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Iran feeling the heat in the Middle East

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By Amir Basiri

Following the nuclear agreement and the landscape changing significantly in the Middle East, the mullahs sitting in Tehran are beginning to feel the heat. Aside from having its nuclear program be limited to dismal projects, Iran is also losing control over proxy campaigns in Syria and Yemen. The rightfully asked question how did we reach such circumstances where Iran is being brought to its knees?

The Nuclear Pressure

Despite the fact that the sealed nuclear deal dictates Tehran must downgrade most specifically the Arak nuclear reactor, it was far from anyone’s mind that the mullahs would have rushed into such a decision. The Iran known to the world in the past four decades is one that never gives up on anything unless a worthwhile reward is pledged in return.

Iran received sanctions relief in return for pulling the plug on its nuclear ambitions. With its eyes set on returning to the international market Tehran began pumping millions of barrels of oil. However, Saudi Arabia is making sure Iran receives no windfall of oil money any time soon. Enjoying a major say on the rise and fall of oil prices, Saudi Arabia refused to lower its oil output. To this end, Riyadh is keeping a lid on global oil prices and making Iran suffer to this day. Iran needs oil prices to be around $140 a barrel. However, the Saudis are making sure oil sticks around $30 for now, knowing its own Westernized economy can easily withstand the pressures in the long run, while Tehran is in desperate need of cash today.

Iran Humiliated in Yemen

As Iran attempted to find a new foothold in Yemen and ultimately destabilize Saudi Arabia from its own southern borders, Riyadh took matters into its own hands and proved it will tolerate no such desires. Tehran threw its weight behind the Shiite Houthi militias in Yemen and taking over most of Yemen signaled alarm bells throughout the region. The Saudis went into full action and launched an unprecedented a major military campaign to route the Houthis and teach Iran a lesson. Even Washington was caught off guard of the determination seen in Riyadh in spearheading an Arab coalition against Iran’s meddling in the Arabian Peninsula. To this end the Houthis are scattered, fleeing allover Yemen and various reports indicate Arab coalition-backed forces are on the doorsteps of Sanaa.

Losing Ground in Syria

Iran is known to have provided tens of billions of dollars to prop up the Bashar Assad regime in Syria, and as a result literally call the shots and make all decisions for Damascus. As rebels began turning the tide against Assad and Iranian forces and their armed Shiite mercenaries, Tehran was left with no choice but to beg Russia for support in Syria. This means losing hegemony over this conflict and to stand second in line behind Moscow.

Saudi Arabia and others in the region understood Iran’s dangerous plots in Syria from day. Wasting no time unlike the West, Riyadh and allies provided the support needed for Syrian opposition forces to stand up to the fight. As Iran sought to turn Syria into a nest of terrorists, ideal for its own road map to dominate the entire Middle East, the Saudis led the pack of Arab countries in reaching into their pockets and aiding the Syrian opposition and refugees.

Saudi Arabia now also enjoys a bond with Turkey in catapulting developments in Syria. Saudis and Qatar have received a green light from Turkey and stationed their warplanes in the strategic Incirlik airbase. Riyadh has also announced its readiness to launch ground operations in Syria, and Iran knows the Saudis don’t just have Daesh (the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State) on their minds. Turkey, already using artillery fire into Syria soil in support of Syrian opposition groups, is also signaling a joint effort to begin a major ground offensive in northern Syria.

These turn of events of events raised the stakes for Iran in its effort to preserve its interests in the region. Iran has lost its previous sting in its much adored yet controversial nuclear program. Tehran’s dreams of gaining control over Yemen have turned into a nightmare. And Syria, considering it as its defensive line, is now in the hands of major stakeholders far out of Iran’s league. Knowing this trend will not stop here, Iran is now beginning to feel the heat.

Basiri is an Iranian human rights activist and supporter of democratic regime change in Iran. Follow him on Twitter: @Amir_bas

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