Iranians suffer as Tehran’s appetite for regional power grows

By Claude Salhani

It is a vicious circle. Iran continues to acquire sophisticated weapons. The supplier is usually one of the main weapon-producing countries of which there are only a handful: the United States, Russia and France.

Iran, like many other countries, is arming itself with sophisticated weaponry that will eventually strengthen its power, much to the pleasure of its leaders. With these weapons, the theocracy’s supreme leader and Iranian President Hassan Rohani can strut around like a couple of excited peacocks with their multicoloured tails fully deployed, along with their treasured state-of-the-art weapons systems.

Of course, as soon as they acquire new weapons along comes one of the aforementioned countries with a solution to counter whatever system was sold to Tehran, secretly or otherwise, offering weapon systems to counter other weapons systems. So a vicious cycle is entered and there is no choice but to keep upgrading and renewing the arsenal.

Tehran is proud and elated and the countries selling these systems are pleased because they have increased their revenues by several million dollars. Everybody’s happy. Or are they?

What about the people, the regular people? The majority of the population suffers more because their countries have entered a great game of geopolitics.

Tehran insists and, despite everything, is not deterred from pursuing its goal to acquire nuclear capability.

That is the end game. Between the nuclear power plant and the small arms, there is room for all sorts of weapon systems to be sold.

Yet the regime in Iran has been steadfast, intent on becoming a nuclear power. It is also intent on meddling in regional affairs, despite sanctions imposed by the international community.

Has Tehran ever stopped to wonder what people really want? Does the man or woman on the street care much about the country having the latest armaments at the cost of heavy sanctions imposed on the entire nation? How does a mother feel about having to pay five times the regular cost of nappies because her president thinks his country needs nuclear weapons?

Sure, the government organises demonstrations showing support for its policies but, once the cameras are out of the way, there is a different story. Iranians suffer from the continued role played by their country trying to emulate a superpower — at least in its own inflated importance, keeping the country abreast of advanced and sophisticated weaponry. Tehran has become addicted and weapon suppliers are there to remind Tehran of the latest models and systems, et cetera.

Those expenditures, compiled with sanctions on the country, may not affect a ruling class that has always managed to import whatever it needed to live comfortably but the compilation of money spent on the military and the sanctions will affect most citizens. They are the ones who will feel the crunch.

Iran is a rich country because of oil production but its desire to play in the major leagues has practically bankrupted it. Many Iranians survive today on the brink of poverty. To what end?

Iran’s leaders could invest in helping businessmen and women start small businesses. They could invest in education. They could invest in the arts and sciences. Instead, what we have is billions of dollars wasted on purchasing weapons systems that are soon obsolete.

Claude Salhani is a regular columnist for The Arab Weekly.

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