Unrest has been reported in neighboring Iran for the past few days, reports on massive protests in different towns against rise in prices and economic situation came but according to different sources political calls were heard too. In particular, calls were made against Iran’s religious leaders, as well as President Hassan Rowhani and General Suleymanli, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Moreover, there were calls for withdrawal of troops of the Corps from other countries.
The latter is one of the most interesting circumstances, considering that Iran has established its military presence in Syria during the Syrian war. In addition, in the recent months Israel has been intensively expressing its voice against Iran’s presence in the Near East. Israel’s position is understandable, given the attitude of Iran towards the state of Israel, rejecting its existence.
Israel brought up the issue of enlargement of Iran’s military presence in Moscow and Washington. Prime Minister Netanyahu brought up the issue in his meeting with Putin on 23 August 2017 in Sochi. Interestingly, the Kremlin’s press service presented Netanyahu’s speech in detail, which was tough on Iran, whereas Putin’s reaction was silenced. There was one more interesting thing. Serzh Sargsyan was in Sochi on those days, and after the Putin-Netanyahu meeting he met with Putin though with a different agenda.
However, this circumstance is interesting first of all because a few days earlier the Israeli minister of regional cooperation had visited Armenia but Serzh Sargsyan did not meet him because officially he was on his annual leave but a few days later Serzh Sargsyan interrupted his annual leave and visited Iran to attend the second inauguration of President Rowhani.
Yet another interesting circumstance is that in November the Armenian foreign minister visited Israel on Netanyahu’s invitation where the prime minister brought up the issue of negative consequences of enlargement of Iran’s military presence in the Near East, as the official press releases of Israel’s prime minister stated. The official press releases of Yerevan did not mention this issue.
It is hard to tell why Israel brought up this issue in Yerevan, considering the high importance of the Armenian-Iranian relations for Armenia. It was followed by the response of the spokesperson of the Iranian foreign ministry. “We call on the Armenian authorities to pay closer attention to the style of actions of the Zionist regime in the Caucasus and Central Asia.”
On November 28, four days after signing the EU-Armenia agreement, the Iranian foreign minister Zarif visited Yerevan. What is the role of Armenia in the developments around Iran and what is the role of Israel’s worry about Tehran’s military presence in the region amid the tension in some cities of Iran?
Interestingly, on December 29 it was announced that the United States and Israel have reached an agreement on the means of containment of Iran and four working groups are being set up to address the situation.
Unrest in Iran was first reported on December 28, and on December 30 two victims were reported. The Iranian government announced that not the law enforcement bodies but unidentified persons fired, including at the municipalities and demonstrators.
The U.S. president has supported the massive protests in Iran, Washington’s diplomats have stated unacceptability of use of force to clamp down on protests.
The Iranian government has expressed opinions that what is going on is an external attempt to destabilize Iran. Arrows are directed at the United States, of course. At the same time, the Iranian president Hassan Rowhani has announced that expressing dissatisfaction through peaceful protests is the right of the citizens of Iran but they should not transform to massive disorders and violence.
What is happening in Iran? Is there an external intervention or is it that form of self-defense of many governments which is also used in Iran? At the same time, it is interesting to know that what is going on in Iran is not an expression of division lines between different wings in Tehran’s government, such as the reformist wing represented by Hassan Rowhani is trying to weaken the power of the religious leadership.
Iran is a closed country, and it is very difficult to express an opinion on what is going on there, the correlation of internal and external motives. Moreover, now the Iranian government has limited freedom of internet, information. Therefore, it is hard to assess the scale of tensions, and whether there is a so-called Arab spring which is already referred to by experts or are these inertial opinions?
So, one thing is clear – as a state Iran has a peculiar structure, a peculiar philosophy and its potential differs from that of the countries that went through the Arab spring. Iran is a more experienced and viable country, in fact.
The second thing that is clear for Armenia is the importance of Iran’s stability. Iran is not a simple neighbor for Armenia but it is obvious that Tehran is a key economic and defense partner, including with regard to the issue of Artsakh.
The stability and controllability of the situation in Tehran is highly important for Armenia because Iran’s viability and effectiveness in the Caucasian region depends on it, which is in line with the interests and security needs of Armenia.
By the way, one important thing was left out of the focus of press. A few weeks ago the Iranian press published an interview with the foreign minister of Artsakh, giving an opportunity to Artsakh to express its fundamental approaches in its foreign policy. In its turn, it was a peculiar recognition of Artsakh as a subject on the media platform, with an open reaction to such a term as the Artsakh-Iranian border.