In 2001, before the September 11th attacks, a committee specialising in studying the details of the Middle Eastern countries, presented a number of recommendations (or decisions) to the American President, George W Bush. These recommendations included changing Iraq by military means and changing Iran from within. In 2015, when US President Barack Obama signed the nuclear deal with Iran, along with five other global superpowers, the committee issued extensive details on the policy of containing Iran, which Obama believed to be best in the process of facing the Iranian danger in the region. With the announcement of the agreement’s details, Iran was expanding in the Middle Eastern region, spreading from Iraq to Syria and Yemen, and before that, Lebanon. It even reached Africa, Latin America and Europe.
The idea of the strategy to contain Iran dates back to 2012, when the former CIA intelligence analyst, Kenneth M. Pollack, argued in his book the strategy to “contain” Iran as an alternative to military confrontation. The importance of the book stems from Pollack’s meeting with former prominent American officials and Iran affairs experts in 2012 at the Brookings Institute during his participation in the crisis simulation of a US-Iranian confrontation.
It seems that the US was convinced by this strategy to confront Iran’s expansion, which greatly explains America allowing Iran to deeply penetrate the Middle East. For example, in Iraq, the US was the biggest sponsor for Iran. Perhaps examining the progression and series of battles against Daesh in Iran and how the US spared no effort in allowing Iran to expand in the country by means of its militias as well as in Syria, answers several questions regarding the reasons that the US allowed Iran to expand.
The government in Iran reached the point of confrontation with its people, who believe that “their country’s government is interfering in the affairs of neighbouring countries at their expense.”
About two weeks ago, media reports stated that Washington prevented Israel from assassinating Commander of the Quds Forces, Qasem Soleimani, in Syria. This is quite interesting, as Soleimani is on the American terrorist list and he was moving about on the battlefields in Iraq and Syria. American aircrafts were covering his moves, but they did not attempt to assassinate him, even though they could have. In Syria, the Israeli aircrafts were combing the Syrian territories day and night and launched several attacks on targets, without dealing a fatal blow to Soleimani.
It seems that the US was well aware that this American expansion would mean internal problems for Iran, that it would be unable to resolve. After years of economic sanctions, the nuclear agreement with Iran in 2015 gave it the opportunity to regain over $150 billion of frozen funds. Instead of spending these funds on the Iranian citizens, who organised marches of joy after the signing of the nuclear agreement, all of the money went into the pockets of Iran’s fighters in the neighbouring countries, as well as on Iran’s expansion projects.
Iranians patiently waited two and a half years for their country to shower them with its money, as it no longer suffers from economic sanctions and it is no longer fighting against Daesh, after eliminating it in Iraq and Syria. However, this never happened. Instead, leaks about the 2018 budget indicated that spending on Iran’s foreign militias has increased, and that spending on the Revolutionary Guard has reached $8 billion. This does not include the Iranian religious institutions inside and outside the country, which have increased ten-fold in the past two years. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate has reached 60 per cent in some Iranian cities, according to official statistics. In addition to this, leaks of the 2018 budget suggest that subsidies on basic commodities and fuel will be lifted. Furthermore, foreign companies have not yet entered the Iranian market, despite the lifting of sanctions, due to the remarks of US President Donald Trump who threatened to tear apart the nuclear deal with Iran, considering it the worse agreement signed by the US.
The Iranian government reached the moment of confrontation with its people, who believe that their government’s interference in the affairs of neighbouring countries has been at their expense. They are no longer able to bear more hardship and poor distribution of wealth. The frequency of the demonstrations that started on 26 December may have eased, but they hammered the first nail into the coffin of the Iranian government. Therefore, the government is required to either stop its expansion projects abroad and to channel its funds into improving the living standards of its people, or continue its foreign policies and deal with the consequential confrontations with the people.
The demonstrations in Iran have broken the sanctity of the government in the eyes of the people and nothing is off limits any more. Therefore, the organisation of larger and bigger demonstrations that not only call for economic reform, but for the overthrow of the whole government, are not far off.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al-Araby Al-Jadeed on 9 January 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.