What a difference a year makes. Last year the Iranian regime was riding high with its victories in Syria, its military partnership with Russia, the overthrow of the government in Yemen, billions of dollars to spend on upgrades to its military and successful ballistic missile launches showcased on state television almost weekly.
But in less than 12 months, the regime is under the most severe attack and pressure from all quarters than it has ever been since the nascent days of the Islamic revolution that the mullahs highjacked.
First the foremost, the Iranian economy is in freefall and a basket case. The rial has dropped faster than a lead anchor from a ship and furious attempts by the Iranian regime to artificially boost it and control the flow of foreign currency through local money changers has failed miserably.
The threat of a new cyber currency being offered by the ubiquitous messaging app Telegram didn’t help either which led to the mullahs trying to ban it even though over half of the Iranian population uses it.
On the military fronts, the gains made in Syria have been threatened with Bashar al-Assad’s continued indiscriminate use of chemical weapons to kill men, women, and children leading to the first multi-national military response on Syrian targets by French, British and U.S. forces.
It also forced Russia to sit on the sidelines and allow its ally to be hammered by over 300 missile strikes.
Also, Iran’s move into Yemen had the unintended effect of galvanizing long-time foe Saudi Arabia into action and form alliances that were unheard of only a short time ago such as Saudi and Israeli defense officials meeting to go over planning in defending against Iranian aggression and even permitting mutual flights over each other’s airspace for the first time ever.
The mullahs also probably did not count on the waves of mass protests and public discontent that have sprung up beginning late last year and have been propelled not by a single issue such as the disputed presidential election of 2009, but rather a whole raft of complaints ranging from pathetic job growth and record unemployment among youth, to the constant oppression of Iranians, especially women, over everything from riding bicycles and not wearing hijabs to degraded environmental conditions turning much of the Iranian countryside from fertile farmlands to barren deserts.
Not to mention the election of President Donald Trump and the 180-degree about face from trying to appease the regime under President Obama to the aggressive efforts to match Iranian aggression move for move.
You allow Assad to use chemical weapons? Okay, we’ll bomb sites and if Iranian military personnel happen to be there assisting, tough.
You threaten to walk away from the nuclear deal? Feel free to do it.
Every Iranian regime temper tantrum, taunt, and the threat is now met with a shrug of indifference and steely resolve instead of the constant handwringing that marked the previous administration.
Even the Iran lobby is left with little to nothing to say. In response to the president’s most recent comments to the possibility of Iran walking away from the nuclear deal, Trita Parsi of the National Iranian American Council issued a curt two-paragraph statement that shows how much his verbosity has plunged in this new era.
“Macron and Europe seem willing to bend over backward to save the nuclear deal and prevent catastrophe. When our closest allies express alarm in unison, we should listen. Trump should quit while he is ahead and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to the JCPOA before it is too late. The alternative would be an isolated America, an unchecked Iranian nuclear program, and an escalation towards war,” Parsi writes.
It’s laudable for Parsi to even admit for the first time that President Trump is actually ahead of the ballgame with Iran. He recognizes, even if he is unwilling to say so publicly, that President Trump’s actions have turned the tables on who controls leverage in the Middle East.
The same approach has brought a startling and breathless turnaround with North Korea in which the Hermit Kingdom has agreed for the first time to put denuclearization on the negotiating table without any preconditions.
Parsi understands that the same mobilization of pressure and harsh rhetoric backed by tough actions are being applied to Iran now with most European allies, who had been staunch supporters of the Iran nuclear deal, now being contortionist moves to appease the Trump administration in an effort to save the deal.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Washington was designed to showcase French unity with the U.S. on issues such as Syria, while also acknowledging the need to address issues left untouched by the Obama administration such as ballistic missile development and unfettered access to now-blocked off Iranian military sites.
The fact that all of Europe is now intensely focused on appeasing President Trump instead of the mullahs is a remarkable feat of diplomatic brinkmanship and indicative of how the tide has utterly turned against the Iranian regime.
Meanwhile as Iran threatens to pull out of the treaty on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons if the Trump administration approves a non-certification of the deal by the May 12th deadline, President Trump now essentially has Iran dancing on a string since he could simply conditionally approve the extension one more time and squeeze Iran and Europe for even more concessions.
The president has taken a page from the mullahs’ playbook and is throwing it right back at them.
The threat to pull out of the NPT rings hollow since by doing so, Iran would be throwing its lot in with countries such as Israel which has not signed the agreement.
Now that would be ironic.