The Iranian military consists of experienced professionals who would not start a war with the U.S., Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the chairman of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament), has said.
In an editorial published in the April 15th issue of the Arman daily, Mr. Falahatpisheh described a recent decision by the U.S. to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization as “psychological warfare waged against Iran by President Donald Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton.”
“Washington is trying to prevent the IRGC from implementing its developmental and infrastructure projects,” Falahatpisheh wrote. “Neither side is beating the war drum, but it is a sensitive situation. Many people in the U.S. Congress oppose Mr. Trump’s policies.”
The U.S. State Department designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) on April 8. Within a day, the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Majlis retaliated by declaring the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army in the Middle East, East Africa, and Central Asia, better known as the Central Command (CENTCOM), as a “terrorist organization.”
It is abundantly clear that the Islamic Republic’s armed forces are no match for U.S. military firepower. The Islamic Republic regime has, in addition, lost all credibility among Iranians, and cannot muster domestic support for any large-scale military operation. Also, Iran’s so-called allies Russia and China have no desire to lock horns with the U.S. over its decision to label the principal component of Iran’s military a terrorist organization.
On April 6, two days before the U.S. designated the IRGC a terrorist entity, French President Emmanuel Macron had a telephone conversation with Hassan Rouhani during which he urged the Iranian president to defuse the current tensions between Tehran and Washington.
Meanwhile, Iranian oil exports have dropped to a mere one million barrels per day (bpd). Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, President Rouhani’s adviser and head of the Planning and Budget Organization, said in October 2018 that the government’s revenue had dropped by nearly $20 billion.
Speaking during an open session of the Majlis on April 14, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said the recent floods had inflicted another $8.5 billion in damages.
Iran’s military campaigns in Syria have severely depleted the country’s treasury and foreign currency reserves. Tehran’s ability to provide financial and logistical support to the Lebanese Hezbollah, Houthi rebels in Yemen, the Palestinian Hamas and Shia militias in Iraq and Syria is severely undermined.
According to Gholamali Jaffarzadeh Iman Abadi, the head of the Budget and Planning Committee of the Majlis, Mr. Rouhani’s 2019-20 budget proposal will report a government deficit of nearly $24 billion.
The Statistical Center of Iran released a report on April 14 which showed that the country’s economy contracted by 3.8 percent in the past nine months. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent in 2019.
A growing rift among various factions of the regime recently came to light when 101 Majlis deputies refused to attend a special meeting to discuss the proposal to designate CENTCOM a terrorist organization. Of those who took part, three either abstained or voted against the proposal.
Meanwhile, Rear Admiral Upper Half Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, has not reacted publicly to the U.S. decision on the IRGC. “Mr. Shamkhani has attended none of the committees’ meetings despite our repeated invitations,” Falahatpisheh noted.
On April 15, the U.S. Navy, France’s Marine Nationale and the UK’s Royal Navy took part in a joint mine countermeasure exercise “Artemis Trident 19” in the Persian Gulf.
“As mines threaten maritime traffic indiscriminately, the U.S., France and the United Kingdom are conducting tactical training to counter the risk of mines to support the continued free flow of commerce and freedom of navigation in this critical region,” said the U.S. Fifth Fleet based in Bahrain.
On the same day, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton tweeted: “Looking forward to the meeting with Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat tomorrow. We have much to discuss, including our shared commitment to countering Iranian malign activity & other destabilizing actors in the Middle East & around the world.”
Designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization has placed the Islamic Republic in a politically precarious position.
Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi