Iran: Running Out Of Useful Options


December 15, 2021: The government is dismayed at the discovery that recent Israeli operations in Iran involved Israelis unofficially, and often anonymously, working with many Iranians who want to overthrow their religious dictatorship. The Iranian government is also disturbed by increasing protests by the ethnic minorities that comprise half the population. While half the population is ethnic Iranian, an Indo-European people long called Persians, a quarter of Iranians are Azeri (a Turkic people). The Azeris are seen as the most loyal non-Persian group in Iran. Many senior members of the clergy are Azeri, including the senior member of the ruling Guardian Council and supreme leader Ali Khamenei. That is no longer an asset because most Iranian Azeris have turned against the religious dictatorship and are calling for the end of religious rule and better relations with neighboring Azerbaijan, which is allied with Israel. This ethnic affinity has long been a problem for Russia and Iran.

The Israeli Mossad agents who recruited these Iranians to help carry out sabotage attacks were themselves “Iranian” in the sense that they belonged to the many Iranian Jews that have left Iran over the last half century but had not lost their Iranian customs, like using Farsi (the Indo-European “Persian” language) and other Iranian cultural practices. These Israelis made excellent Mossad operatives in Iran where they looked Iranian, spoke Iranian and knew Iranian customs. When recruited Iranian scientists safely escaped from Iran after their role in a major attack became known, they discovered the Iranians who recruited them were Israelis. This eventually got back to fellow Azeri-Iranians in Iran and most Iranian Azeris saw it as a positive thing. Jewish-Iranians were historically one of the smallest Iranian minorities but always considered Iranians first, something that made an impact on Iranians in general. It also impressed the Russians, who have had a long and often violent relationship with Iran over who should rule the Azeris.

Recent Israeli revelations confirmed that many of the Iranian scientists and engineers who worked with Israel to sabotage Iran’s nuclear weapons development thought they were working with fellow Iranian opponents of the Islamic dictatorship. This is persuading more members of the Guardian Council to oppose the current hardline policy of the Council and willingness to get Iran into a war with Israel and the growing number of Israeli allies, which now includes Azerbaijan and many Arab states.

Most Iranians backed the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons, because this is seen as justified for the major local superpower in the region. This is a role the Persians have played for thousands of years. But now most Iranians agree that their current religious dictatorship should not have these weapons because all the neighbors and their superpower allies oppose it.

Before the 1979 revolution Iran and Israel had long been allies. Given a choice between returning to Israel as an ally instead of Israel as a more powerful neighbor Iran was attacking, Iranians are backing a return to Israel as an ally. The current religious dictatorship is not just considered corrupt and incompetent but insane and in dire need of replacement.

Israel takes the threat of nuclear attack more seriously than the Iranian religious dictatorship. The Iranians are smart and generally competent. Despite decades of sanctions, they have built ballistic missiles and are close to having crude nukes. These weapon development projects are well protected but they are not invulnerable. Israeli espionage and sabotage operations against the nuclear program have proved that. Israel wants to avoid a military strike against the Iranian nuclear weapons program because it would result in a lot of Iranians dying and long-term damage to territory around the nuclear fuel processing sites. Such Israeli attacks would mean a lot of the nuclear material in the environment. This would be expensive to clean up and the nuclear contamination could get into the local water supply or, if on the surface, into the air. The Iranian techs who joined the resistance realize this, but their religious dictatorship doesn’t care because God is on their side and whatever happens it is God’s Will. Israel has the resources to locate the nuclear facilities and the specialized weapons to neutralize them. Details are kept secret but experience demonstrates that whatever the Israelis come up with usually works. Failure is not an option when your worst enemies are seeking nothing less than the extermination of Israel and Jews in general.

Fading Foreign Support

In Syria the local Shia Assad government agreed to a new relationship with Israel that would be monitored and enforced by Russia and Israel. Russia believes such a peace deal would be hailed as a major achievement for Russia in Syria and most of the world will agree if the changes do not prompt Iran into starting a major war over it.

