In this image made from UNTV video, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a pre-recorded message which was played during the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, at UN headquarters. Irans president on Friday, Oct. 9, is calling on the international community to condemn the Trump administration’s latest decision to blacklist Irans financial sector. Photo: UNTV via AP/NTB
The Iranian regime has excitingly announced former U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden’s possible victory in the US presidential elections and is celebrating that the next US administration will, they hope, be from the Democrat Party.
Iranian authorities view the chance that Biden might take over the White House as a definite win for Tehran. Hesameddin Ashena, an advisor to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, tweeted that Iranians «stood their ground bravely until that coward’s time [Donald Trump] came to leave». Headlines in the state-controlled newspapers, which celebrated the news, included, «World without Trump!» (Aftabe Yazd newspaper), «Mr Withdrawal is Close to Being Kicked Out of White House», «Go to Hell You Gambler!» (Sobhe Now newspaper) «Trump’s Card No Longer Valid for Media!» (Aftabe Yazd newspaper), «The Bankrupt US President Got Humiliated» (Mardom Salari newspaper), and «Trump Must Leave» (Donyaye Eghtesad newspaper).
The last three years has indeed been a nightmare for the Iranian regime and its proxies. No US administration before the current one has imposed such a draconian pressure on the mullahs, their rogue state and their allies.
At the beginning, President Donald J. Trump pulled the US out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, which Iran never signed and which paves the way for Iran to have nuclear weapons. Then, the Trump administration re-imposed primary and secondary sanctions on Iran’s energy, banking and shipping sectors. During the last two years, several other Iranian entities were added to the sanction list. The killing of General Qassem Soleimani was also a huge blow to Iran’s regime, particularly the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its proxies across the Middle East.
The sanctions, in fact, have imposed significant pressure on the Iranian government — to such an extent that the Iranian leaders have had to cut their funding to their allies, militia and terror groups.
A year into the pressure, the state-controlled Syrian newspaper Al-Watan reported that Iran halted its credit line to the Syrian government. Some of Iran’s authorities publicly announced that they also do not have money to pay their mercenaries abroad. In an interview with the state-run Ofogh Television Network, for instance, Parviz Fattah, the current head of the Foundation for the Underprivileged (Mostazafan Foundation) stated:
«I was at the IRGC Cooperative Foundation. Haj Qassem [Soleimani, commander of the IRGC Quds Force who was killed by a US drone strike] came and told me he did not have money to pay the salaries of the Fatemiyoun [Afghan mercenaries]. He said that these are our Afghan brothers, and he asked for help from people like us.»
Tehran’s diminishing resources have also caused Iranian leaders to cut funds to the Palestinian terror group Hamas and the Lebanese militant group, Hezbollah. Hamas was forced to introduce «austerity plans» while Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, has also called on his group’s fundraising arm «to provide the opportunity for jihad with money and also to help with this ongoing battle.»
The country’s economic situation became so dire that the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani admitted that the Islamic Republic is encountering the worst economic crisis since its establishment in 1979. The political deputy of the province of Bushehr, Governor Majid Khorshidi, told a gathering on July 14 that they should not ignore US sanctions: «We used to see this approach [of ignoring US sanctions] from the previous [Ahmadinejad] administration and unfortunately it still continues,» he added. «But I have to say that sanctions have broken the economy’s back».
Thanks to the current administration’s pressure, Iran’s currency, the rial, has been in free fall in the last three years. As of November 7, 2020, a US dollar is worth approximately 250,000 rials. Before the current US administration imposed a «maximum pressure» policy against Tehran, a US dollar had equaled nearly 30,000 rials. During the last year, Iran’s oil exports also sank to a record low. The country’s budget heavily relies on selling oil.
As pressure kept mounting against the regime, Tehran also faced several widespread protests in the country, which endangered the hold on power of the ruling clerics. Now, the regime feels that all of the current administration’s pressures will be lifted soon and the golden days will be back again.
It is unfortunate that Iran’s ruling mullahs view a possible victory of the Democrat Party in US elections as a win for the Tehran regime, its proxies and militia groups. President Rouhani has already called for restoring the nuclear deal. It could well be a loss for continuing peace in the region and for finally restoring the violated Iranian people’s hoped-for human rights.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US foreign policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu