Significance of Big Decisions for the Future of Iran
The editorial of Aftab Yazd argues that Iran must make big decisions, sooner rather than later, to take advantage of opportunities created in the regional and international arenas.
It seems that big events are about to happen in the region. The visits of the Chinese and Turkish presidents and the Russian foreign minister to Saudi Arabia, talks of Saudi mediation to end the Russian war against Ukraine, Putin’s words as to welcoming Saudi Arabia’s role in ending the Russia-Ukraine war, and Saudi Arabia’s pivotal role in this issue – all these will boost this country’s status. In a short while, Saudi Arabia will be known as an important player in the region and the world.
Saudi Arabia, in its first step of reconciliation with Iran, could launch its extra-regional plans based on peace and friendship with Iran. In the meantime, Iran could have used its geopolitical role in the region to rapidly exceed all other regional countries. Lack of attention to this historical opportunity has resulted in events which will give the upper hand to Iran’s rival – and this important development is already underway.
With all its plans and investments in Saudi Arabia, China will empower this country politically and economically, as a result of which Saudi Arabia will position itself as the first power in the region. This country’s agreements with Russia and Turkey in the military and political fields, moreover, can bring about changes in the region and the world.
Iran’s hesitation and indecision in all these fields continue. If we take a look at the approach of the Iranian Parliament and government, there is no sign of any measures in the direction of economic prosperity, development and progress in Iran.
The question is: how much longer should Iran hesitate in making big decisions? As history shows, decisive decisions will be eventually made. So if this happens sooner rather than later, it might result in heading toward achieving progress and development.
The Iranian public did not believe Ebrahim Raisi’s promise of building 1 million houses per year, nor did it believe his other campaign promises. But today no one even talks about those promises. What happened to the promise of houses for youths?
We must take a look at Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and the decisions they have made under certain circumstances, and compare them with Iran’s decisions. Iran needs to make changes in all fields. The incompetent, opportunistic individuals in the government must be discarded. A national platform must be devised and endorsed. Not much time is left for making big decisions!
Unwritten Agreement for Reviving the JCPOA
The editorial of Arman Melli, penned by former ambassador to London Jalal Sadatian, argues that despite the fact that reaching a permanent agreement over Iran’s nuclear case seems impossible, it seems that both the Iranian government and the West are aiming for a temporary deal.
It seems that both sides in the nuclear deal between Iran and the West (JCPOA) have reached the conclusion that when they cannot revive the Vienna deal in its entirety, they should try to restore a part of the nuclear deal which was the outcome of a decade of negotiations between the Iranian establishment and the P5+1.
Iran and the West are after a partial revival of the JCPOA. The Americans are after gaining some concessions as they are getting closer to their presidential election in 2024. For example, US officials in the Biden administration want to tell their public that in addition to putting a leash on the nuclearization of Iran, they have been able to free US prisoners in Iran – which will be two achievements of the administration on the threshold of the US election.
The Americans, however, are scared that a long-term agreement would play into the Republicans’ hands against the Democrats. That is why Americans are cautiously making decisions regarding Iran’s nuclear deal. On the other hand, there has been a disagreement between Iran and the United States over the number of prisoners who are going to be released if an agreement is reached. In other words, the Americans have made more demands in this regard.
Iran’s nuclear case and reaching an agreement with the West have become so complicated that there are new challenges every step of the way. If revival of the JCPOA is tied to releasing prisoners and unblocking Iran’s assets, then we can say that a temporary deal has not been reached. But we must add that the negotiations have not totally failed.
In this regard, there needs to be more time, consultations and mediations — which seem to be underway with some Gulf states expressing hope regarding the finalization of the prisoner swap deal between Iran and the United States.
Nonetheless, before resolving the existing issues, one cannot emphatically say if a deal is going to be reached or not. Yet it seems that reviving the nuclear deal is within reach, given both sides’ willingness in this regard and the regional countries’ consultations and mediations in this regard.
Obstacle to Negotiations Between Iran and the West
The editorial of Arman Emrooz states that Iranian “hardline principlists,” who have made anti-American slogans a part of their identity, are the biggest hurdle on the path of negotiations between Iran and the West.
If the ice is broken in the Tehran-Washington relationship and both countries move toward de-escalation based on rationality and national interests, it will be a positive development. Iran should not worry about breaking the taboo of negotiating with the United States because Washington is after having direct talks with Iran. So this opportunity must not be wasted.