In Gaza the Iranian support for Hamas had made Iran more enemies in places like Egypt. Israel and Egypt agree that the main reason the Palestinian Sunni Hamas organization ruling Gaza is not serious in renewed efforts to negotiate a ceasefire with Israel is Iranian support. Iran has transferred more personnel to assist Hamas preparations for new efforts to carry out terror attacks inside Israel as well as recruit more Palestinians in Gaza to carry out larger attacks on Israel with long range rockets.

Iran no longer trusts the Lebanese Hezbollah with those tasks because Hezbollah is distracted by growing violence in Lebanon and economic collapse there that Hezbollah has contributed to. Most Lebanese accuse Iran and Hezbollah of being the source of current problems in Lebanon, especially those related to Hezbollah becoming an extension of the Iranian Quds force in the 1980s. Quds supports pro-Iran Islamic terrorists in foreign countries. Quds considers Hezbollah their greatest success but more and more Lebanese, Syrians and other Arabs in the region see Quds and Hezbollah as a deadly curse created by Iran. Over a hundred thousand Palestinians settled in Lebanon after the creation of Israel in 1948 and proved to be more of a problem than Israel ever was. Palestinian violence was one reason for the fifteen-year long 1975-90 Lebanese civil war and many were expelled from Lebanon because of that perceived betrayal. The 1990 peace deal that ended the civil war also ended generations of cooperation between many Lebanese religious minorities. The Shia minority received special powers, something Iran insisted on if the peace deal was to happen. Worse yet, Iran-backed Syrian troops were used as peacekeepers. Many Syrians consider Lebanon part of “greater Syria”, otherwise known as ”the Levant.” Even ardent Hezbollah supporters oppose greater Syria.

December 11, 2021: Iran denied Western media reports that they had changed their demands to keep the negotiations to revive the 2015 treaty that ended sanctions (if Iran halted work on nukes) going. The United States and some other nations were abandoning the negotiations. Iran did say something, after pressure from China and Russia, to keep the talks going. The American and some other negotiators believe the Iranians are simply not serious or interested in reaching an agreement. Iran wants the negotiations to continue so they can put maximum (face-to-face) pressure on the Western members of the sanctions group. China and Russia pointed out that the Western negotiations were serious about ending talks and Iran needs futile negotiations more than the West does. Iran said something but conceded nothing of value just to keep the high value talks going.

December 10, 2021: Yemen peace talks between the Saudis and Iran are having no more success than those going between Iran and the Western nations over lifting sanctions. Efforts to negotiate a settlement of the issues in Yemen and end the seven-year civil war are still stalled because of two “non-negotiable” issues. First, there is the Iranian refusal to give up their presence and support of the Yemen Shia. This is unacceptable to Saudi Arabia and most other Arab states because they can see what happened in Lebanon when the Iranian presence and support of the Hezbollah militia was allowed to persist. The second difficult issue is calls for partitioning Yemen again. This has been the case in the past and most Yemenis came to believe unity was preferable. With Iran refusing to give up their control of the Shia north, partition is even less acceptable. No one has come up with a viable solution yet.

The new Iranian government has also adopted negotiating tactics that demand concessions before any serious bargaining begins. This is even more difficult when the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) is in charge, as is the case in Yemen. The Iranian 2020 elections were rigged (as they traditionally are) so the new president would be Ibrahim Raisi, an infamous mass-murderer and recognized war-criminal. Putting Raisi into such a public position is another example of how desperate Iran is to make clear to opponents in Iran, Yemen, Iraq and elsewhere what they are up against. Raisi took office on August 3rd and quickly addressed the sanctions situation. He insisted that Iran would not negotiate with the West until the 2017 sanctions were first lifted. Nations seeking to negotiate a new peace deal with Iran discovered that Raisi had the support of the religious dictatorship in Iran as well as the IRGC. In Yemen the Iranians demand that any peace deal include continued Iranian access to Yemen and autonomy for the Shia rebels in their home province on the Saudi border. This would mean continued use of Iranian cruise and ballistic missiles against Saudi targets. The Iranians would deny any responsibility, as they currently do for similar cruise missile and UAV attacks launched from Iran on Saudi Arabian targets and Persian Gulf shipping. Iran blames it on local rebel groups and often gets away with this approach. These are called “false flag” operations in which you make an attack that is disguised as by someone else. Iranians have been false flagging for centuries, as have many other nations in the region. Iran is considered one of the more adept and habitual users of false flag operations.

