DECRYPTION. Iran: Hamas, nuclear, oil, hostages… the country occupies a strategic place on the international scene

DECRYPTION. Iran: Hamas, nuclear, oil, hostages… the country occupies a strategic place on the international scene
DECRYPTION. Iran: Hamas, nuclear, oil, hostages… the country occupies a strategic place on the international scene

the essential
The announcement on Monday May 21 of the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raïssi, in a helicopter accident that occurred the day before in the northwest of Tehran, could well have an impact on the internal policy of Tehran, which occupies a strategic place in the international. Decryption with Myriam Benraad, political scientist, researcher and author of Is the Islamic State defeated? (CNRS editions).

The helicopter accident in which Iranian President Ebrahim Raïssi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and other officials lost their lives on Sunday, May 20, could have repercussions on the country’s internal politics. But not only. Iranian diplomacy influences international relations: interference in the conflict between Israel and Gaza, nuclear threat and influence on the oil markets. Decryption with Myriam Benraad, political scientist, professor of international relations at Schiller International University in Paris and author of Is the Islamic State defeated? (CNRS editions).

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The specter of the nuclear threat

For two years, Iran has been on the verge of posing a military nuclear threat. According to various statements, the Islamic Republic has enough enriched uranium to produce four atomic bombs. “The fear remains that Iran will one day use its nuclear capabilities for military purposes, however I do not think that it is in the country’s interest to aggravate the dispute around the nuclear issue,” says Myriam Benraad. Beyond a capacity to intimidate neighboring countries, the development and use of nuclear weapons would be contrary to the non-proliferation treaty signed in 1968. In addition, this could have dramatic consequences by inciting the Saudi Arabia, Turkey and even Egypt also acquire uranium.

Oil price volatility

In a volatile market, Iran which holds the third largest oil reserves global, increased its production last year, in particular to meet demand from the Chinese market. In the first weeks of the war in Gaza, the actors of the oil market – scalded by the war in Ukraine – feared a surge in prices, but the conflict in the Middle East has not had the significant upward impact feared. Prices could even gradually return to normal, according to the researcher: “For a number of years, we have observed a tightening of the positions of OPEC (the oil-producing countries, Editor’s note) which causes the price of a barrel to fluctuate. But the circumstances seem to indicate that we are arriving towards the end of a cycle of tensions.”

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Unwavering support for the Palestinian cause

While Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by many states, the Palestinian political and military group has benefited for several years from “support for resistance” against Israel from Tehran. “Iran, with Israel as its existential adversary, is enjoying a remobilization of the Arab street in favor of the Palestinian cause, and will continue to present itself as the bulwark against the ‘Great Western Satan'”, analyzes Myriam Benraad.

Limited prospects for release of French hostages

Currently, four French people: Louis Arnaud, Cécile Kohler, and her companion, Jacques Paris – arrested in May 2022 for “espionage” –, and finally Olivier (whose family wishes to remain anonymous), are detained in Iran. For the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the nationals are paying the price for “a state hostage policy” and “permanent blackmail from the Iranian authorities”.

#Iran | Ms. Cécile Kohler and Mr. Jacques Paris were arbitrarily arrested by the Islamic Republic of Iran 2 years ago today, and our two other compatriots, including Mr. Louis Arnaud, more than a year and a half ago . France condemns this state hostage policy and… pic.twitter.com/0lQNd9n8pB

— France Diplomatieud83cuddebud83cuddf7ud83cuddeaud83cuddfa (@francediplo) https://twitter.com/francediplo/status/1787812196707160282?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Even if negotiations continue between the two states, the political scientist remains pessimistic about a possible release: “Currently, the Iranian government perceives French diplomacy in the Middle East as aligned with the orientations and interests of American policy. To consider a gesture in favor of the release of the hostages, there would need to be a softening of this approach by Paris towards Iran.”

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