Khamenei is either lying or has lost control

It was reported on Iranian PressTV that in a meeting with president Rouhani and members of the Iranian administration, Supreme leader Khamenei set the top national priority. According to the reports, Khamenei declared that the internal economic situation is the top priority, mentioning internal plights like unemployment, poverty and social justice. Well said. One could think for a minute that Khamenei’s words reflect policy and reality. Yet, this needs a reality check.

Only recently, the new Iranian defense minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami announced that Iran’s priority is to export weapons and boost the missile program, and in an additional statement pledged that the support to the resistance front will continue. Another priority which costs money.

Furthermore, it was revealed that Iran has increased its payments to the Hezbollah four-fold, from 200 million dollars to 830 million dollars a year. In addition,  the Hamas leader in Gaza Strip, Yehya al-Sinwar, revealed recently that Iran is Hamas’s  largest backer financially & militarily, providing weapons and money for resistance. Another priority which costs money.

Parallel to that, Iran continues its financial support of the Assad regime (already in January 2017, Iran News Update estimated that Iran had poured billions of dollars into the Syrian effort), recruits Afghan and Pakistani Shiite militias (which according to the Washington Times costs at least a monthly salary of 600 dollars per fighter), arms the Taliban (provides arms and military equipment), supports the Houthis in Yemen and a wide range of other subversive activity. Priorities, which all cost large sums of money.

It would not be outlandish to see a link between the sanctions relief and the recent increase in support to the Hamas, Hezbollah and other militias.  Some have noted that the increase has occurred since the lifting of the UN sanctions in January 2016. Some have even raised the question in social media, like the RJC tweet “where did Iran get 830 million dollars to give to Hezbollah”.

But even the over-rated sanctions relief cannot support such a budget deficit, and therefore it should not be surprising that recently Radio Farda asks whether Iran is moving towards financial instability, due to the recent value declines in Iran’s currency (about 12%) and the estimate that by the end of the Iranian fiscal year the country will face a 30 billion dollar deficit. Expert opinions in Radio Farda try affiliate the budget deficits to the drop in oil prices, unfulfilled expectations from the lifting of the sanctions and the internal unproductivity, corruption and waste. All overlook the extensive external military expenses.

So we finally return to the question of the real Iranian priorities. If Khamenei really means what he says about “top priority”, he would slash national spending, especially on external military escapades. That doesn’t happen. In fact, its increasing. So either Khamenei does not mean what he says, or he has lost control and everyone can clearly see that he is still in “supreme” control of Iran.

 

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Khamenei’s New World Chaos

It would seem that two factors are influencing and re-shaping regional alliances. The first being the victories over ISIS (especially in Syria), and the second being the Qatar-Gulf crisis.

We are witnessing the creation of two distinct blocks. The first being the Saudi camp, including UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt and others. It would be wrong to call it the “Sunni block”, as it is not entirely Sunni, but it can most probably be identified by the more “Western” alignment, as it has the support of the United States and other Western countries. The second block includes Iran, Turkey, Qatar, and a mix of proxy groups like the Hezbollah based in Lebanon, Houthis based in Yemen, the Hamas from Gaza, Shiite militants and others, has already been termed by the Gulf House as the “new axis of dissent”. They also cannot be identified by one Islamic religious school, or ethnic belonging, as they are a mix, but it is clear that the fighting forces are dominated by Shiite militants & proxies, and they are more aligned with Russia, at least in the fight in Syria. Despite different interests and ambitions, this opposition alliance is emerging as a clear block.

The Qatar-Gulf crisis was exploited wisely by Iran. By rushing to Qatar’s support, Iran drew Qatar closer into the “new axis of dissent” block. Qatar brings with it a rich financial resource. Turkey and Iran provide military might, willing aggression and an extended territory foundation.

The Saudi-UAE alliance did achieve a success in toppling the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 2013, but that dwarfs in comparison to the territory gains by Iran. It is quite clear now that Syrian territory, liberated from ISIS, is becoming a stronghold for Iran and its allies. Shiite radicalism taking over from Sunni radicalism. As Andrew Taylor expects in Bloomberg “as Syria crumbles – only Iran is a sure winner“. Taylor continues and warns that “the Shiite crescent from Tehran to the Mediterranean we have been talking about and fearing for decades is going to be formed in front of us”.

The problem surfacing from the new blocks is the lack of geo-strategic stability. The Saudi block may be more “nation-state” aligned, absent of a radical world dominating vision, but, as Kissinger wrote recently, they do lack a geo-strategic concept. They also lack determination. The problem with the “axis of dissent block”, is that they do have determination and they are leading to a clear future – not “new world order”, but “new world chaos”. The common factor at the moment in the axis of dissent block is the defeat of ISIS, but beyond that – all hell can break loose. The only prediction that seems to be correct is the appearance of a comparable entity to ISIS, or the creation of an Iranian radical empire.

Kissinger authored an article recently chaos and order in a changing world. If the vision of Iran domination in the Middle East comes true, we will fear the chaos and the order.

 

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Tehran takes in Hamas leaders expelled from Qatar

The ultimatum set by Saudi Arabia and its allies, giving Qatar 10 days to meet 13 demands, expired. It’s unlikely that Qatar will shut down Al Jazeera, one of the 13 stipulations, but they have responded favorably to at least one of the items on the list. One of the key demands is cutting ties with extremist organizations, among them Hamas.

As proof that Qatar felt the pressure and took the threat seriously, Qatar turned its back on Hamas and revealed an un-willingness to host Hamas operatives anymore. Once it became clear that Hamas is no longer welcome in Qatar, the leaders of Hamas began to look for a new home.

Hamas turned to Tehran which rushed to the occasion, overlooking the previous “offense” of Hamas supporting the Syrian rebellion in opposition to Iran, and offered safe sanctuary for the Hamas leaders in Lebanon, under the protection of the Iran-backed Hezbollah. Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder and member of the Hamas, confirmed that the Iranian-Hamas bond is as close and as strong as ever. Saleh al Arouri, one of the most wanted terrorists, after being expelled last month from Qatar, along with other senior Hamas operatives, has apparently found a safe haven in Dahieh, the stronghold of the Hezbollah in Beirut. Thus, one of the results of the isolation of Qatar is a strengthening of Iran’s ties with extremists and extremist organizations.

In the past Iran could afford to cool its relations with Hamas, due to the fact that it was flying high with many friends. Now they seem to need every friend they can get..

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