The pressing economic problems, paralyzing air pollution and transnational identity politics have made Khuzestan an important challenge for the Islamic Republic. Although the Arab separatist movements are still weak, the status quo, if left unchanged, will provide a breeding ground for further politicization of ethnic Arab identity in Iran. Internal Arab grievances will lead to more racialization, which could be exploited by Iran’s regional rivals, notably Saudi Arabia.
Results for Category: Iran
Since the signing of the deal, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) have arrested at least 30 dual nationals, mostly on spying charges. In the years before the deal, the number of dual nationals imprisoned at any given time was usually in single figures. However, in February 2018, at least 19 out of the 30 detainees had European citizenship.
Although the moderates and reformists are more open to change within a controlled environment, the hardliners see the disappearance of hijab as symbolic of the loss of their own power. Hence, hijab has become both a cultural war between the state and its citizens and a power play at the very heart of the political establishment. Indeed, by removing her headscarf in public, the ‘Girl from Revolution Street’ has not only become the latest symbol of this ongoing cultural war but has also underscored the increasing friction within Iranian factional politics.
A radical economic transformation requires serious compromise from every segment of the establishment – a compromise that those currently benefitting from the corrupt system are unlikely to make. What is certain is that the status quo, which has left many Iranians desperate, will pave the way for periodic outbreaks of dissent that could get out of control at any time.
The recent dissent has been dubbed the ‘uprising of the poor’, who have been hardest hit by the country’s economic woes . The protests that followed the allegedly rigged presidential election in 2009 mainly attracted middle-class protestors who prioritized their political and cultural grievances over economic demands. Although it is difficult to separate economic and political demands, rising prices and growing inequality were the main instigators of the recent protests.
Although the US has not officially withdrawn from the deal, the signals from Washington are unsettling for potential foreign investors. Yet despite these challenges, one sector in Iran is thriving: renewable energy. Iran is one of the most advanced countries in the region in its development of renewable energy, mainly hydro-power schemes.
At the root of the conflict between Iran and its Arab neighbours lies the Shia-Sunni divide, as the patrons of the two Muslim sects, Tehran and Riyadh respectively, are both prepared to promote and support their sectarian beliefs. Conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain can be viewed in this light. Yet it is also the result of an ordinary struggle between two regional powers.
Historically, Saudi Arabia and Iran have not stood head-to-head, and while several factors played into the historical deterioration of relations between the two regional powers, oil was the main cause. The consequences of the economic face off are felt by both nations, and, most importantly, their populations.
Although most of Rouhani’s second term still lies ahead of him, the first three months have been a mixed bag. While his cabinet choices have disappointed millions of his supporters, he has challenged the influence of the IRGC and the supreme leader and taken several bold steps to constitute a new balance of power. It is too early to predict where these steps will lead, but one thing is certain: Rouhani may have won the vote but he faces a tough road ahead.