20 November 2018
English Arabic

To ensure survival, Iranian regime fans protest fires in Basra

Wednesday, 19 September 2018 20:52
Salam Sarhan Salam Sarhan

The eruption of protests and deteriorating security situation in Basra cannot be considered in isolation from the travails of forming a new Iraqi government. By all indications, political forces that openly advocate the liberation of Iraq from Iranian influence are in the ascendancy.

The crisis cannot also be separated from the increasingly fast pace of suffocating the Iranian economy because in early November a second wave of US sanctions go into effect. This knockout blow will cut the only economic lifeline of oil exports and is portended by the collapsing Iranian currency.

It should be emphasised that the plight of Basra’s inhabitants is a heinous crime and that their taking to the streets in protest was inevitable but the situation could lead to a security collapse and a large number of victims.

As in any crime, consideration must be made as to who benefits from committing it. In Basra’s crisis, all fingers point to Iran, which instigated power cuts and exacerbated the water crisis.

The great lengths at which sectarian militias loyal to the velayat-e-faqih are willing to go to defend its existence, its financial interests and the future of it leaders or their willingness to die for Tehran’s interests and survival must not be underestimated.

It is hard to believe that the announcement of the formation of a broad anti-Iran coalition of political blocs in Iraq coincided with the collapse of the Iranian currency by chance. The Iranian currency has gone from 109,000 riyals to the dollar to about 146,000 riyals to the dollar. That was a drop of about one-third of its value in three days and about 72% since May.

Some might blame the rial’s collapse on the central bank’s decision to widen restrictions on spending financial reserves. That might be a compounding factor but the deeper reason is the risk of having a new Iraqi government willing to adhere to US sanctions, which would close the safety valve that Iran was counting on to weather the sanctions.

Extracting Iraq out of the clutches of Iranian influence promises to be an arduous task. Basra might be its hottest battlefield, given the presence of hundreds of thousands of heavily armed militia members ready to set fire to Iraq in defence of the Iranian regime because their own survival is contingent of the survival of the leadership in Tehran.

Tehran has given up on the possibility of easing the severity of the sanctions. Even governments of those European countries that opposed US sanctions, such as Germany, France and Britain, failed to persuade businesses of their countries to continue to deal with Tehran.

Iran should not expect relief to its predicament from Russia and China. They are embroiled in disputes and negotiations with Washington over many issues and could sell out Iran in exchange for US concessions.

In their dangerous existential struggle, would the militias dare infiltrate the protests and fuel them until security collapses in Iraq’s richest province in oil exports reserve?

Most of the triggers for Basra’s plight came from Iran. First, power supply contracted from Iran three months ago was cut off. The second spark was the high salinity of the water in Shatt al-Arab caused by cutting off effluence from the Karun River and pumping waste and polluted water in the Hawizeh Marshes, which ended up in Shatt al-Arab.

Iran can withstand the US sanctions only as long as the Iraqi window is open to Iranian influence. The formation of an Iraqi government that would commit to sanctions would compound Iran’s suffering and possibly accelerate the collapse of the Iranian regime.

It seems that perturbing Iraq’s oil exports is Iran’s biggest goal because it might force Washington to review its decision to restrict Iranian exports, even if Baghdad is aware of the dangers of such a scheme and would try to block it.

It cannot be ruled out that Tehran and its militias in Iraq are trying to inflame the situation in Basra to protect themselves from the possibility of an Iraqi government forming outside of its sphere of influence. They will not hesitate to push the tense situation to the edge to interfere with Iraqi oil exports, which could benefit Iranian oil exports.

The world is finding it difficult to compensate for the imminent decline in Iranian oil supplies, 2.3 million barrels per day. Come November, they’re expected to fall to less than 1 million barrels per day.

Disrupting Iraq’s oil exports could put the world economy in a dangerous scenario. Oil prices could shoot up to $150 a barrel with the lack of additional production capacity to offset declining exports from Iran and Iraq.

Disabling Iraq’s oil exports could break Washington’s resolve to stifle Iranian supplies, especially since US President Donald Trump is complaining about rising oil prices and pressuring OPEC producers to increase production.

Iran’s stifling economic crisis is worsening day by day despite that it still exports oil, gas and petrochemicals. Tehran finds no way out of total suffocation other than burning Iraq, which is trying to escape its influence. After all, Iraq has always been a thorn in Iran’s side.

The Iranian regime is nearing total suffocation. Should Washington cut off its only lifeline, it will collapse. So fanning the protest fires in Basra sounds like the perfect solution to save it from falling into the abyss, continue exporting oil and keep Iraq devastated in the clutches of Tehran’s influence.

Source: The Arab Weekly

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