Despite those peace talks, or perhaps because of them, over the last month, the Saudi Air Force has increased its airstrikes in and around the Shia occupied capital Sanaa and elsewhere. The airstrikes were much heavier in central Yemen (Marib Province), where a year-long Shia offensive continues. More airstrikes were carried out in the northwest (Hodeida province) where a government offensive has been pushing back Shia forces, especially those near the Red Sea port of Hodeida. In the southwest (Taiz province) Shia rebels continue losing ground as a government offensive to reach the coast and disrupt rebel access to Hodeida has succeeded.

December 7, 2021: The Americans revealed that one of its warships in the Arabian Sea (northwestern Indian Ocean between India and Arabia) halted and searched two small transports because of information indicating smuggling. A search of the cargo in each ship revealed a large quantity of Iranian weapons including 171 of the new Iranian Type 358 loitering munitions plus eight ATGMs (anti-tank guided missiles). The Type 358s captured appear to be a copy of the one the Hero loitering munitions produced by an Israeli firm. The Type 358 most closely resembles the Hero-120, which is one of many similar loitering munitions that Uvision has been developing and selling since 2011. A Hero-120 weighs 12.5 kg (27.5 pounds) including a 4.6 kg warhead. Max endurance is 60 minutes and max range of the control signal is 40 kilometers. The smallest Hero system is the Hero 20, which weighs 1.8 kg (four pounds) including a 200-gram (7 ounce) warhead, Endurance is 20 minutes and operator range is 10 kilometers. All these Hero models use the same controller and digital camera. All use fold-out wings and an electric motor with the propeller in the rear that provides speeds of up to three kilometers a minute. Cruising speed, to obtain max endurance, is about half that. Hero has been exported to many foreign customers, including the U.S. Marine Corps. The Hero-120 could be used to attack air defense systems, helicopters or large UAVs used by the Saudi forces in Yemen. Hero-120 is not capable of going after jet fighters. Israeli firms have pioneered the development of loitering munitions since the 1980s and is considered the leading developer and manufacturer of these systems.

The captured missiles were apparently headed for Yemen, where final delivery would probably be made by fishing boats carrying cargoes of weapons rather than recently caught fish. There are so many of these fishing boats off the Red Sea coast of Yemen that not all can be searched and the smuggler boats seek to appear less suspicious than the actual fishing boats. Iran pays what it takes to get this smuggling done and there are plenty of skilled smugglers in Yemen looking for work, no questions asked.

December 4, 2021: The American trade and financial sanctions mean there are a lot fewer dollars in Iran and these are essential to pay for imports. The Iranian currency has been at record lows versus the U.S. dollar. Currently it costs a record 50,000 rials to buy one U.S. dollar. A month ago, it was 278,000 and a year earlier it hit a record 317,000 rials per dollar. This catastrophic weakening of the rial began in 2017 when the U.S. revived economic sanctions. By August 2019 it cost 120,000 rials to buy a dollar. Back in 2015 a dollar could be had for 32,000 rials.

The current foreign exchange crisis is partly due to exporters of non-oil goods keeping about half the money they receive outside the country. That is a good business decision because that money is safer from government corruption if it is kept in foreign banks. For the average Iranian this means they have less income because the inflation rate is up to 40 percent and is a little worse in rural areas, where most of the religious dictatorship supporters live.

These sanctions plus the covid19 shutdowns shrank the economy (GDP) by nearly ten percent in 2020. GDP has been tanking since sanctions were revived in 2017. Inflation was 30 percent a year ago and getting worse. The unemployment rate is twelve percent but the underemployment rate, because of firms shut down by quarantines, is much higher. Over half the population is visibly living below the poverty line, in large part because of the high inflation.

