Rowhani's year: why the “smiley in turban” disappointed the Iranians
Negotiations on the nuclear issue: things are still there
Hassan Rouhani’s speech at last September’s UN General Assembly session and his telephone conversation with President Obama caused euphoria, both inside Iran and outside, of hopes for a speedy resolution of Iranian-American conflicts. Current historical Rouhani called the stage of hope and moderation, which will finally allow the Islamic Republic to take its rightful place in the world economy and politics. Some analysts, such as Carnegie Endowment expert Jim Loeb, have spoken about reorienting American politics in the Middle East. They assured that Washington was ready to abandon a long-term strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia for an alliance with Tehran. Associated with this was the Saudi tantrum in October last year, which led to the Kingdom abandoning its seat on the UN Security Council.
However, half a year has passed, and everything returned to normal. At the Geneva talks in November, Iran made unprecedented concessions to the "six", agreeing not to enrich uranium over 5%, to fully open all nuclear facilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran for foreign inspections, not to increase the number of centrifuges. However, the United States and its allies defroze only 4 from 180 of billions of Iranian dollars "stuck" in Western banks. US Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman in March of this year, she rudely insulted the Iranian people, saying that it was “genetically inherent in mendacity”. If such a statement were made about Jews or African Americans living in the United States, the lady diplomat would have been tormented by the courts, and it would fit the cross in her career. But the most egregious manifestation of Western hypocrisy was the absurd and not directly related to the Iranian nuclear issue claims - such as, for example, the requirement to close the Iranian rocket production industry. It becomes clear that the goal of Washington is not to achieve progress in the negotiations, but to delay them as much as possible. The US strategy is to keep Iran on a slow fire.
President against the IRGC
However, it was not worth waiting for a miracle from President Rouhani. With all the desire, in one year he would not be able to lead the country out of international isolation, in which it has been for several decades. A more serious claim by the Iranians is that the president is trying to solve the country's economic problems, putting them on the shoulders of fellow citizens and forcing them to tighten their belts even tighter. Speaking in the Majlis in connection with discussing the budget for the new 2014 year (1436 year of the Hijra), the president proposed to cut government subsidies for gasoline and electricity and completely stop material assistance to Iranian families. Until recently, the government paid 15 dollars per month to each family member. And given the large families and relatively low prices in the outback, this was a great help for poor Iranians.
But Rouhani quarreled not only with poor Iranians, but also with the influential Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The guard corps (pasdaran) is called by many a powerful secret order of the Islamic revolution, like the Sufi tariqah or the medieval order of the Templars. The IRGC not only has impressive armed forces, a parallel army from all the armed forces, including the Air Force, but also occupies a serious position in the Iranian economy.
The official division of the IRGC is the Hatem Al-Anbiya Corporation, which played a significant role in restoring the Islamic Republic of Iran after the Iran-Iraq war of 1980 – 1988. It includes construction, oil producing, gas and petrochemical companies. The role of the corporation in the gas sector of Iran is especially great, where, according to analysts, it owns a controlling stake. Financial interests of the IRGC are served by Sepah Bank. According to some data, the annual turnover of enterprises of the IRGC is estimated at 12 billion dollars. Currently, Hatem Al-Anbiya is implementing 750 government contracts in the field of oil refining, gas production and infrastructure construction. And it must be said, the economic projects of the IRGC are not limited to the activities of Hatem al-Anbiya. The guards own a controlling stake in Bachman Group engaged in assembling Mazda cars in Iran. And in 2010, they acquired a stake in the largest telecommunications company Mobin in the amount of 7,8 billion dollars. According to experts, the IRGC has a wide range of interests in the Iranian economy: from the military-industrial complex and the aerospace industry to oil and gas companies.
18 on April, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani stated in his speech on the occasion of the Armed Forces Day that “for the last 35 years, the Iranian army, with its heroic and selfless actions, has helped repel external threats without demanding anything in return.” Many observers interpreted this as a stone in the IRGC garden, which occupied key positions in the Iranian economy. As is known, the former president of the country, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, actively promoted people from the IRGC to leading government positions, provided benefits to companies associated with Pasdarans in the process of privatization of the most profitable Iranian enterprises.
