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A Dog That Barks Cannot Bite

Al-Sharq al-Awsat, London, August 23

Nearly three weeks after the United States re-imposed financial sanctions on Iran, and despite serious threats voiced by the mullahs in Tehran, not much has changed on the ground. We’ve heard Iranian intimidation regarding the closure of the Strait of Hormuz to international oil tankers, which never came to fruition. We’ve been told of potential Iranian retaliation against U.S. assets in the Middle East, yet not a single attack has taken place. The Iranian regime proved that it can bark, but it can’t bite. The hateful rhetoric that came from the mouths of the Supreme Leader and the commander of the Quds Forces quickly dissipated. Most international banks, automakers and energy companies have pulled their operations out of Iran. The Iranian currency, the rial, entered a death spiral that brought its value to an all-time low. Iranian banks and financial institutions are on the verge of collapse. And the second wave of American sanctions, set to take effect in November, has not yet kicked in. This reveals two important facts about the Iranian regime. First, it is incapable of delivering on many of its threats, and not every doomsday scenario, particularly those geared towards European ears, is plausible. Second, the Iranian regime is facing an unparalleled level of internal opposition. Part of the decision to refrain from strongly reacting to the American sanctions is the regime’s fear of the domestic push-back at home. The Iranian people have grown frustrated with their government’s wasteful endeavors abroad. They want to make a decent living and are truly worried about their future. The mullahs understand this reality very well and have thus chosen to maintain a low profile. Their only option is the next presidential elections in 2020, which, they hope, will usher in a new leader that will undo Trump’s actions. –Salman al-Dossry

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