July 7, 2014 | The Jerusalem Post

Will The Islamic Republic Face Economic Collapse?

Iran’s jingoistic expansionism in Syria and Iraq, along with a deepening economic meltdown, may contribute to the demise of the Islamic Republic, according to Saad Mehio, editorial manager at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

The startling findings, which cut against the conventional wisdom that Iran is on the path to economic recovery, were reported Thursday on the Middle East Media Research Institute’s website.

MEMRI translated an interview Mehio gave to Saudi daily Okaz in late June.

“The Iranian regime’s policy of defending itself by expanding its regional influence can no longer continue and develop, considering how costly it is for Tehran to maintain its regional influence in Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq,” Mehio said.

“The regimes in Iraq and Syria are becoming a financial burden for the Iranian economy, [and] if this continues, [Iran] will be forced to make considerable concessions in these arenas. Iran, in its current economic circumstances, will top [the list of] regional countries facing potential division.”

Mehio says Iran is spending $25 billion annually to support the survival of Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria.

The complex mosaic of Iran’s population could help trigger a dissolution of Iran’s state. Mehio says Iran could dissolve into mini-states because of ethnic secession. He cites the discontent among the Azeris, who are seeking greater autonomy.

Ahmed Shaheed, UN special rapporteur for the situation of human rights in Iran, expressed his concern about the crackdown on Azeris in his March 2014 report.

“Five Azeri political and cultural activists, arrested between December 31, 2012, and February 6, 2013, were convicted and sentenced by branch 3 of the Revolutionary Court of Tabriz to nine years in prison for ‘founding an illegal group’ and ‘propaganda against the state.’ The five Azeri activists reportedly promoted the right to self-determination and the cultural and linguistic identity of Azeris in the Islamic Republic of Iran,” wrote Shaheed.

In addition to the Azeris, Iran’s Shi’ite regime has repressed the collective and personal freedoms of its Kurdish minority.

There are parallels between Iran’s subsidies to Assad and the now-defunct Soviet Union’s economic support to Cuba and other communist states.

Moreover, the former Soviet Union was brimming with ethnic and religious tension, leading to independent states following the end of communism.

The Soviet empire was running financially on empty for decades. Similarly, Iran’s regime has pumped considerable resources into its strategic terrorist partners, such as Hezbollah.

It remains questionable that Iran’s political system will eventually mirror Iraq’s fragmented state. After all, Iran got a massive economic shot in the arm from the world powers.

The billions provided to Iran in exchange for its promise to slow down its nuclear program are leading to an economic upturn. Iran’s central banker Akbar Komijani told The Wall Street Journal on July 1 that Iran is forecasting economic growth for the fiscal year, ending in March 2015. The possibility of a comprehensive nuclear agreement before the end date of July 20 could lead to a quick recovery, including the ability to access $150b. of its oil revenue in foreign accounts for unrestricted purposes.

Benjamin Weinthal reports on European affairs for The Jerusalem Post and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter, @BenWeinthal

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