Consideration to Geostrategic Pulse no.128 - The geopolitics of Iran and the future of Ahmadinejad regime

The geopolitics of Iran and the future of Ahmadinejad regime
Corneliu PIVARIU

Iran, with a total surface of 1.649 million square kilometers (the 17th biggest surface in the world), a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 484.4 billion dollars (estimated for 2011) – the 26th world economy in terms of GDP – and a population of about 75 million inhabitants, is one of the leading geopolitical players both in Asia and in the Middle East, alongside the USA, Russia, China and Turkey. We remind you that Iran holds the forth place in the world for its oil reserves discovered and it is the third crude oil exporter worldwide, after Saudi Arabia and Russia. Also, it is the second in the world when it comes to natural gas reserves discovered. In the last decade, the export revenues came 72% from oil, however they dropped drastically in 2012 due to the economic sanctions imposed against the regime in Tehran (in January 2012 China reduced its Iranian oil imports to a half as compared to the year 2011). Having realized the sanctions caused by its nuclear program are going to hit the oil export first and foremost, Iran sought to develop its export of non-oil products which, from 4 billion dollars in 2011, was estimated to have reached 43 billion dollars in May 2012. The most important such products are liquid propane, pistachio and caviar. At the same time, Iran is dependent on raw materials import, including food (about 3.5 million tons of corn are imported annually – mainly from Ukraine), reinforcing iron and steel, as well as oil refined products such as gasoline, as Iran has only small refinery capacity. The domestic economic reforms introduced ever since 2010 aiming drastic subsidy cuts have caused a substantial devaluation of the national currency which was rated to some 12,000 rials for one dollar on the black market in late 2011. In the spring of 2012, also as an effect of the international economic and financial sanctions, the rate got to some 23,000 rials for one  US dollar.

The political regime in Tehran is a theocracy guided by Islamic ideology of Shiite origin, and the current Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei (in this position since 4 June 1989) is the supreme authority (in a 2010 Forbes top, he is on the 26th place among the strongest people in the world) and has absolute powers. The most difficult situation he was confronted with was created by the protests in 2009, in the electoral campaign for president and after the reelection of Mahmud Ahmadinejad, whom he supported.

The president of Iran, Mahmud Ahmadinejad (in office since 10 August 2005) will finish his second term on 3 August 2013, and according to the current Constitution he cannot run for a third one. Just like Khamenei, he is coming from the Iranian conservatory circles.

The mountainous landscape on the country’s large surface as well as the coast allows Iran to secure a good defense, but the most important issue is keeping the domestic tensions under control. The centennial traditions of the security systems are well adjusted and upgraded by the Minister of Intelligence and National Security and especially by the Iran’s Revolutionary Guardian Corps (IRGC) which has about 450,000 employees, practically a second army.

The Iranian nuclear program is in fact a deterrence factor; its very existence adds power to the Iranian regime. We have our reserves towards Ali Khamenei’s declarations according to which a military nuclear program is against the religious concepts promoted by the leadership in Tehran.

Iran is always concerned to maintain and strengthen its influence from Lebanon to Afghanistan, and when president Ahmadinejad leaves the office, no change will occur regarding this strategic objective, at least not as long Ali Khamenei stays the Supreme Leader of the country. The Iranian influence in the former Soviet republics in the Caucasus or in Central Asia is also a concern of the Russian Federation and for Turkey as well. Creating a transit corridor between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf, by the signatures of the foreign ministers of Iran, Oman, Qatar, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan in late April 2011 in Ashgabat, represents yet another element of the Iranian foreign and economic policy to develop its influence and the connections in the region, as well as to fight the political and economic sanctions imposed. The term of Shiite Crescent, created by king Abdullah of Jordan, is  well justified.
 

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back Published in 2012-09-05 Print Download up