June 6, 2022
WISE ON THE MIDDLE EAST
Having traveled and worked in the Middle East since l968, Robert Wise has journeyed through the region, giving him insights from behind the scenes. Two of his sons taught in Jordan and Lebanon. Each week he attempts to present an objective view of current events.
ERUPTION IN IRAN
The violent gun attacks on innocent people in America continue to dominate the media reports – as it should. However, the continuing turmoil in Iran is important. We can’t let dust settle on this subject. Iran remains in conflict. Here’s the latest.
Daily protests are taking place in the Khuzestan region, where the death toll from a building collapse last month in the city of Abadan has risen to 37 people. Addressing the ceremony at Khomeini’s mausoleum, Khamenei claimed foreigners hoped to harm the country’s regime through the unrest. His comments came as the Iranian regime launched a crackdown on the protesters, disrupting the internet in the oil rich southwestern province and violently dispersing demonstrators. While authorities have blamed corrupt local figures for the building collapse, demonstrators have pointed the finger at the government.
While addressing a ceremony in Tehran, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday blamed foreign “enemies” for recent protests in the country which marked 33 years since the death of his predecessor and leader of the 1979 Iranian revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Khamenei also accused the West of waging “psychological war,” after Iran was accused of “piracy” for seizing two Greek oil tankers in the Persian Gulf last month. “They steal Iranian oil off the Greek coast, then our brave men who don’t fear death respond and seized the enemy’s oil tanker,” Khamenei said. “But they use their media empire and extensive propaganda to accuse Iran of piracy.” He added, “Who is the pirate? You stole our oil; we took it back from you. Taking back a stolen property is not called stealing.”
The seizures ratcheted up tensions between Iran and the West already simmering over Iran’s tattered 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. Tehran has been enriching more uranium, closer to weapons-grade levels than ever before, causing concern that negotiators won’t find a way back to the accord and raising the risk of a wider war.
Iran’s seizure of the tankers was the latest in a string of hijackings and explosions to an oil region that includes the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a fifth of all traded oil passes. The incidents began after then-US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from the nuclear deal, which saw Tehran drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Talks in Vienna on the nuclear deal stalled in March. Since the deal’s collapse, Iran has run advanced centrifuges and has a rapidly growing stockpile of enriched uranium. Nonproliferation experts warn Iran has enriched enough up to 60% purity — a short technical step from weapons-grade levels of 90% — to make one nuclear weapon if it chooses.
The Biden Administration hasn’t spoken to this situation in some time. Let’s hope somebody in the White House is paying attention to the unresolved problem.
Readers of my Wise on the Middle East blog will be fascinated by my latest book
MIRACLES NEVER CEASE!