Iran’s 2022: Riots, Drones and Diplomats!
Iran’s 2022: Riots, Drones and Diplomats!
By Karim Sharara
January 4, 2023
Between the riots in Iran, the war in Ukraine, and the talks to revive the JCPOA, Iran has certainly had a busy year. Perhaps it would be good for us to look over the year from an eagle's eye view so that we can get a feel of how 2023 might play out in Iran.
This was certainly a busy year for the world. We left 2021 pondering on the prospects of a possible JCPOA revival (though to be fair, I did say it was highly unlikely it would happen at the time), looking forward to the winter Olympics, and thinking about what would unfold in the newest episodes of Boris Johnson and the party bunch.
But here we are now, amid a war in Ukraine, fully-backed and stoked by NATO, a continued escalation of tensions with China, a cost-of-living crisis in the West (alongside an energy crisis), full-on riots that quickly turned into armed confrontations with security forces in Iran, and the death of Barbara Walters.
This has certainly been a whirlwind of a year, so perhaps looking into how things progressed, at least as far as Iran is concerned, could help us get a feel for how 2023 might unwind?
Perhaps the easiest place to start would be the beginning. Looking back into the early days of 2022, one main idea was being repeated in Iranian diplomatic circles on all levels for several months: We are very close to reaching a deal, but the move necessitates a serious, realistic decision by the US.
Really, you’d think the US would’ve been able to make a decision by now. But it isn’t about a sovereign decision so much as it was hoping for a repeat of 2015. Meaning a deal that it can go into and leave at will.
One of the main reasons the Vienna Talks took so long really goes back to a simple principle. Iran had seen firsthand the consequences of US deception: The US signed the JCPOA, did not implement it, and suffered no consequences, then left it unilaterally and still suffered no consequences, and then sanctioned Iran through its maximum pressure campaign and still, suffered no consequences.
Meanwhile, the EU stood idly by, twiddling its fingers, also failing to abide by its side of the bargain, calling on Iran to implement the deal in full.
For a recap of last year: 2021 Roundup: A JCPOA revival in 2022?
So now, the matter was simple, if the US needed to return to the deal, the Iranians needed to make sure that there would be no loopholes that Washington could use to leave the deal without consequences, and moreover, if that were to happen, then Iran also needed to make sure it could easily go back to where things were before the deal, in terms of the nuclear program.
As far as the US was concerned, there were two main issues driving it to drag its feet...The first was the fact that no loopholes meant that it would become more difficult to leave the deal, as it had been hoping for what Alastair Crooke called “A Pop-in, Pop-out JCPOA”, a doggie door if you will.
The second was due to political circumstance: Biden had been afraid of how the outcome of the Midterm elections might play out, and so was working the two sides by making headway in the talks (which explains the recurring statements that a deal was close to being reached) while also looking out for his administration’s and Democrats’ numbers in the Midterms, so it wouldn’t look like they were being weak on Iran, which the GOP could then exploit to boost its Midterm numbers.
One unforeseen event was the riots in Iran. Although they were stoked by the West – primarily the US, which is trying to push for regime change –if it hadn’t been for the riots, the US would have probably agreed to go back to the deal once the Midterms were done.
But why would the US go back to the deal if it considers it so binding? The reasoning’s pretty straightforward, and also has to do with geopolitical shifts. The disruption of global energy supplies following Western sanctions on Russia has the West scrambling to look for alternatives to Russian gas and oil, and the EU is pushing for Iran to be brought back to the global energy market, while the US is still dragging its feet, ostensibly hoping at the moment for regime change through the Iran riots.
Ah yes, the Iran riots, which the West rather impetuously calls protests. It’s funny how when some people take to the streets armed with weapons to use against security forces and civilians, they’re called peaceful protests by Western mainstream media who go out of their way to challenge any narrative that brings any evidence showing the violent intent of the rioters to light.
Can it get any clearer than the interview that famed war hawk and mustache aficionado John Bolton had with BBC Persian’s Rana Rahimpour?