For more than a year a growing number of senior officials expressed fear this will spark another round of violent anti-government protests. Even government-controlled media is openly discussing this prospect. Surrender is not an option for the religious dictatorship and they believe that they can maintain order until they can persuade the West to lift sanctions. Iran has found that they can exchange favors with their Arab neighbors in return for some help in evading the sanctions. The Arabs realize that Iranian nukes are for attacking Israel, something that would be suicidal and futile because Israel is more capable of striking back before the Iranian nukes are combat ready. For decades Israel has had its own ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads. Iran knows their Arab neighbors gave Israel permission to pass through to attack Iran and that is not going to change. Iran makes the best of what it can get but the Islamic dictatorship’s goal of using nukes against Israel is ruining the Iranian economy and clearly diminishing support for the religious dictatorship. That could be seen, or rather heard, in videos of recent rural demonstrations over government unwillingness to do anything about escalating water shortages. News of this was banned in Iran but the usual cellphone videos got made for other Iranians and eventually the foreign media got it. Translating the Farsi (the main Iranian language) chants by the demonstrators included frequently repeated calls for the removal of the current government by any means necessary, including violence. These “any means” chants have been more common over the last few years and that is changing some minds in the ruling Guardians Council of twelve senior clerics. The pro-nukes faction still has a majority, but a majority that is clearly fading.

December 3, 2021: In Austria the negotiations with Iran to revive the 2015 treaty that ended sanctions (if Iran halted work on nukes) are not going well. The Iranian obsession with destroying Israel and the Israeli preparations for an attack on Iranian nuclear research facilities led the French president to point out that any negotiations about renewing the 2015 treaty should include Israel. He later added the Arab Gulf oil states as well.

December 2, 2021: In southern Syria (Daraa province) there has been an undeclared war between Iranian and Syrian forces since 2018. Anonymous assassins use pistols and hidden bombs to kill those who work, or worked for government forces or Russia and Syria backed local militias. Russian and Assad forces openly force Iran-backed groups and individuals out of the area. There is no open violence because Iran, Syria and Russia are still officially allies. Near the Israel border Russian and Syrian pressure has prevented Iranian attacks on Israel. Russia and Syria have also been checking locals to see if they are Syrian Shia wearing authorized Syrian army or police uniforms rather than Lebanese Shia using stolen uniforms as disguises. This border security operation is a big deal for Syria and Israel and a major embarrassment for Iran, which is why Iran has not cranked up its usual media outrage to complain. Israel will sometimes fire on Iranian forces operating in Daraa, especially near the Israeli border. Israel also shares intel with Russia and Syria about Syrian officers who are secretly working for Iran. The Iranians pay well, and in dollars. Israel will sometimes release evidence of this to the media, so that Iranians back home have another reason to oppose Iranian foreign wars. Negotiations have been underway between Iran and Russia/Syria for over a year but are not making much progress. The covert Iranian violence is just another incentive for Syria to get the Iranian agents out of the area.

Border security effort by Syrians and Russians is the result of years of working to gain the support of the largely Sunni and Druze civilian population along the border in (from west to east); Quneitra, Daraa and Suwayda provinces. This is a joint effort to block Iranian efforts to gain the support of the border population. Total population of these provinces in 2011 was 1.4 million but only about 20 percent of that was on or near the border. After the 2011 Civil War began much of the Sunni population fled. How much remains on the border is unclear but is apparently at least 100,000. Only Queneitra and Daraa border Israel. Israel has occupied most of Queneitra province since the 1967 War and the Israeli controlled area is mostly the Golan Heights. This is the high ground overlooking northern Israel and the Syrians made a major and ultimately failed effort in the 1973 War to retake Golan. Control of the Daraa border with Israel was sought by Iranian forces but Russian and Syrian troops blocked many of the Iranian efforts and are now pushing away Iranian-backed forces already there.

