to attack US civilian and military targets. As expected, the report was born thanks to the National Defense Industrial Association. It noted an increase in the use of drones by militants of the “Islamic State” (banned in Russia) and other jihadist groups due to the cheapening of “homemade” UAVs, as well as the absence of restrictions on their acquisition and use. The number of specialists in the ranks of jihadists has grown, which makes it necessary to talk about the need to develop new measures against these threats. Conclusions: it is necessary to confront the Congress with the task of finding funding for the US military-industrial complex as part of the development of new means to counter a potential threat: detectors, jammers and missiles.
It is noted that “according to reliable data”, the attack of the Khousit speedboats in January (they were “appointed” responsible for it) to the Saudi frigate in the Red Sea was not carried out by suicide bombers, as stated earlier, but by radio-controlled sea drones camouflaged as a boat or jet ski. The explosion killed five sailors, 10 injured, and the frigate crashed and was towed to the nearest base. The Saudis themselves did not speak about the victims, saying that the ship suffered minor damage. It is known that during the attack, conversations in Farsi in the immediate vicinity of the attack site were intercepted. This allows us to conclude that the watercraft may have been driven through a mobile phone.
In this case, the Iranian trail is indicated by the fact that the IRGC actively uses the Yemeni territory to work out new means of warfare at sea. This is indicated by launches of Chinese-made missiles manufactured by the Iranians on a freighter UAE and a destroyer of the US Navy in 2016. Now the sea drones are being driven around, which should replace the use of the IRGC of speedboats and shelling from them from RPG tankers. Tests can be considered successful, although it is necessary to make a discount on the level of combat training of Saudi sailors. Here we are witnessing the modernization of combat drones, which cannot be bought on the free market. Iran has been engaged in this development for a long time. The Americans believe that the technology of the American Predator, which fell in Iran in 2011, became the basis for creating the Iranian military UAV. In fact, the program of combat UAVs is carried out with the help of China. Products run in Yemen and Lebanon in the interests of both countries.
The second case of using drones, which the Americans wrote about in the report, consider using 2 of October 2016 of the year as an IG supporter in Iraq of a drone, in an explosion in the vicinity of Mosul, who killed two Kurdish pesmerga fighters and wounded several French special forces. According to experts, UAVs are actively used by Jabhat an-Nusroy (banned in Russia) and the IG to adjust fire and reconnaissance, but their mass use in terrorist attacks is not observed. It is impossible to make a resonant terrorist attack on amateur drones - from a military point of view it is ineffective. As the recent battles in Mosul and its environs have shown, Islamist drones are easily jammed with simple EW tools. As a consequence, the main objective of the report to the American leadership is lobbying. Real threats to the military potential of the United States and its allies, which are the combat drones of Iran, remain in full.
The indispensable Hezbollah
Note that not only Americans operate with questionable data. According to French sources, the differences between Moscow and Tehran over the participation of the Lebanese Hezbollah in the battles in Syria have intensified. Allegedly, Moscow insists that the Lebanese should reduce the number, and the Iranians - on the contrary. The disagreements allegedly reached such an extent that the head of the Iranian IRGC Al-Quds unit, General Kasem Suleymani, twice in February visited the headquarters of Hezbollah in Beirut. Sheikh Nasrallah appointed Khalil Harb, the former operational commander of the organization’s forces on the southern front, as curator of Hezbollah’s operations in Syria. One of the main tasks that Nasrallah set for him was the withdrawal of Lebanese troops from the Golan Heights and from the Syrian-Israeli border. The French say that the Alawite militia forces are pushing out the Lebanese Hezbollah units from Syria. Those moved to Homs, the village of Barada in the suburbs of Damascus and the Lebanese-Syrian border.
The French in this case, all mixed up. There is no contradiction between Moscow and Tehran to activate Hezbollah in Syria, there is no one to replace it. The creation of the Alawite militia in Syria with the help of the Islamic Republic of Iran creates support for Damascus. Lebanese cannot fight in Syria forever, keeping Hezbollah there is costly for Tehran. As for the concentration of Hezbollah units in the above-mentioned areas of Syria, we must bear in mind that, in addition to Aleppo and Idlib, it is Homs and the suburbs of Damascus that are now the zone of activization of Assad’s opponents. Hezbollah is experiencing a shortage of funds, which Suleymani discussed during his visits to Beirut. The appointment of a liaison officer with Suleymani is noteworthy. They became the youngest son of Hezbollah’s former head of external security, Imad Mughnie, adviser to its leader, Mustafa. His father before his death in Damascus in 2008 had close ties with the Iranians and was, like his eldest son Jihad (died as a result of an Israeli air strike in 2009), the closest contact was Suleymani. The continuity of generations and the commitment of the Lebanese Shiites to an alliance with Iran, are thus fully observed.