Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, U.S., September 26, 2018.
(photo credit: BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)
Iran is thriving 40 years after the Islamic Revolution, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said at events marking the anniversary at Azadi Square in Tehran. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif also boasted on Twitter that the US was facing “forty years of failure” and that US President Donald Trump should rethink its policy.
The statements form part of a narrative pushed by Tehran amid the anniversary celebrations as the regime seeks to shrug off problems at home and position itself as the main opponent of the US in the Middle East.
With an obsessive focus on the US, Rouhani, Zarif and others directed most of their comments at Washington. In some ways, the statements are a tradition that dates back to the revolution in 1979 and the hostage crisis which began in November of that year.
Zarif traveled to Beirut on Monday and met with Lebanese foreign minister Gebran Bassil. He said that, “all the forces entering Syria without the permission of the official leadership must exit.” The statements were made in a way that they were directed at the role of the United States in eastern Syria. The US has said that it will withdraw from Syria, but Tehran wants to illustrate the degree to which it has won in Syria by getting the US to withdraw while Iran remains in the country. As recently as last fall, the US was calling for Iran to leave Syria.
Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Commander General Hossein Salami said that “they [the US] want Iran to leave the region to clear the way for their dominance and allow them once again to control our borders.” Instead, the US is pulling out its troops and the corps’ bases will flourish.
Iran thinks it is riding high. With Zarif in Lebanon and Rouhani speaking in Tehran, it feels that it now controls or influences a swath of the region from Tehran to Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut. Iran also thinks it has outplayed the US. In late January, Iranian Armed Forces Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mohammad Baqeri said that the US had squandered seven trillion dollars in Iraq and Syria, achieving nothing, while “the Islamic Republic [of Iran] gained a lot despite its very low spending in those countries.”
Zarif was careful in Lebanon not to provoke any backlash by noting that his presence in the country was not directed at any other countries. He said this after meeting Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah and speaking with Lebanese Parliament speaker Nabih Berri. This comment may have been to avoid provoking anger in Saudi Arabia, an ally of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, or even to cool tensions with Israel. Zarif didn’t mention Israel specifically, but Nasrallah thanked Iran for its support for “Palestine and all resistance movements.”
The discussions arise as tensions rose along the Golan on Tuesday as Syrian state media reported that Israel shelled sites near Quneitra
in the first such incident since Syrian forces returned to the Golan ceasefire line in the summer of 2018.
In Turkey, the new Iranian Ambassador, Mohammad Farazmand, told reporters that Iran was now a “regional power and an independent country,” and that it had made great strides in the last 40 years. He praised the role of Turkey and Russia in their efforts to solve the Syrian conflict and noted that the presidents of Turkey, Russia and Iran would meet in Sochi this week.
Iran is a model for “West-Asia” security, he said. “Turkey is Iran’s window opening to the West while Iran, for Turkey, is like a window opening to the East,” he added, indicating the growing partnership between Ankara and Tehran. In the last several years, Turkey and Iran have grown increasingly close and Turkey received exemptions from the US to trade with Iran despite Washington’s sanctions.
Overall, Iran’s 40th anniversary events for the revolution have sought to underpin its string of victories in the Middle East and present itself as the leading country in the region. From Lebanon to Turkey, it asserted that its model has succeeded and that the US has failed in its agendas.
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