By Heshmat Alavi
August 14, 2018
The Iranian regime has recently moved up its fall military exercises, due to the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions as they say, and test fired a short-range ballistic missile. This launching comes after a pause of more than a year.
Parallel to this, while making much lesser noise in the media, is the second return of ten batches of 20 percent enriched uranium that Iran sent to Russia under the 2015 nuclear accord. Iran claims this highly sensitive nuclear material is needed to fuel Tehran’s Research Reactor and threatens to restart the 20 percent uranium enrichment cycle if the deal goes south.
All the while, Iran’s ultraconservative Guardian Council, answering only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has signed measures to bring the regime a step closer to international anti-money-laundering standards.
What is the reasoning behind these two threats and one concession?
Missile and military threats
With a recent short-range ballistic missile test launch Iran is obviously sending a message to Washington regarding the sanctions. Iran test-fired a missile immediately after U.S. President Donald Trump came into office. This prompted the famous “on notice” remarks from former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the Trump administration slapping sanctions against the Iranian regime, signaling the new White House would not tolerate such behavior.
Tehran is returning to such practices as U.S. sanctions bear down hard, parallel to protests across the country gaining momentum. Even weekend football matches are turning into scenes where people are chanting “Death to the dictator” in reference to Khamenei, as seen vividly in Ahvaz and Tehran in the past few days.
U.S. sanctions re-installed last week are taking Iran out of the U.S. dollar market, shutting down their access to gold and other precious metals such as aluminum, steel and graphite, automobiles and etc.
Extreme sanctions against the Iranian regime’s energy and banking sectors are set to return in November, with the high potential of an already severely struggling economy completely crumbling. As we speak the country’s currency, the rial, is becoming valueless and all businesses are turning to the black market.
Feeling cornered, will the Iranian regime live up to its threat of blocking the Strait of Hormuz where nearly one-third of the world’s seaborne oil trade passes through?
After its first 18 months the Trump administration has shown it will consider such measures as an act of war.
“If the block the Strait of Hormuz we would literally take out all their military on the Strait of Hormuz,” said Ret. Gen. Jack Keane to Fox News recently.
Rest assured the Iranian regime does not wish to instigate a conflict with the U.S. For nearly 40 years now Iran has constantly used proxy forces to attack the U.S. and its regional allies, specifically avoiding direct confrontation through their military.
Iran, under growing threats, is known to resort to face-saving measures. As international pressures escalate and facing a restless nation, the Iranian regime desperately needs to maintain a strong posture.
Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the regime’s Atomic Energy organization, reported recently the returning of a second batch of 20 percent enriched uranium sent to Russia under the 2015 nuclear accord inked by the Obama administration and nixed by Trump back in May as promised during his presidential campaign.
“If the nuclear deal remains alive, the other sides should sell us the fuel and if the nuclear deal dies, then we would feel unimpeded to produce the 20% fuel ourselves,” Kamalvandi threatened, according to the semi-official Fars news agency, known to be associated to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC).
He continued his threatening remarks of Iran being entitled to resume production of 20 percent enriched uranium in 2030. Furthermore, Iran has reopened a nuclear plant recently after remaining idle for nine years.
What shouldn’t go missing is the Iranian regime’s necessity to make such threats being very telling in and of itself. These are signs of a regime in crisis mode and needing to maintain a poker face, knowing their hand has nothing to offer while rivals are breathing down their neck with a full house.
It is, however, crystal clear for the Iranian regime that such a trend of ongoing threats cannot continue. Long gone are the Obama years when Tehran open-handedly imposed its will and continued to wreak havoc across the Middle East while advancing its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, all aligned with a ruthlessly repressive domestic crackdown machine.
For example, Iran is now heavily investing on deepening an Atlantic rift between the U.S. and Europe. And with the European Union demanding Iran comply with anti-money-laundering standards specified by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a senior body linked directly to Khamenei is approving measures to place the regime more in line with the globally recognized norms.
Iran is now in desperate need of foreign investments as U.S. sanctions begin to such dry the regime’s access to the global financial market. The FATF, considered the world’s financial-crime watchdog, had in June provided the Iranian regime until October to impose reforms or face drastic consequences.
The main definition of FATF restrictions for the Iranian regime is defined into the hampering of Tehran’s financial support for terror groups, including the Lebanese Hezbollah and others. This has the potential of severely crippling the regime’s influence throughout the Middle East.
Back in June Khamenei called for domestic laws to tackle money laundering inside the country, in an attempt to safeguard the flow of financial support to its proxies abroad. Recent development go to show how dire circumstances are leaving Khamenei no choice but succumbing to such humiliating terms.
Desperate times call for desperate measures.
We are only one week into the return of U.S. sanctions and protests across Iran have been gaining continuous momentum ever since the Dec/Jan uprising. Tehran on Saturday and Sunday witnessed the shoe market going on strike as store-owners were protesting high prices and the scarcity of raw material.
The impact of new sanctions will continue to sink in deep, weakening the regime in the face of expanding protests. Prior to November the Iranian regime will be on its knees.