Bolton, of all people, went out of his way to show that the rioters were being armed by weapons being smuggled from Iraqi Kurdistan, while the BBC Persian host, Rana Rahimpour, of all people, went out of her way to change subjects while also ‘correcting’ Bolton that there was no evidence to the rioters being armed, which led to Bolton replying that they indeed were, as videos on social media clearly showed (You can find the 8-minute video of the interview here, the part I'm referring starts at 5:16. However, it's in Farsi, so you may want to get your Iranian friend to translate it for you over some Chelo Kebab and Doogh).
Former US National Security Advisor John Bolton said on UK state owned BBC Persian that the Iranian opposition is armed. The BBC Persian host tried to refute him & change the topic.— Seyed Mohammad Marandi (@s_m_marandi) November 9, 2022
Meanwhile, the terrorists shoot at the armed forces & send footage to US state owned Persian TV! pic.twitter.com/TWa7Iy4euY
By the way, this was the same Rana Rahimpour who just a few days earlier had an audio leaked from a conversation with her mother, saying that some media outlets (namely the Saudi-funded Iran International) were clearly working toward an end goal of weakening and dividing Iran.
Or how about the blatant way in which none other than famed media personality, broom-riding extraordinaire, and lover of gingerbread houses, the US-paid, VOA-employed, and friendly neighborhood spider woman Masih Alinejad was pushing for more riots in Iran, and constantly calling for even more sanctions against her own country, whose people were suffering because of the US-imposed sanctions.
The #CIA-backed instigator, #MasihAlinejad, is making a lot of money in exchange for inciting violence in #Iran and even using victims' mothers to provoke more riots in the country. pic.twitter.com/k4svccmz96— Al Mayadeen English (@MayadeenEnglish) November 20, 2022
Perhaps it’s telling that the same countries that have sanctioned Iran for its ‘crackdown’ on ‘protestors’ had earlier resorted to more forceful measures in their crackdown on actual, unarmed protestors in their countries. It may be useful for us to remember Canada and its crackdown on anti-vaccine mandate protestors, which went as far as to freeze their bank accounts. How about Freedom Convoy protestors? Or how about the French police’s violence against protestors and racism against minorities? Or how about Australian police shooting anti-lockdown protestors?
It's understandable from the Western point of view of course: You see Iranians are so ‘repressed by their government’ that they’re not allowed to leave their homes once they finish working, and by ‘protesting’ they’re actually running, and getting their fair share of exercise; but Europeans get enough exercise as it is, so police aren’t actually using violence! They’re sparring with them because they’re so physically fit and need the challenge!
But seriously, let’s keep in mind that the West cannot expect for the riots to end and for Iran to go back to how things were before pre-riots. Germany, France, the UK, Saudi Arabia, “Israel”, and the US all stoked the riots, overtly supporting them. Although Iran is very pragmatic, it also possesses a very good collective memory, and diplomatic relations and economic opportunities won’t mean that it will forego hostile actions taken against it.
Of course, that’s not to forget the impact that the war on Ukraine left on Western-Iranian relations, which further cemented Iran’s pivot to the Global South.
The war in Ukraine
Although at the start of the war in Ukraine, relations between Iran and the West went unaffected, they devolved as the war progressed on account of Western accusations that Iran had sent Russia drones for use against Ukraine. The problem for the West wasn’t that Iran denied supply of the drones for use during the war; as far as they were concerned, they were dead set on implicating Iran against Ukraine, regardless of the circumstances, rather it was that the drones were very effective in a battleground the West was using to test out its own arsenal.
Just to be clear, Iran’s stance on the war in Ukraine is still unchanged. It’s only natural that Tehran would want to further its ties with Moscow as part of its strategy to deepen its ties with the Global South, and push for a new world order of multilateralism. That doesn’t mean that it ever supported the war in Ukraine, as in fact it said it was against the war, favoring a diplomatic resolution, but made it clear NATO was the party who instigated the war through its attempts to expand eastward.
