As senior Iranian regime officials continue to complain about the Lebanese Hezbollah blacklisting, recent developments across the Middle East have placed Tehran before even further dilemmas. As mullah Ahmad Khatami, an ultraconservative figure very close to supreme leader Ali Khamenei, continued to moan for Hezbollah, various meetings were taking place between European leaders and Russia in France.
Ahmad Khatami asked why had they blacklisted the “brave Hezbollah” to which “Lebanon owes its security to”? In France, however, foreign ministers of the “EU3”, consisting of France, Britain and Germany held meetings and press conferences along with the E.U. foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. There were also separate meetings between French President Francoise Holland and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad and the German Chancellor Angela Merkel focusing on strengthening the ceasefire and the necessity to pursue a political solution without Bashar Assad. This has added to the mullahs’ worries, very visible in Iran’s media outlets.
The question now is why is the Iranian regime so concerned about developments in the region, including Hezbollah being placed on the terrorist list? While the answer lies in the question, one can find more insight through various media outlets and stances taken by senior Iranian regime officials and elements.
The Iranian regime claims Hezbollah was “responsible for the ground war in the strategy of Russia’s presence in Syria.” On the other hand Iran claims “Saudi Arabia and other Arab states” have blacklisted Hezbollah to politically pave the path for their military campaign in Syria and “to further confront Iran” and “weaken Tehran in Syria” more than ever before. Former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezaie has described this development as World War III.
To this point it has become clear that Iran is concerned about the paths adopted by Saudi Arabia and other regional countries. This path includes coinciding political and military measures. On one hand they have announced their readiness to dispatch ground forces, station planes and Saudi forces in Turkey’s strategic Incerlik airbase. Further measures include staging the unprecedented “Northern Lightning” military drills, blacklisting Hezbollah and also political actions and attempts to hold true political talks for power transition in Syria. However, why is Tehran terrified of these measures?
We should seek the answer through Iran’s press media which act as a barometer of the mood inside the ruling elite. An analysis provided in the state-run Daneshju (Student) news agency on March 5th provides the answer:
“Neither Russia is ready to commit to a long-term campaign, nor Iran. Assad can no longer continue this war, even provided support from Russia and Iran, to even maintain his control over Latakia (in the west coast). Moscow is now divided with Damascus over the future of Bashar Assad and the Syrian regime. This has shocked many Middle East political analysts! In a simple conclusion one sees talks of behind-the-scene deals held between two international parties involved in the Syria crisis. Will the Russians truly trade off the fate of Bashar Assad?”
The answer to this very depressing question for the Iranian regime is embedded in the sentences mentioned above. Russia is not committed to a long-term campaign as remaining in Syria is not a matter of life or death for it, as it is for the Iranian regime. Russia has come to gain concessions, and separated its path as its interests demanded such a move. This has raised major concerns for the mullahs sitting on the throne in Tehran. Now that Russia has pulled out of Syria and is giving in to a true political solution, it will be the beginning of the end for the Assad regime. Russia is seeking its own interests, as it did in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement between the P5+1 and Iran.
The state-run Keyhan daily, known as Khamenei’s mouthpiece, wrote in this regard: “The story between us and the Americans is not just about the nuclear dossier to be ended through the JCPOA… Among the long list of conflicts and disputes between these two parties, it appears regional subjects will be the most probable area of dispute in the future.”