December 1, 2021: In the east (Afghan border) Taliban gunmen opened fire on Iranians who were building the new border wall in an area favored by smugglers. The Iranians returned fire but the shooting was soon halted and representatives from Iran and the Taliban met to talk. The Taliban reaction was a misunderstanding about whether the wall was going up on the Iranian side of the border. It was. Turkey and Pakistan have built border fences or walls, mainly to prevent people smuggling. The Iran border barrier is aimed at drug and people smugglers. Iran has not yet recognized the new IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) because despite assurances that it wound not happen, some IEA gunmen are attacking Afghan Shia, who comprise 20 percent of the population and Iran has pledged to protect Afghan Shia from Taliban or IEA violence.

November 30, 2021: In Yemen (Sanaa, the rebel held capital) a Saudi airstrike hit an Iranian IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) facility. The IRGC is the separate military force formed in the 1980s to protect the religious dictatorship that has ruled Iran since the 1980s. Since late 2020 a new Iranian ambassador in Yemen has been a former Quds Force general who is in Yemen more as a Quds Force commander than a diplomat. This ambassador doesn’t make many requests, but he does issue a lot of orders and today’s Saudi airstrike hit one the IRGC facilities in Sanaa the “ambassador” uses to control military operations in Yemen.

November 29, 2021: In Austria another round of talks between Iran and the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) group to negotiate the lifting of current economic sanctions on Iranian. JCPOA consists of six nations (China, France, Russia, Britain, the U.S., and Germany) that negotiated and signed the 2015 treaty with Iran. The current round of negotiations included representatives from the EU (European Union). The 2015 treaty between JCPOA and Iran lifted economic sanctions in return for Iran halting its nuclear weapons program, which Iran insisted it did not have. Currently Iran refuses to talk with the U.S. directly, so the current negotiations are being held in Austria where the U.S. representative must be briefed by the other JCPOA members who can meet with the Iranians. This is cumbersome and Iran refuses to deal directly with the Americans while the renewed sanctions are in force. That sort of pre-condition, thanks to abuse by North Korea, is now unacceptable to most Americans and keeps the American negotiators from actively participating in the new talks. Iran has also demanded that all the American economic sanctions be lifted before Iran will negotiate about anything nuclear. Iran also wants guarantees that the U.S. will not revive its sanctions without the agreement of all JCPOA members, something that is impossible if China and Russia continue supporting Iran in the UN (which supports lifting sanctions). The U.S. accuses Iran of deliberating delaying any serious negotiations and trying to cause more disagreement between JCPOA members and the UN while Israel plans major aerial attacks on the Iranian nuclear facilities. Israel is the main target for all the Iranian ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs and Iran wants some international support for the Iranian insistence on destroying Israel. A few nations support Iran in this, along with a lot of Islamic terrorist groups.

November 24, 2021: In central Syria (Homs province) an Israeli airstrike hit an Iranian facility, killing four and wounding at least a dozen people.

November 22, 2021: In central Syria (Homs province) Iranian forces are leaving the T4 airbase for the Shayrat airbase further south in Homs. Shayrat is considered safer for Iranian forces because it is regularly used by Russian aircraft and better defended than T4. The movement is being carried out using individual heavy trucks or small convoys of no more than five vehicles. At T4 the targets were the Iranian training areas and weapons warehouses. The Israeli attacks are launched from jets flying over the areas just outside Syria. Air-to-surface missiles are used and some are intercepted by Syrian S-200 SAMs (Surface-to-Air missiles) that have less success against Israeli fighters. The T4 airbase, near the ancient ruins of Palmyra, has been hit at least three times a year since 2018. T4 is the largest airbase in Syria and Iran has constantly built new structures for storing weapons and housing personnel, usually to replace buildings destroyed by the air strikes. T4 is where Iran moved its UAV operations in 2018 after its original UAV base in Syria was destroyed by an Israeli airstrike.

November 18, 2021: In Iraq the powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al Sadr demanded that all militias be disarmed and disbanded. This aimed at Iran, which has used the militias to create a legal Iran-backed armed force in Iraq. Calls for disbanding these militias have been gaining a lot more support in the last five years. The recent elections mean an even more anti-Iran government and sensing what that would mean for militias in general, most militias have announced plans to disband. Disarming is another matter.




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