Iran’s Holy Defense

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Iran celebrated the so-called “Holy Defense Week” on September 22, to mark the anniversary of the entry of Iraqi forces into Iranian territory in 1980. It is noteworthy that Iran considers its holy defense linked to its battle with an Arab nation and not with a Western nation or Israel.

On the following day, coinciding with the Saudi National Day, Hezbollah Chief Hassan Nasrallah in a speech attacked the Kingdom. Although this is usual, what is remarkable was that this speech came from the office of Ali Khamenei.

This is a message to all the spineless people or those with good intentions who believe that Hezbollah or the Houthis make decisions that are free from Iranian influence. Therefore, it is to be expected that Hezbollah takes an interest in Lebanon in parallel with the interests of Tehran.

In a speech on the occasion of the Holy Defense Week, President Hassan Rouhani said in a formula -as if we were listening to a Swiss official - that Iran was willing to “extend the hand of friendship and brotherhood” to neighboring nations and was “even ready to forgive their past mistakes.”

I do not know why he does not also withdraw his other hand that remains stretched out for tampering and sabotage as well as for supporting sectarianism and the spread of terrorism. Rouhani’s statement came two days after a pledge made by Mahdi Al-Mashat, the head of the so-called Supreme Council of Houthis, for a unilateral ceasefire as a gesture of goodwill toward Saudi Arabia.

The Houthi statement came after they claimed responsibility for targeting the Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities, confirming that the speeches were distributed during the crisis from the office of the Supreme Leader, and are mainly linked to international reactions to the targeting of oil installations. While examining the international reaction, it seems clear that that these attacks have contributed to a significant change in public opinion against Iran from many countries in the region.

In fact, Iran was removed from the negotiating table, which French President Emmanuel Macron offered to sponsor. France mentioned Iran for the first time since the beginning of the crisis following Iranian attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf last May, even though the French statement made the condemnation without mentioning Iran.

As far as Germany, which has always been closer to the Iranian point of view, is concerned, its leader Angela Merkel issued a statement saying that lifting sanctions against Iran before negotiations was not realistic. Both France and Germany seemed to be convinced that sanctions are the best way to bring Iran to the negotiating table leading to a solution that eliminates the idea of Tehran possessing nuclear weapons.

Most importantly, Europe must stop Iran from developing ballistic weapons whose range now reaches Eastern Europe. In Asia, there was a rejection of Iran’s move on the part of several countries, including South Korea. In his speech to the United Nations, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared that the attacks on Aramco facilities were despicable, seeking to make the world economy hostage.

The Japanese and French positions are important because they seek to mediate in this crisis before Iran becomes a global burden. After the strike on Saudi oil facilities, the United States imposed sanctions on Iran’s central bank, which is expected to have a huge and rapid impact.

Let us recall that the sanctions began to choke Iran last November, precisely 11 months ago, and the total sanctions with “zero oil exports” began to bite it four months ago. This confirms that the sanctions are so effective that the Iranian regime cannot wait until the next US presidential elections scheduled to be held at the end of 2020.

Indications of the deteriorating situation of the Iranian economy were manifest in the great pursuit Tehran made for a credit line of $15 billion from European countries though it failed miserably in this endeavor. The second indication was Iran’s repeated talk about agreeing to sit for negotiations if sanctions were lifted or even relaxed. However, this is merely a malicious game to buy time. The sanctions announced by Washington on Chinese companies may be an additional sign of seriousness in the strategy of extreme pressure.

Undoubtedly, targeting the two Saudi oil facilities was a grave strategic mistake by Iran as it eliminated Rouhani’s chance to articulate grievances about the injustice of sanctions at the United Nations. This blunder has also been instrumental in making previously neutral public opinion more anti-Iranian. The most severe pain for Iran has come in terms of Saudi Aramco’s success in dealing with this incident professionally and returning its production to levels above 11 million barrels of oil per day.

— The author is a Saudi political analyst and media Consultant, he can be reached at me@aaltrairi.com and on Twitter @aAltrairi




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