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How Iran’s Regime Profits from Middle East Conflict

gaza ruins rocket bombing (1)

Amidst the disconcerting headlines dominating global news, the escalating tensions in the Middle East and the unfolding tragedy in Gaza continue to hold the world’s attention. Initially hesitant, the international community appears to be gradually acknowledging the root cause of these crises: Tehran. While discussions abound regarding the Iranian regime’s direct and indirect involvement, it’s imperative to illuminate the motivations behind Tehran’s warmongering.

Following the October 7th attack, Iran’s ruling theocracy, emboldened by years of Western appeasement, openly boasted about its role in the conflict. Top commanders of the regime’s Revolutionary Guards proudly acknowledged their training and funding of the so-called “Axis of the Resistance,” while their supported militias launched numerous attacks against US forces in the region. Concurrently, Iran-backed Houthi insurgents in the Red Sea disrupted international maritime activities.

However, as firm actions were taken against the regime and its proxies, Tehran’s leaders swiftly reversed their stance, with IRGC commanders hastily proclaiming their disinterest in conflict. These contradictory yet apprehensive statements once again exposed Tehran’s vulnerability.

Faced with internal unrest and the looming threat of regime collapse, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, resorted to a familiar tactic of religious fascism: exporting crises abroad. Khamenei exploited ongoing conflicts to suppress dissent at home, escalating executions, including those of political prisoners involved in the country’s 2022 uprising.

Yet, beyond ideological motivations, economic interests underpin Tehran’s role in initiating and prolonging conflicts. The fluctuating price of Brent oil, which averaged around $80 per barrel in the past year but surged to $88 following attacks on Israel, underscores Iran’s economic leverage. Red Sea tensions further contribute to oil price volatility, enabling Tehran to finance its aggressive agenda.

In 2023, Iran exported approximately 1.4 million barrels of oil per day, with a substantial portion destined for China. While this could translate to approximately $41 billion at Brent prices, Iranian oil typically sells at a discount. In 2022, Iran’s crude oil and condensate exports generated $42.6 billion in revenue, indicating a marginal increase from previous years.

Amidst these geopolitical maneuvers, ordinary Iranians bear the brunt of poverty and inflation. Davoud Manzour, head of the Planning and Budget Organization, revealed a significant budget deficit by October 22, attributing it to discrepancies in projected versus actual oil revenues. However, much of Iran’s oil income is funneled towards supporting proxies and enriching the IRGC and Khamenei.

Reports have indicated the regime’s annual allocation of approximately $16 billion to support Assad’s regime in Syria, along with funding for Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza.

As global awareness grows, the imperative to address Tehran’s destabilizing influence becomes increasingly evident. While supporting the Iranian people’s aspirations for regime change and responding firmly to provocative actions are primary options, comprehensive sanctions against the Iranian regime are essential to curb its disruptive activities. Proscribing the IRGC as a terrorist entity by European countries could significantly contribute to regional stability.

By confronting Tehran’s aggression and targeting its revenue streams, the international community can mitigate the IRGC’s destabilizing impact and pave the way for a more secure future in the Middle East.