U.S. President recently announced his decision to pull out of Syria and significantly decrease America’s foothold in Afghanistan. Many say this opens the door for Iran, but others point to the troubles the country is experiencing both at home and internationally.
The reimposed US sanctions have had a significantly negative affect on the regime, making it difficult to confront unprecedented and escalating measure. As well, there are demands for Tehran to comply with international financial transparency regulations.
These regulations will make it difficult for Iran to support its proxy groups across Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen. But, if the regime maintains its current stance, the economic embargoes will expand, and Europe, Russia, and China will have no choice but to distance themselves from Iran.
After the US exited the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the remaining members of the deal emphasized that Tehran must comply with standards set by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a Paris-based intergovernmental organization that prevents money laundering and terrorism financing. Failure to abide by FATF’s standards may result in a country being blacklisted, and the watchdog’s members may impose further sanctions that could result in a complete prohibition of financial transactions. Non-US banks and businesses that use the US financial system will not risk defying Washington.
The European Union, however, is pushing forward with a special purpose vehicle — a payment system meant to allow European companies, and others around the world, to do business with Iran, without concern for US sanctions. But Europe has delayed the SPV launch.
Many believe that Iran has two political factions: hardliners and reformists. In reality, these factions only differ over how to better preserve the regime’s survival. An example of this occurred in October, when Iranian “reformist” Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif relayed a message from Russia and China that Tehran needs to comply with the FATF or else Moscow and Beijing will not be able to continue their business with Iran. His deputy, Abbas Araghchi, voiced the same assessment this month. The hardliners — Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) members, army brass, the clerical establishment, and the judiciary — have stalled on the FATF standards adoption. They fear that implementation of FATF will impede the funding for Iran’s proxies across the Middle East.
Still, because of the US sanctions, the regime is in turmoil and the economy is spiraling into crisis, and renewed FATF countermeasures have the potential of fueling more public protests which have become increasingly common in Iran. People across the country are protesting, including workers, teachers, truckers, students.
The regime is quite vulnerable, because these protests can evolve into political demands. Protesters are constantly chanting, “Let of go Syria, think about us” … “Our enemy is right here; they lie in saying it’s America”. Last year, chants like “Death to Khamenei,” were commonly heard at the December/January uprising that shook the regime. Popular protests are on the rise, and they threaten the regime at its core. The Iranian people have raised their voices and are calling for regime change in its entirety.