Our Iranian interlocutors argue that the positions they have acquired at the regional level, from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean, constitute an asset for them, either in offensive terms (creating situations contrary to Western interests) or in terms of negotiations (case of Yemen). This is probably true, but only to a certain extent. After a period of considerable expansion, Iran is facing difficulties in the region. In Iraq, for example, Saudi recommitment is a challenge to Tehran's traditional influence on Baghdad. The Kurdish threat to Iraq's political unity has diminished, making Baghdad less dependent on Tehran on this issue. Iran's local supporters (militias and pro-Shiite parties) were less loyal than might have been expected during the Basra events. In general, Iranians are never completely sure of the reliability of their various local customers and the formation of a new government in Baghdad is not entirely favourable to their interests. In Syria, a consolidation phase is beginning, in which Tehran must above all preserve the positions acquired, and this in a context where the Russians are trying to find a political settlement that will necessarily include the concerns of Turkey, Israel and even the West. It should be noted that the Iranian interlocutors received by Institut Montaigne insist on differences in approach, which they believe are becoming increasingly important, between Moscow and Tehran on the Syrian question (e.g. Idlib or Syria's institutional future). The question of Yemen remains, where, indeed, rightly or wrongly, other international and regional actors consider Iran to be in a good position to negotiate. For the time being, on this issue it is the change in attitude of the United States and its allies towards Saudi Arabia that seems to constitute the game changer.
In the background of the "pragmatic moment" - accompanied by a lack of strategy - is the major question of the country's margins of resilience in the face of American pressures. The Washington architects of the "maximum pressure" strategy are betting that tightening sanctions will lead to the collapse of the regime, or to a considerable evolution of it. These calculations are at the very least random; in the short term, Mr. Rohani may have lost support (and ministers), but he managed to survive politically. Ongoing social movements (truck driver strikes, school teachers' strikes) have not federate on a large scale. A careful examination of Iranian political life suggests that Mr. Rohani has so far been rather successful in directing the virulent criticism of Iranians, who are dissatisfied with their country's poor economic health, against the United States. His popularity in public opinion has certainly plummeted, but the President of the Republic remains a possible option for the succession of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. More generally, it would be wrong to underestimate the implantation in society of the pillars of the Iranian regime - from the Supreme Leader to the Guardians of the Revolution, from bazaar circles to religious foundations at the head of huge industrial conglomerates.
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