Iran under fire

Tehran might have celebrated too early prospects for a full US exit from Syria.
Sunday 22/04/2018
The launching of an Emad long-range ballistic surface-to-surface missile in an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Defence Ministry)
Testy issue. The launching of an Emad long-range ballistic surface-to-surface missile in an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Defence Ministry)

Following the Western strikes in Syria, Iran has many more reasons for concern. It faces deepening international suspicion and growing regional isolation.

Despite protestations to the contrary, Turkey has clearly parted ways with Iran on Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan supported Western strikes against Syrian targets and denounced the suspected use of chemical weapons by Bashar Assad’s regime.

Tehran is bound to be concerned by signs that Moscow is contemplating a more accommodating stance vis-a-vis the West in war and peace in Syria. It is significant that Russia managed to convey a sense of restraint towards the United States both before and after the April 14 strikes.

Tehran might have celebrated too early prospects for a full US exit from Syria. Saudi proposals for more active support to the United States in Syria may indicate that the vacuum Iran wanted to inherit in war-torn Syria might not be happening any time soon.

The Iranians are also likely to be worried about Europe’s growing resolve on testy issues such as Tehran’s ballistic development programme and its role in regional weapons proliferation.

After the April 7 suspected chemical weapons attack near Damascus, EU countries seemed increasingly determined to take a harder line on Iran’s activities. The circle of European countries favourable to tighter restrictions on Tehran is said to include not just France, Germany and the United Kingdom but also Spain, Austria and Sweden.

More rigorous sanctions are likely to be the main thrust of the arguments advanced by the French and German leaders when they meet with US President Donald Trump in Washington in the next few days. Both French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will try to convince the US president to accept more sanctions against Iran in exchange for preserving the 2015 nuclear deal.

Taken together, these developments don’t augur well for a regime that is still, unfortunately, pursuing an aggressive agenda in the Middle East, even as it struggles economically and seems on an increasingly brittle footing at home.

The Iranian regime is cracking down on all possible conduits for dissent at home. On April 18, it banned government bodies from using foreign-developed messaging apps, such as Telegram.

Even environmental experts are subject to drastic pressures. It was certainly the case with Kaveh Madani, the scientist who took a senior position in Iran’s environmental department but resigned within months.

“Yes, the accused has escaped from a land in which online ignorance has rejected science, knowledge and expertise,” Madani wrote on Twitter after his resignation. A short message that said a lot about the Iranian regime’s ability to accommodate change.

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