The waters of the Gulf are hotting up following sabotage of four commercial ships on Sunday near the Straits of Hormuz and port of Fujairah in the UAE. Two Saudi ships were significantly damaged in the sabotage operation. The Persian Gulf is the world’s major oil artery and a military confrontation there would certainly affect the global market. This attack against oil tankers was carried out after Washington sent its bombers and an aircraft carrier to the region in order to show its commitment to protecting vital US interests in the Gulf. The US has also sent a squadron of B52 bombers to the Al Udeid airbase in Qatar, following intelligence that the Iranian regime is about to endanger US interests, such as military installations, in the Middle East.
Senior officials from the Islamic Republic’s IRGC, which was recently designated a terrorist organization, have said that in a climate of military confrontation Iran would block the Straits of Hormuz. This threat has especially been made as a response to President Trump’s sanctions on Iran’s oil and gas industry. It is no secret that the Islamic Republic’s IRGC is behind the sabotage, as the attacks bear the hallmark of their traditional strategy of using military proxies. On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia claimed that Yemen’s Houthis had carried out a drone strike on Saudi oil facilities. The Iranian backed Houthis keep enhancing their capabilities to strike and damage installations in the Kingdom by receiving IRGC instructions and ballistic missiles. This time they used drones. Considering that they did not have this capacity previously, it shows that IRGC instructors supplied them with drones.
The Iranian regime is facing the toughest sanctions in its existence and internal protests keep growing, encompassing all people from various walks of life, such as students, women, workers, truck drivers, ethnic minorities, teachers and academicians almost on a daily basis. The mismanagement of floods in Ahwaz exacerbated the situation in the country and the idea that the regime can be reformed or fixed is losing ground. The traditional game of conservatives versus reformists has been exposed since the election of Rouhani. In fact, Mr Rouhani has shown that he is unable to anything in a system where the ultimate decision makers are clerics and IRGC generals.
THE ROLE OF THE IRANIAN OPPOSITION
All this is evidence that the Iranian people no longer trust the political system that has let them down by curbing their freedoms systematically over the last forty years. Not surprisingly, society is remembering the freedoms Iranians used to enjoy under the leadership of the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. This contributes to an increase in the exiled Crown Prince Reza’s popularity within the country. Protestors chant his name frequently.
In the long term it is clear that the Iranian regime will not sit and negotiate with the United States regarding its nuclear project. It seems that the regime has reached the point where it cannot conduct itself as a nation state. To assume that the clerical dictatorship is going to stop supporting its proxies in the Middle East is nonsensical and misleading. The Trump doctrine, which is all about putting maximum pressure on Iran to change its behaviour, has been proven to be working so far. But it lacks a vital element which should be the recognition of the opposition of Iranians led by Mr Reza Pahlavi as the voice of the people of Iran.
Indeed, this opposition needs to be widened and to include all ethnic minorities, religious groups and others under its umbrella. Thus, forging alliances and contributing to dialogue between Mr Pahlavi and those vital elements of Iranian society will be crucial in forming a political force that can take over in Iran and make transition less painful in the possible scenario of the collapse of the clerical regime. Overall, Mr Pahlavi is the only politician who can bridge the differences among Iranian opposition groups by addressing their issues.