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>> Asharq Al-Awsat


THE IRANIAN RIAL BONFIRE

Asharq Al-Awsat - October 8, 2012

by Tariq Alhomayed

The ongoing collapse of the Iranian Rial is yet to signal the eruption of what is to come in Iran, despite what some have alleged, but it does raise several questions about the reality of the Iranian political system, both internally and externally, and especially the extent to which the Rial bonfire affects the Iranian central nervous system (merchants and citizens) and Iranian interests abroad (agents of Tehran).

Of course, as expected, the Iranian regime will go to any length to stop the collapse of its currency, and thus thwart the opportunity for any internal political tremors, but this poses several questions, as I mentioned before, about Iran’s ability to deal with what’s coming to it. Will Iran continue to support the doomed regime of the tyrant of Damascus, Bashar al-Assad? It has been revealed that Tehran has provided nearly US$ 10 billion to al-Assad in terms of finance, equipment and even personnel. Hezbollah, a party that is funded by Iran, has also provided its fighters to support al-Assad, so can Tehran continue this funding in spite of the internal discontent, which poses a genuine risk to the political system there? Or will the current situation prompt Tehran to wonder – not necessarily rationally but pragmatically – why it should rush to finance a regime that will inevitably fall in Syria, especially at a time when Iranian internal conditions pose such a serious danger?

The other threat to Iran today is venturing into the “red zone” [with regards to its nuclear program], as illustrated by the Israeli Prime Minister, who garnered strong public opinion on the back of his speech to the UN General Assembly. Is Iran capable of facing a danger of such magnitude while its internal situation is unstable, and possibly due to explode, especially with the ongoing economic sanctions and subsequent collapse of the Iranian currency?

The story here is not about predicting the future or wishful thinking; it is about trying to figure out what Tehran is thinking these days amidst these sensitive circumstances that are undoubtedly of its own making. After all, it was only natural that prolonged tampering in the region and pursuing adventures outside Iranian territory would end up impacting upon Iran’s internal situation. As I mentioned before, the Syrian situation itself has transformed into a significant drain on Iran, economically and politically. In terms of the political drain, the simplest example is the volume of information that is now being leaked about General Qasem Soleimani’s meetings with some Iraqi leaders, specifically the Kurds. These leaks clearly show that some have begun to turn to the media, and specifically the Western media, to embarrass Iran and expose its blatant interference in Syria. Information has even begun to circulate about the pressures being faced by Qasem Soleimani himself in Iran, due to his failure to accomplish anything concrete in defense of al-Assad after 19 months!

Therefore, it is not my intention here to say that Iran has changed its stance, but rather to say: Is Iran capable of continuing its current stances, especially with regards to Syria? Is Tehran also able to emerge from the bottleneck of the “red zone” predicament that Netanyahu put forward to the UN, given its unstable internal situation? We must find an answer to these questions because this issue will entail much, at all levels, in the coming days.





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