After coming to power, Rouhani called on the leadership of the IRGC to reduce the economic activity of the Corps in the country, limiting itself to several national projects. And political analysts immediately began talking about the struggle between the security forces and part of the Iranian bourgeoisie, focused on opening the Iranian market and embedding Iran into the global economy. In September 2013, a spokesman for the IRGC, Brigadier General Ramazan Sharif, told the Etemaad newspaper that the “guards” control only 10% of the country's economy, while the faction patronized by former President Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani has much greater economic power and at the same time the government does not have any questions for it.
Opponents of the current Iranian president reproach him for inviting many “new Iranians” to his government, high-ranking officials and managers of state-owned companies who have made a fortune not entirely honestly. According to the deputy of the Iranian Majlis Ilyas Naderan, while most Iranians are struggling to make ends meet, several ministers of the current Iranian government have 200 to 350 million dollars. Oil Minister Bizhan Namdar Zangene, who already held this post in the Khatami government in 1997 – 2005, is causing the strongest allergies in Iran. In 2001, Zangene signed a contract with Crescent Petroleum, a privately held company in Dubai, under which Iran pledged to sell this little-known structure crude oil at prices ranging from 18 to 40 dollars per barrel at market prices reaching 100 dollars. Later it turned out that the main shareholder of Crescent Petroleum was the son of former president Hashemi-Rafsanjani. Unfortunately, over the past five years, social polarization has increased in Iran. And the new head of state not only does not think about overcoming it, but seems to take this phenomenon for granted.
Bet on Russia?
A serious problem for the Islamic Republic is the consequences of the “Arab Spring”. First of all, we are talking about events in Syria, which has traditionally been the main Iranian ally and geopolitical partner in the Arab world. Since the end of 2011, Iran has provided the Bashar Assad government with substantial economic, military and political assistance to allow the regime to remain in power, despite the mounting pressure from the internal armed opposition and its foreign patrons. According to the French newspaper Liberation, during the conflict, the Iranians transferred about 17 billion dollars to Damascus. According to other sources, Tehran annually spends 10 billions of dollars to help its allies in the Arab world (Syria and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement). Thus, the “Arab Spring”, contrary to Tehran’s initial expectations, brought the Islamic Republic not new opportunities, but a new headache.
Significant problems are created by the Iranians and their other regional ally - Iraq. Since 2005, the IRI has supported the Shiite coalition led by Nuri al-Maliki, who came to power in Baghdad. Recently, however, the Baghdad ally has become a burden for them. Maliki failed to build relations with other Iraqi communities - Kurds and Sunnis. In the north of the country, in the province of Anbar, clashes do not stop, the authorities use combat against the Sunnis Aviation and heavy weapon. As a result of the attacks last year, more than 8 thousands of people died. The level of violence has almost reached 2006 – 2007's when the real war raged in Iraq. Friction over the disputed city of Kirkuk threatens to spill over into open conflict between the Baghdad government and the Kurdish autonomy. In addition, corruption, which thrives under the current government, is causing great discontent. It is not surprising that Maliki is unhappy in Tehran, but there is no one to replace their hapless protege by the Iranians.
In these conditions, the Russian-Iranian partnership acquires great importance: economic, political, military. Both powers are now in a state of confrontation with the West, which refuses to make reasonable compromises; both are interested in stabilizing the Middle East and countering international terrorism. In the economy, Russia and Iran also have great potential for cooperation: this is the development of the energy dialogue, the creation of a North-South transport corridor, and the opening of the Iranian market for Russian engineering products. The key point should be considered an agreement on barter exchange of Iranian oil for Russian goods, which allowed many experts to assert that Moscow and Tehran are half a step away from forming a close strategic partnership.
- Alexander Kuznetsov
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