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Poisonous Petrostates: Iran could become a second Saudi Arabia if sanctions are lifted

05.04.2015  |  19:56
Poisonous Petrostates: Iran could become a second Saudi Arabia if sanctions are lifted

You could argue that Iran is already Saudi Arabia's mirror image-Tehran's Shia theocracy reflecting Riyadh's Sunni-fundamentalist visage.

You could argue that Iran is already Saudi Arabia's mirror image-Tehran's Shia theocracy reflecting Riyadh's Sunni-fundamentalist visage. But, constrained by economic sanctions, Iran has lacked the resources to match Saudi Arabia's influence. They may never be equals, but without the economic restraints, the Islamic Republic will have the ability to spread mayhem across the Middle East, more overtly, more effectively, and with more immediate destabilizing consequences, than the kingdom ever has.

Even if the US Congress decides Iran isn't keeping to the deal and imposes new sanctions, the Obama administration would not be able-if indeed it were inclined to try-to get the other Western powers to go along, much less Russia or China. Although the negotiators have until the end of June to work out the nitty-gritty of the Lausanne arrangement, the other members of the P5+1 have signaled they will drop sanctions as soon as Iran has complied with the terms.

And given what Iran has managed to do with its few resources thus far-protecting Bashar al-Assad in Syria, supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, backing the Houthis in Yemen, and building new militias in Iraq-it is frightening to contemplate how much more havoc the regime will wreak when the sanctions shackles come off.

Those who welcome the Lausanne arrangement will suggest it marks the start of Iran's rehabilitation as a responsible, constructive member of the comity of nations. The regime will allow political and economic liberalization, and ordinary Iranians will become shiny, happy people holding hands. As I have argued, this is the least credible outcome. Far more likely, the Iranian regime will use the financial windfall from the lifting of sanctions-$1.6 billion a month in oil revenue alone-to expand its corrosive influence in the Middle East, and beyond.

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