Iran's Position in the Region can Weaken. Expert
"Armedia" IAA presents an exclusive interview with expert Armen Israelyan on recent developments in Iran.
- Mr. Israelyan, according to you what is the main motive behind the protests in Iran? Are they only economical?
- The main motives were the following: first of all, the socio-economic policy pursued by the Iranian government and the provisions included in the new budget draft, some of which were problematic and caused the protesters' dissatisfaction. However, this was not a new phenomenon, and it was the result of developments in Iran over the past three years. One of the main reasons was the situation after Iran's nuclear program, as the Iranian society had great expectations concerning the economy development and first of all providing jobs for the youth. This is one of the key issues that President Rohani voiced during his second re-election in the summer of 2017.
Of course, there were also some inner-political intrigues associated with reformist circles and conservatives. It seems that these disagreements and mutual accusations created favorable conditions for protesters as just few months ago the conservative circles criticized Rohani's economic policies through their various information resources.
- In the context of protests in Iran, the authorities have announced that they can end the cooperation with the IAEA. Is Iran really going to make such a move, or is it just a threat?
- After the US President Donald Trump's inauguration, there was a desire to cancel the nuclear program, however, due to the European Union's strict position, the United States could not overthrow it. Iran has always stated that it is loyal to the nuclear agreement and will do everything to keep it at the same time constantly calling on the sides to remain loyal to it. I do not think that Iran will abandon the agreement as President Rohani and Foreign Minister Zarif have made great efforts to achieve that. Hence, this is a matter of principle for them and is one of the promises of President Rohani, which has been implemented. Besides, as I have already mentioned, the Iranian society also has great expectations to solve a number of economic issues that emerged during the reign of the former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Then Iran lost its position in the oil market that was occupied by Saudi Arabia, Iran lost its position in the gas market, in turn occupied by Qatar, and China took the carpet market. That is to say, Rohani has set a goal to reconsider Ahmedinejad's financial and economic policy, which provided a widespread subsidy to the society. Although it pleased the socially vulnerable citizens, it did not contribute to the country's economic development. While Rohani was trying to weaken the industry's dependence on the budget. Summing up let me say that Iran will remain committed to nuclear concession until the moment when it is not harming and endangering its state interests. Therefore, in my opinion, Iran will not make such a move.
- Is the resumption of demonstrations in Iran possible, in your opinion, or the authorities will succeed in implementing reforms without any public shocks?
-It is a crisis situation, including a political crisis, and it is not ruled out that demonstrations can resume in other areas and states, as the issue is not settled, although the situation is stable and calm. Rohani responded very quickly and although he did not have the opportunity to communicate with the demonstrators initially, he immediately met with economic officials, ministers, and gave instructions. Now there are many political discussions, in general, the situation is under control, and after the new budget is approved, the risks of new problems will become clear. Rohani definitely realizes that there is a crisis in the country and tries to solve it. He also sends messages to target groups.
- How can you comment on the developments in Iran from the point of view of the interests of Armenia and other countries of the region?
- From Armenia's point of view, it is unambiguous that any negative process in Iran will have a bad impact on us, but in terms of our security and issues concerning Artsakh, fortunately, in the Turkic-speaking regions, although some protests did take place, they were not as large-scale as compared to other regions. And the second important fact is that there were no separatist manifestations. It should be noted that during the days of the protests, various groups targeted the ethnic groups through the social networks so that they also had to hold protests. However, they did not succeed. This is very important, that in Northern Iran, in particular, there were no separatist movements, which is very important for Armenia.
Regarding the role of Iran in the region, Iran's position can weaken, and this can definitely have a negative impact, especially given that one of the slogans of the rallies was that Iran should not provide assistance to Iraq, Syria, and all the money should be invested in the economy of the country. Of course, the demonstrators were right, but here are two questions: On the one hand, the Iranian government should solve socio-economic issues, on the other hand, strengthen its positions in the region. The "war" that Iran is fighting beyond the borders of the country, it has to fight, otherwise it will have to do it on its own territory, and such attempts seemed to have taken place after the terrorist attack in Tehran. That is, the players in the region have created a situation that, in my opinion, will become even more difficult in 2018. Consequently, Iran is facing serious challenges both internally and externally.
I think that one of the tools to exert pressure on Iran will be the issue of human rights, which the Trump regime will try to use against Iran, as the nuclear agreement has not been canceled. The only encouraging thing is that the European Union is working with the Iranian authorities to solve the problems surrounding Iran and to soften the tough anti-Iranian position of the United States. And if the EU continues its policy, it may be possible to achieve some balance in Iran, which is also important for us as we have many projects with Iran, some of which are already being implemented and the other part is still on the agenda. And if new sanctions against Iran are settled, it can have a negative impact on our relations with Iran.
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