However, when all open and covert facts of such an issue are considered, we reach the conclusion that Iran’s negotiations with the United States seem more like a dream. The relationship with the United States is facing the big obstacle from the “hardliner principlists” from the Front of Islamic Revolution Stability in Iran. In fact, hostility toward the United States has become an integral part of their identity. If one day they are not allowed to talk about fighting the United States, they will perhaps have nothing more to say. “Hardline principlists” in Iran, headed by the Front of Islamic Revolution Stability, see themselves as the champion of the people in the Middle East in exacting revenge upon the United States!
Currently, these “hardliners” do not believe in holding negotiations with the United States, and probably see any possible relations with the United States as a betrayal of the Iranian establishment’s ideals. Under these circumstances, they probably think that there is no need for the “diplomacy of begging” the United States to talk to Iran.
If negotiating with the United States is necessary for Iran’s national interests, then justifying all the anti-American slogans will be very tough and costly for the “hardline principlists.”
A Way for Making the Election Competitive?
The editorial of Arman Melli, penned by former lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi, argues that the Iranian government has not taken any steps to increase the level of public participation in the upcoming election.
Public views regarding elections, as indicated by existing evidence, have not changed since the elections held in 2019 and 2021 which witnessed the lowest turnouts following the Iranian revolution. Although there is a group of people who will go to the ballot box in Iran under any circumstances, a large part of those who are qualified to vote are openly indifferent to the ballot box and elections for different reasons.
The government’s performance, dire living conditions and society’s expectations from Raisi’s government have all added to people’s problems. The problems in the country’s foreign policy, the economic crisis and livelihood issues all remain unresolved. Nor has there been any opening in the cultural and social fields.
Elections consist of people on one side and the government on the other. Despite some people’s optimism as to the government creating a space for increasing people’s participation, there is no sign of any opening in Iran’s political arena.
The latest amendments in election laws indicate that more monitoring restrictions in elections will be enforced. So there is no sign of any opening in this regard.
One thing that could have had a good impact on the election was giving more time to those candidates who were disqualified by the Guardian Council so that they could object to their disqualifications. But this too did not happen.
There might be changes in the laws and more moderate lawmakers can go to the Parliament, yet the question remains: to what extent can the Parliament be effective? Even the current Parliament that was fully trusted by the Iranian leadership has not had a good performance and has not been effective.
New Round of Oppressive Measures on Anniversary of Woman, Life, Freedom Movement
The Iranian government has intensified its crackdown on people in all areas, ranging from universities to subways, a month before the first anniversary of the death-in-custody of Mahsa Amini which triggered one of the strongest anti-establishment protest movements inside and outside Iran.
In a new wave of dismissals and the suspension of academics, many university professors lost their jobs, and a significant number of students were suspended due to supporting the protesters of the Woman, Life, Freedom movement.
Baharak Akhtarshenas and Mohammad Mehdi Olumi, professors at Bahonar University of Kerman, were among dozens of academics fired because of endorsing students on social media.
Recently, the Head of the Supreme Leader Representation in Universities Mostafa Rostami raised the alarm against the commemoration of Mahsa Amini’s death anniversary, saying “the enemy has not backed off” and universities might soon become the first location for another round of protests.
On another front, Tehran Municipality has hired 400 individuals as “hijab monitors” in subways in another attempt to suppress women. These newly established forces are tasked with warning veilless women, banning them from getting on trains and handing them over to the police in case of their resistance. This multiple-stage process will be carried out in collaboration with female hijab monitors, plainclothes men and police.
Hijab monitors will receive a monthly pay of 12 million tomans with special benefits because of the “toughness of their job.” It should be mentioned that the wages of workers who live in deplorable conditions in Iran start at less than 5 million tomans a month.
The municipality dedicated this considerable budget to impose hijab on women despite failing to adequately fulfill its own duties, namely, providing for people’s basic needs. The latest example of such incompetence is that a 9-year-old child lost his hand due to a malfunctioning escalator on a mechanized pedestrian bridge.
It is highly unlikely, however, that such oppressive measures can prevent another nationwide movement as public frustration with the Iranian government has intensely deepened over the years.
IRGC Navy Boats Equipped With Missiles and Drones
Iranian state news agencies have reported that IRGC naval forces have been equipped with drones and missiles with a 1,000 kilometer range, as the United States has suggested the possible deployment of its armed forces on commercial ships passing through the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran’s Armed Forces Spokesman Brigadier-General Abulfazl Shekarchi had pointed to the possible deployment of the US guards on commercial ships and tankers, saying that the regional countries “are capable of providing the security of the Gulf.”