To put things in perspective, Iran’s ties with Russia will only grow in the future, regardless of the war in Ukraine. The focus on Iran and the Global South creating international and regional institutions to counter US hegemony is only set to increase amid NATO’s policy to create new coalitions and alliances in Central Asia and the Asia Pacific. Moreover, the war in Ukraine served to stretch the US’ forces around the world even thinner, as it continues to make overtures against China in the Asia Pacific, while also announcing support for “Israel” and the normalization process in West Asia, in a bid to create an anti-Iran coalition. This is perhaps best evidenced during a recent June 24, 2022, policy speech made by former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Hudson Institute:
“Moving past our current geo-strategic focus, the United States must help in building of the three lighthouses for liberty. These beacons should be centered on nations that have great strife: Ukraine, ‘Israel’, and Taiwan. They can be the hubs of new security architecture that links alliances of free nations globally, reinforcing the strengths of each member state, in time, linking these three bastions with NATO, as well as the new and expanded security framework for the Indo-Pacific will form a global alliance for freedom. This will benefit America."
Although it might be a bit difficult to hear someone who used the words 'lie, cheat, and steal' in the same context as a mugger would talk about "lighthouses for liberty", this person -- by a rather strange twist of fate and improbable circumstances, without a doubt due to a great disturbance in the force brought on by the birth of the antichrist -- was a decision-maker in the former US administration, and apparently what he says has some measure of weight.
Maybe it is also telling, in this regard, that Pentagon upgraded its security ties with “Israel”, making it a full military partner, meaning that “Israel” has been transferred to CENTCOM, in a development that hasn't happened in the US military establishment since 1948 (go figure, Pompeo might have been right!).
The Pentagon announcement made it clear that both were preparing for a potential war against Iran by both elevating "Israel's" position and paving the way for a regional alliance against Iran.
"The easing of tensions between 'Israel' and its Arab neighbors subsequent to the 'Abraham Accords' has provided a strategic opportunity for the United States to align key partners against shared threats in the Middle East. 'Israel' is a leading strategic partner for the United States, and this will open up additional opportunities for cooperation with our US Central Command partners while maintaining strong cooperation between 'Israel' and our European allies,".
Ok, so where does this leave us next year?
If we ever thought 2022 would be uneventful, then brace yourselves for next year! Russian, Iranian military cooperation is still in its early stages, as is a cooperation between Iran and Asian powers that would prefer a multilateral world order. It is without a doubt that we will see an increase in tensions around the globe, but West Asia hinges on the provocations of a very important actor: The Israeli occupation.
How the Israeli occupation's incoming government, the most extremist to date, chooses to deal with Palestine and the Resistance Factions will leave a great impact on the region as a whole.
Sure, we can opine on whether or not the JCPOA might be revived, because it's still comatose, regardless of what the Americans say in the media; but the most significant variable, and certainly the hottest flashpoint as of the beginning of this new year in West Asia, is Palestine. If the Palestinian Resistance continues its victory streak and manages to pacify the Israeli occupation, then it is assured that "Tel Aviv" will seek to increase its regional power through alliances, while continuing to work for the next few years: Biding time until it overhauls its airforce, waiting for a change in the US administration that places "Israel" higher up on its list of priorities, and attempting to destabilize Iran's domestic through intelligence, while at the same time attempting to drag the US into a regional war that it is wholeheartedly against.
As for the riots in Iran, they're not completely over, yes they've fizzled out to a large extent, but it wouldn't be farfetched to expect that Iran may have some changes in store on the domestic scene. That's not to say the hijab law will be removed because of pressure from the riots, that is a resounding no, but what's going to change is how the law is enforced.
Aside from the riots, a more interesting development for Iran was certainly the unfolding of Merkel's confessions on the Minsk agreements. The whole point behind the color revolution that happened in Ukraine and the subsequent Minsk agreements was not appeasing Russia, inasmuch as it was about buying time for Ukraine and disarming Russia. This was the same trap that the Iranian team fell into during the 2015 JCPOA when it agreed to restrict its arms exports for years (five years for heavy arms, and eight for ballistic missiles). Though thankfully, Iran never stopped expanding its drone and ballistic missile program, although it would have been in a more advanced position now had it not agreed to that at the time.
This time, Iran will go into the talks with Merkel and the Minsk accords in mind, and an eye out for Western attempts to disarm it or pull the rug from under its feet.