By John Ubaldi, “Ubaldi Reports”
The signing of The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) or the Iran Nuclear Deal as its commonly referred to, the Iranian people thought the unfreezing of billions of Iranian assets held in foreign banks, the lifting of crippling economic sanctions imposed on the country would revive the struggling Iranian economy but this was only a mirage as the mullahs in Tehran spent it on proxy wars throughout the Middle East.
Over the past couple of months protests have erupted across Iran, which are different from past protests such as the “Green Movement” in 2009, and the recent “Dey Protests,” this one is now centered in every province, but recently has become intense in Tehran and other cities such as Isfahan and Ahvav.
The current unrests and motivation focuses primarily on economics and other financial related issues.
A current fractious internal debate inside Iran has now spilled out into the streets to see if Tehran make major investments inside Iran which would amount to billions of dollars or will the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps win out, as they want to spend billions by placing a permanent air and naval base on Syria’s Mediterranean coast.
Various western intelligence sources have indicated that factions close to President Hassan Rohani have advocated investment at home. The question remaining how will this debate end?
Protesters have been heard chanting “No Gaza, No Lebanon, No Syria, My life for Iran!”—this in reference to the billions Iran has spent in Iraq, Yemen, Syria, on Hamas, and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The revenue gained from signing the Iran nuclear deal which allowed Tehran to send billions of dollars in arms, equipment and other financial assistance, to include transporting military advisers to train and assist its proxy forces all across the Middle East region.
Billions of dollars have been used since 2011 by Tehran in keeping Syrian President Bashar Assad in power.
Iran’s vaunted Revolutionary Guard Corps has been used extensively across the Middle East, but especially in Iraq and Syria.
The one group that has benefited the greatest from Iran’s largess has been Hezbollah in Lebanon with Tehran showering the terror organization to close to a billion dollars each year.
Not all is going well for Iran, as the United States has found out it’s easy to spread your influence around the region, but governing the complex dynamics of the Middle East in another thing.
Hanin Ghaddar wrote in an article, “Iran is Losing the Middle East, Protests in Lebanon and Iraq Show,” Since the very beginning of the Islamic Revolution, the Iranian government and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have had a clear, long-term, and detailed policy on how to export its revolution to the region, mainly in countries with a substantial Shiite majority. Iran had been very patient and resilient in implementing its policy, accepting small defeats with eyes on the main goal: hegemony over Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
In the short term Iran seems to be winning as its proxies have won in the Lebanese parliamentary elections, rescued its beleaguered ally of Assad in Syria, and utilizing various militias in Iraq such as Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) to do its bidding.
The one element Iran forgot, and one they should have learned from which hampered the U.S. inside Iraq, is that you have to govern effectively by utilizing the various state run institutions, unfortunately, these institutions are extremely corrupt and ineffective in providing for its citizens. You may win the battle but you have to govern the day after! Iran has been unable to do that!
Recent protests in neighboring Iraq have been leveled not only against the government in Baghdad but also the protesters vehemently reject Iran’s growing influence over Iraq’s political structure.
Much of the anger is derived from lack of economic opportunities, coupled with lack of job prospects for the people of Iraq; this anger has then been directed towards Tehran which plays an oversized role in controlling Iraq’s politicians, to include its current government.
With factional fighting among the various Shia groups intervention came from Iran’s Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force headed by Qassem Soleimani, who backs many of the militias not only in Iraq but across the region.
Even Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani warned both sides to end the violence “before it’s too late”.
Sistani, an elderly and influential cleric, released a statement acknowledging the rights of the demonstrators, and said that if the demands were not addressed “the people will come back even stronger”.
Even in Lebanon the Lebanon’s Shiites the traditional backbone of Hezbollah has begun to turn the leadership of Hezbollah officials. Many factors contributed to this with the first being Hezbollah’s costly intervention in the Syrian civil war, which was placed on the backs of the poor while the wealthy and well-connected benefited.
The second aspect is the corruption by Hezbollah, once Lebanon’s economy deteriorated many Shiite couldn’t pay their own bills, all the while Nabih Berri, speaker of the parliament, and Hezbollah ally, with his corruption and lavish lifestyle could no longer be tolerated as the people suffered while he and his allies prospered at their expense.
The final aspect was purely military, with Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, even Hezbollah’s war with Israel in 2016, and the war in Syria against Sunni extremism, many thought it would translate into greater economic opportunity at home. After the failure of the religious component led by Iran through its proxy of Hezbollah, many in the Shiite community now wanting to forge a Lebanese identity devoid of religious leaders who have failed them.
The Middle East is complex, and diverse, the U.S. has found out this the hard way, and Iran is now feeling this and they don’t have way forward beyond repression and violence.