According to state news agency IRNA, different kinds of drones, cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges from 300 kilometers to 1,000 kilometers as well as other systems have been added to the IRGC’s naval capabilities.
Prior to this, the United States announced the deployment of fighter jets including Thunderbolt A-10s, F-16s, F-35s and the USS Thomas Hudner, a destroyer, to the Gulf region because of Iran’s maritime infractions.
US officials have emphasized that they seek to ensure the security of key waterways in the Gulf, particularly given the IRGC’s seizure of commercial ships in recent months.
These US moves have not gone unnoticed by Iranian officials and one senior Iranian diplomat told the neighboring countries that the region does not need “foreigners” for providing its security.
Tehran usually claims that the seized ships have violated maritime laws. Some of these ships are only released in return for freeing Iranian ships seized by other countries.
In the meantime, last week the IRGC held an unannounced military drill in the Gulf deploying plenty of small fast boats, parachuters and missile units.
In this drill, the IRGC unveiled new vessels equipped with missiles with a 600 kilometer range.
Fars news agency, closely linked to the IRGC, reported that in this drill the Ghadir cruise missile and the Fath 360 ballistic missile, which is claimed to be equipped with AI technology, were unveiled.
This drill in the Gulf was held while, according to the Associated Press, the United States is transferring thousands of marines to this region with USS Bataan and USS Carter Hall.
Preparation for Arbaeen Ceremony Despite Dire Economic Conditions
With almost a month until the Arbaeen ceremony, Iranian officials have reported that all entities and organizations are preparing for the Arbaeen March in Iraq.
Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi, during his trip to West Azerbaijan Province, said that a meeting was held to facilitate Iranian pilgrims’ travel to Iraq for this ceremony.
Acknowledging the severe heat at the border, he added that they are trying their best to prepare for Arbaeen pilgrims to get to Iraq.
In the meantime, Mohammad Farzin, governor of the Central Bank of Iran, recently stated that any individual going to Iraq for participating in the Arbaeen ceremony will receive up to 200,000 Iraqi dinars.
On the other hand, Iran’s Health Minister has announced that roughly 15,000 to 20,000 students and members of academic boards will be sent to the Arbaeen ceremony for promoting the “culture of Ashura” and each student will receive a loan of 3 million tomans.
The head of Tehran University also underscored the importance of providing financial facilities for sending “caravans of students” to the city of Karbala for the Arbaeen ceremony.
All these measures are taken to promote participation in the Arbaeen ceremony in Iraq while the reports show that 30% of the Iranian population is living below the poverty line and 27% are barely above it – which means that almost 60% of Iranian people are living either below or close to the poverty line and are deprived of their basic needs.
Recently, economist Hossein Raghfar warned about economic collapse in Iran, stating that he could not see any promising prospects for the country. He added that what is happening now is the acceleration of economic deterioration.
The Arbaeen ceremony is held in the form of a march in the city of Karbala, Iraq, where the shrine of Imam Hussein is located.
Five-year Mutual Trade Agreement Between Iran and Pakistan
While Tehran has asked Islamabad to complete the stalled part of the gas line which has remained unfinished for years, Pakistani media announced that during the Iranian foreign minister’s trip to this country, both countries inked agreements worth $5 billion within the framework of a five-year bilateral trade plan.
This is twice as much as the current trade volume between the two countries and is considered as a five-year extension for strategic cooperation between Iran and Pakistan.
Pakistan’s foreign minister said he is certain that the current steps outline the path of economic partnership between the two countries, announcing that five border markets between the two countries will become operational by the end of this year.
The Iranian foreign minister also said in a press conference in Islamabad that creating a special free trade zone in joint border areas between Iran and Pakistan was one of the agreements reached during his visit.
He emphasized on cooperation between Tehran and Islamabad for creating peace and stability in Afghanistan as a “religious and humanitarian responsibility.”
During the negotiations, both sides agreed to release each other’s fishermen who were arrested in their territorial waters in the Sea of Oman and not to impose cash penalties on the other country’s seized ships.
The Pakistani foreign minister also expressed gratitude to Iran for sending electricity to Pakistan, adding that schools and hospitals in the city of Quetta are active thanks to Iran’s electricity.
While the Pakistani foreign minister is grateful for receiving electricity from Iran, all over Iran there is a shortage of electricity, with power outages becoming a serious problem in certain regions. Iran’s industrial sector has greatly suffered as a result of the power outages this summer.