Soleimani, Rouhani and the Lion’s Tail

Monday, 23 July, 2018 - 11:45 Issue Number [14482]

General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, sent a message to President Hassan Rouhani telling him: “I kiss your hands for these wise statements, and I am at your service to implement any policy that serves the Islamic Republic.”

Rouhani, who was described as Iran’s dove, has assumed the hawk’s role ever since he was subjected to criticism from the governance, where they have demanded for him to be held accountable, accusing him of implicating them in the nuclear agreement, and that he was tricked and betrayed by the Americans.

The “wise statements” made by Rouhani, and admired by Soleimani, are threats to the US that Iran will respond by force if it prevents it from selling its oil. The supreme guide also applauded Rouhani and said he admired his statements, adding that he supports the closing of the Strait of Hormuz. The new hawk, Rouhani, then dared and addressed the American president warning him not to play with the lion’s tail!

The old lion, i.e. Iran’s regime, and not just its tail, is being publicly beaten and humiliated in Syria by the Israelis. It has not dared to respond, not even once. All its threats are worthless empty talk.

Iranian officials have been in a state of confusion ever since President Trump imposed sanctions. They do not know whether to accept half a deal with the Europeans or cancel the entire agreement or concede to the Americans and renegotiate. Do they resort to force to threaten and blackmail the West like they did in the past, or will Trump find this as an excuse to topple the regime like George Bush toppled Saddam’s regime?

Some officials in Tehran publicly call for targeting American interests, igniting the region and closing the Strait of Hormuz, primarily General Soleimani who said he is “ready to implement President Rouhani’s plan” and that “Hormuz is either for everyone or for no one.”

Whether Soleimani kisses Rouhani’s hands to launch a terror war, carry out assassinations and close the Hormuz Strait or whether the Americans step on the lion’s tail directly and not through their regional proxy, Israel, the pressure will increase during the next weeks.

There are two important dates we must observe in detail. On August 4, American sanctions on whoever sells gold and food to Iran will go into effect. Three months later, i.e. beginning of November, the American siege on Iranian oil begins. It is then that we will know the Khamenei regime’s limitations, and whether it really intends to escalate or if it will back down, lick its wounds and surrender its pride.

According to my observation of the regime and its behavior in the region, it will likely retreat as per its old tactic until it comprehends the crisis, with the intention to resume exporting chaos after the end of Trump’s presidency or even before that if it seals another nuclear deal. This does not mean we should not be cautious of the wounded, humiliated lion in Syria after the cancellation of the nuclear deal, which it viewed as the epitome of its victories.

We must also not forget the new factor, i.e. the situation in Iran, which is difficult and may develop into a revolution, and which may push the regime to export its problem by opening a front in the Gulf. This is unlikely given its style in managing past crises, and the backlash it suffered over ventures in Syria and the rest of the countries in the region.