by Arkady DZIUBA
On December 25, Iran started a large-scale six-day military exercise titled «Mohammad Rosulollah» (Mohammad the Messenger of Allah) demonstrating the capability to repel an attack launched from the Gulf of Oman. The training event covers an area of 2.2 million square kilometers stretching from the East of the Strait of Hormuz to the border with Pakistan and the 10th parallel north in the Indian Ocean encompassing some eastern and southern parts of Iran’s territory. Iranian Navy commander Rear Admiral Hobibollah Sayyari commented on the exercise saying that Iran harbors no aggressive plans against the neighbors and its growing military might is to be used for the defense of national interests and territory. He emphasized the Iran’s readiness to provide security in the northern part of the Indian Ocean to the east of the Hormuz Strait and hold joint exercises with the neighboring states in the future. The statement dovetails with the stated official position of the Iran’s leadership which believes that the countries of the Middle East can tackle the security problems independently without outside military presence.
The Iran’s activities in the region are not limited by large-scale military exercises only. Tehran also increases military and other kinds of aid to Iraq fighting the Islamic State terrorist group. Ali Yunessi, the special assistant to the President of Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities, said that Iran considers Iraq’s security as its own. The principle defines its policy towards the neighbor. This summer the Iraqi military suffered a defeat in its fight against the Islamic State militants. The Kurdish peshmerga self-defense units also fight the Islamists but they predominantly pursue their own goals that have little relation to the task of preserving the Iraq’s territorial integrity. The Shiite armed formations have made the Islamic State suffer setbacks in Iraq recently. It makes them the only force Haider Al Abadi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, can rely on.
In Yemen the Shiite al-Houthi (the Partisans of God) rebel group has achieved a number of military successes over the government forces. Now it has moved beyond the governorates (muhafazah) Sa’dah, Hajjah and Al Jawf taking control over a large part of Sanaa, the nation’s capital, including government buildings, to make Yemeni Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa resign. Although the Houthis have no representation in the new government, they exert strong influence on it and the situation in the country in general. Iran is the group’s major foreign supporter.
The nuclear talks are the main issue that defines the Iran’s foreign policy in general. There have been many reports in the world media saying a comprehensive USA-Iran agreement is near at hand to make possible the lifting of sanctions. In this case the both countries will no longer be opponents. It would enable them to make progress in the bilateral relations. They could even become close to being partners. Many believe that the emergence of common enemy like the Islamic State could narrow the differences and put the relationship back on track perhaps making it as close as it was in the days of Shah’s rule. These speculations have evoked great concern among many Middle East actors, no matter how different they may be, for instance, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The suggestions that the United States and Iran were moving closer to a thaw in their relations grew stronger as December 24, the «big six» – Iran nuclear talks deadline date, was drawing near.
It was not the case. The differences happened to be too wide and the nuclear talks failed to wind up before the fixed date to be extended till July 2015. The US sanctions continue to remain in force and Iranians make no attempts to conceal their frustration. Besides, the feeling is getting stronger in Iran that the ongoing fall in oil prices is not directed against Russia only but is also used to weaken the Iranian position at the nuclear talks.
Perhaps Washington believes that the drop in oil prices along with the failure at the round table would lead to a split in the ranks of Iranian leadership, for instance, between moderates like President Rouhani and his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on the one side and Iran’s spiritual leader Ali Khamenei strongly supported by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the other. The rumors about the split have circulated in Western media for a long time to be never confirmed. More to that, Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, General Mohammad Ali Jafari, flatly denied any such speculations saying they were the result of «enemy’s psychological operations». According to him, President Rouhani fully trusts the Revolutionary Guards. No doubt, the statement of the Revolutionary Guards Commander echoes the views of the Iran’s spiritual leader.
Looks like Iran tries to let the United States and other states know that it has enough trump cards up its sleeve. The events in Yemen were to remind Americans that Shiites also live in different parts of the Middle East, for instance, in the eastern areas of Saudi Arabia where the major oil production facilities are located. This fact can be used to Iran’s advantage in different geopolitical combinations. Semyon Bagdasarov, Director of the Center for Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies (Russia), has compared the Saudi Arabia without its eastern provinces with a desert that has no oil. The Sunni Muslims populated territories of Iraq now under the Islamic State control have no oil deposits. The control over this part of Iraq does not bring economic profit needed to finance the costly process of undermining stability in the Middle East.
Iran is serious about delivering precision strikes targeting the detected weak points in the US-created system of international relations which turns the terrorist groups flying the banner of Islam into the main driving force of global destabilization. On the one hand, the United States uses aviation to strike the Islamic State while, on the other hand, it applies great efforts to clear all the obstacles on the way of Islamist advance.
The mutual understanding between Iran, Russia and China stopped the offensive the United States was prepared to launch against Syria in 2013. The refusal of Tehran to give up its nuclear program in exchange for US empty promises is a proof of the fact that Iranians have drawn right conclusions as they look back at the fates of Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.