A major test of the real effect of the maneuver around Zarif's resignation, if it was indeed orchestrated by the moderate camp, will be the removal or not of the obstacles posed by the Expediency Discernment Council to the vote on the laws of conformity with the FATF.
Three other conclusions emerge from the interviews that the Institut Montaigne has been able to hold in recent days in Tehran.
- The implementation of US sanctions is already having devastating effects on the country's economy: sharp fall in the national currency, high inflation, considerable import restrictions, a decline in industrial production, etc. Many skilled young people (perhaps half of the age group entering the labor market annually) cannot find work, massive layoffs are taking place and it is not uncommon to meet employees whose wages have not been paid for months.
This is mainly due to the decline in oil sales, which now stand at around 900,000 barrels/day (about 10 times lower than in Saudi Arabia). The "exemptions" granted to certain countries by the Trump administration expire at the beginning of May. It is expected that at least some of these exemptions will not be extended, leading to a decline in Iranian oil offtakes to historically low levels and considerable pressure on the country's foreign exchange reserves.
- Europeans have an important job to do to "sell their policies". Iranians clearly consider insufficient the implementation of the financial instrument (INSTEX: Instrument for Supporting Trade Exchanges), created with great difficulty by Germany, France and the United Kingdom to facilitate certain trade exchanges with Iran. Specifically, INSTEX is not intended to circumvent US sanctions, but to operate in the (rare) sectors not affected by sanctions (humanitarian goods, medicines). The "conservatives" use this argument to blur the distinction between the limited nature of INSTEX (readily described as "humiliating" for Iran) and the requirements set by the FATF. This allows them to discredit both approaches at the same time, on the theme: "they have nothing substantial to offer, while demanding that we align ourselves with their financial laws".
An effort to educate certain circles is therefore necessary to get out of the potential trap of a "linkage", as diplomats say, between the two issues.
- Finally, the choreography of Assad's visit confirms that Iran's regional policy is well in the hands of the regime's hard wing, particularly the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution.
One could have had the impression, since last autumn, that Iran had scaled back its practice of disseminating Shia militias in the region, including Syria. An evaluation in this area is always uncertain. What is clear, however, is that Tehran's ballistic program remains strong (with tests doubling in one year), as does its policy of transferring missiles to its regional proxies, well beyond Hezbollah. One of our interlocutors told us: "We have gone from a nuclear moment to a ballistic moment".
If this is true, two conclusions can be drawn. On the one hand, there is concern that the Iranians are preparing for a regional confrontation in which they will be able to make use of a significant ballistic offensive capability, in the context of a worsening domestic situation due to the sanctions. On the other hand, perhaps there is room, before it is too late, on this missile issue, for an initiative by the major European diplomats comparable to the one that took place in 2003 (see the Villepin-Straw-Fischer visit to Tehran) on the nuclear program.
Let us add this last minute event: we have been informed that Nasrin Sotoudeh, a famous Iranian lawyer and human rights defender, had just been sentenced to 38 years in prison and to 148 lashes. This terrible sentence is another sign of the hardening of the Tehran regime and an additional major challenge for European policy vis-à-vis Iran.
Copyright : ATTA KENARE / AFP