Iran looking for a way out of its Syrian quagmire?

streiff:
What started out as a surefire winner (for Iran) and grand adventure (for Russia) has now turned into something of a strategic nightmare for both. I posted on how Russia is getting sucked into the quagmire of an Israel-Iran conflict and its self-aggrandizing role of “mediator” is bringing it nothing good but is damaging Russia’s influence in the region. Now it seems that Iran may have concluded that its involvement in Syria and Lebanon is not sustainable.

Militarily, Iran is at a disadvantage. Its military is your typical Third World armed thuggery that is useful for gunning down demonstrators and committing war crimes against civilian populations but for little else. Iran is trying to project power into Syria and Lebanon and it is finding that it doesn’t have the skills or logistical capability to prevail even against ISIS without a strong assist from the US, much less against the real target of its adventurism: Israel.

There is a domestic problem, too. Many of the street demonstrations have been specifically against Iran’s involvement in military adventures. The economy is in the crapper, even the upper classes are panicked about the coming avalanche of US sanctions, and the middle class–or what used to be the middle class–has enough access to non-state media to know that the cash windfall promised from the Iran nuclear deal went to buy weapons for the IRGC, not to jump-start a moribund economy.

Al Arabiya has an interesting story that carries the same basic hypothesis…and there is no feeling in the punditocracy quite like having your theory validated by a third party who may actually know what they are talking about.
As preposterous as Khamenei’s words sound [editor–here he’s talking about the six demands Ayatollah Khamenei imposed upon Europe as a condition of staying in the nuclear deal], we need to understand that he has no choice but to resort to such remarks. And of course, the words of French President Emmanuel Macron sink deep in the minds of Tehran’s senior officials. French firms have to decide on continuing their activities in Iran and assessing the risks imposed by US sanctions, he said in recent remarks. The French President cannot ask companies such as Total to pull out of their business in the US, Macron said.

As many European companies continue to rush out of Iran, Stadler of Switzerland has been the latest to jump on the train, halting a $1.1 billion contract to provide and build 960 wagons for the Tehran-Karaj metro, citing the return of US sanctions as the reason.

Iran’s own political figures are losing hope. “How do we expect the Europeans to forgo their $700 billion exports to the US for the sake of $20 billion exports to Iran?” recently said Sadegh Zibakalam, a Tehran professor University with ties to the Iranian regime’s so-called reformist camp.

Although Khamenei has taken what seems to the naked eye a strong position by placing demands before Europe, he is also seeking new negotiations with the Green Continent. This proves that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s visits to China and Russia, and a recent drive of Iran seeking eastern shift in policy, failed miserably.
If correct, this means that the Chinese and Russians see no percentage in helping Iran if it is going to bring the attention of the US Treasury Department (and I have visions of Steve Mnuchin dancing the Electric Slide every time the Office of Foreign Asset Control issues sanctions) on their companies. That means the only hope for solvency is bullying the Europeans into submission, on the whole, this is not an unreasonable prospect.
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There is more.

It looks like Iran's desire of a Shia crescent from which to attack Israel has blown up in its face.  They are now in negotiations, with the help of Jordan, to stay away from the Israeli border and not get involved in any of the fighting there.  I suspect the Russians have also insisted that they do so too and Syria is also telling Iran to stay away from its air force bases so they can avoid Israeli strikes.

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