The International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah) issued its monthly report, Iran Case File (ICF) for February 2021. It provides readers in general and researchers in particular, an accurate and in-depth analysis of Iran’s affairs and a comprehensive review of its dynamics. The file is divided into three main parts: Internal Affairs, Arab Affairs, and International Affairs.
At the ideological level, the activities of the Najaf Marjaya and its efforts to support the moves undertaken by the current Iraqi government to restore the country’s sovereignty posed a challenge to Iran which backs pro-Velayat-e Faqih armed militias. The visit of Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church, to Iraq and his keenness to visit the top cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani carried a symbolic message that the international community supports the Najaf Marjaya in its support for the Iraqi government. At the political level, amid the continuation of the economic crisis and the deepening political deadlock, the Iranian supreme leader has sensed the difficulty in motivating Iranians to go to the ballot boxes for the upcoming election in June. At the economic level, the disagreement between the government and the Parliament dragged on for two consecutive months. The debate only ended when the supreme leader directly intervened, especially as the sources to finance the budget were unclear and unrealistic, in light of declining oil revenues and the government’s inability to secure alternative sources. At the military level, Iran’s naval forces (the army and the IRGC) carried out in mid-February a naval drill with Russia and several other countries in the northern Indian Ocean dubbed “Iran-Russia Maritime Security Belt 2021.”
Arab Affairs discusses how the Iran-Gulf interactions in February were relatively calm, with both sides waiting to know the direction of US policy under President Joe Biden. The month was marked by some degree of escalation which was done to “test the waters” and impose “well-calculated pressure.” The file also discusses Qatar’s attempts to acts as a mediator between Iran and the Gulf states and between Iran and the United States. It also sheds light on the escalating missile attacks against Saudi Arabia by Iran-backed militias, the Iranian media escalation against Saudi Arabia. In the Iran and Yemen part, the file discusses the continuous Houthi escalation after the United States revoked the designation of the Houthi militia as a terrorist group. As for the Iran and Iraq part, the file reviews the mutual military escalation between the United States and Iran, the impact of which spilled over into Syria’s territories. The pro-Iran militias in Iraq intensified their attacks using Katyusha missiles against US targets, and the United States responded by striking the headquarters of Iranian militias in eastern Syria. Regarding Iran’s presence in Syria, the United States on February 25 carried out airstrikes targeting several facilities and buildings situated at a border crossing point that is used by a host of Iran-backed militias.
International Affairs reviews the tenets of the Biden’s policy towards Iran, casting light on the varying points of view within the Biden administration. A team in the US State Department believes that it is important to link the understandings with Iran with one another to reach a comprehensive settlement on the outstanding issues. This position is adopted by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Another team in the US administration believes that it is important to urgently address Iran’s nuclear breaches, considering that Iran’s recent steps pose a threat which is immediate and pressing in the medium term. Further, the file mentions that United States also agreed to resume a strategic dialogue with Israel regarding the Iranian file and agreed to convene a joint strategic forum on Iran.
Regarding the course of Iran-Europe relations, the E3 (UK, Germany and France) are exerting concerted efforts to successfully mediate between the United States and Iran, and Europe is dealing with Iran in a more resolute manner than it did during Trump’s tenure. Europe has regularly condemned Iran’s breaches of the nuclear deal. The Europeans have also been more candid and insisted on the need to amend the provisions of the nuclear deal. However, the Iranian political currents still debate on the policy to be adopted towards the United States as the presidential elections are approaching.