Bitcoin has promised many things for Iran, not least a route to bypass U.S. sanctions, but now it threatens to be a source of problems rather than solutions. According to local media reports, the Iranian government is blaming bitcoin miners for a potentially unsustainable surge in electricity use.
The weight of evidence points to Iranian culpability for the mid-June attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, but many US allies are still cautious, fearful of enabling another rush to war. The geopolitical calculations are complicated by uncertainty over who is driving policy and covert operations in Tehran
Someone relaxing in a Gulf café by smoking a shisha pipe may not realise it, but the burning coals carefully placed on top of the hookah to heat the tobacco are not just fuelling their pleasure; they are also helping to fund a campaign of violence in one of the world’s poorest countries.
If a ‘Trump doctrine’ ever emerges, it will be reflected in the implementation of The Donald’s election manifesto, supported by hawkish officials like national security advisor John Bolton. It will be seen to include the robust promotion of Israeli interests, substantial efforts to keep close to big-spending economies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and its regional policy will be seen to hinge on containing – and potentially eradicating – Iran’s Islamic regime. Such is the mercurial nature of his ‘transactional’ politics that President Donald Trump may yet end up in talks with the Iranian leadership, as he did with North Korean pariah Kim Jong-un. But for the moment, the trajectory of his Iran policy seems ever more towards conflict.
European diplomats fear that the hardline attitude of leading players in Washington will push Baghdad closer to Tehran, rather than further away
Iran’s influential position in Iraq was on clear display in mid-March, during a three-day visit by President Hassan Rouhani designed to highlight the strong ties between the two countries in the face of United States sanctions on Iran. Iranian security forces have been a vital component of Iraq’s successful battle against Islamic State forces in recent years and Baghdad could now return the favour by providing an outlet for Iranian trade at a time when the Islamic Republic’s economy is struggling to cope with Washington’s reinvigorated trade embargo.
US secretary of state Mike Pompeo returned to the Gulf in March, amid signs the United States is pushing its allies even harder on the issue of isolating Iran, with uncertain consequences.
Opposition to the idea of signing up to a set of requirements from the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) appears to be hardening, after the Assembly of Experts issued a statement on 13 March in which it said that meeting the FATF recommendations would be a “strategic mistake”.
President Hassan Rouhani on 17 March inaugurated two new refineries to process the output from the South Pars gas field’s phases 13 and 22-24. This takes the total number of phases launched in the past few years to 15.
The long-running dispute between centrist/moderate and hardline/principalist elements in the Islamic Republic broke out into the open on 25 February when foreign minister Mohammed Javad Zarif posted his resignation on Instagram. In a subsequent interview with local daily Jomhuori Eslami, he complained that Iranian foreign policy had become the subject of “party and factional fighting.”