News outlets like France24 and think tanks like the Brookings Institution agree that the stability of Iraq is at stake with these elections, as sectarian conflicts are running high. The Maliki government has essentially cut out the nation’s Sunni majority, says Dexter Filkins in his New Yorker article and Fresh Air interview. Maliki’s Shia sectarian government holds power with the help of Iran and Hezbollah.

The UK’s Guardian newspaper anticipates that sectarian conflicts are sure to continue one way or another in the wake of these elections, and it declares that “the winner will be Iran.”

Oil Exports Fall

With April coming to a close, the figures are in for Iraqi oil exports, and they show that for the second straight month, the average number of exported barrels per day has gone down. Reuters reports that the Obama administration has taken this as a good sign that Iran will comply with the interim nuclear agreement that calls for an average of less than one million barrels per day over a six month period. However, current exports are still above that figure, and February say a particularly high average of 1.65 million barrels per day.

This report of decreased exports comes just on the heels of a sharp increase in gas prices across Iran. Both factors point to a difficult economic situation within the country, which has reportedly sparked protest among the citizenry and criticism from both sides of the political aisle.

Rouhani on TV

In response to these criticisms of broken campaign promises, Rouhani appeared twice on television today to try to quell discontent, according to the Washington Post. In both of those speeches, the Iranian president attempted to explain unpopular policies including reforms to state subsidy programs. Rouhani also excused high energy costs by saying that the nation has unusually high energy demands, which could lead to shortages in coming months.

Building an Asian Bloc

Apart from reforming the subsidy system, one way of avoiding those shortages may be to rely more on Asian partners, to the exclusion of the West. At the DailyKos website, Richard Lyon reports on the emerging partnerships between Iran, Russia, and China, which may allow both Russia and Iran to avoid US and EU sanction while also trading domestic currencies for oil directly, without having to rely on the US dollar as a reserve currency.

Lyon’s article comes in the wake of reports of meetings between Iran and Russia, during which the two noted antagonists of the West fleshed out deals for trading energy and oil.  Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Chinese companies have been selling arms to Iran and buying oil from it, in similar defiance of Western sanctions.

Learning to Hack

One unusual way that Iran has apparently benefited from its developing relationships with Russia and China is by gaining access to cyber-tools and experts from those countries. The Christian Science Monitor reports that while Iran is still not a major threat to US information networks, Iranian hackers have recently carried out successful cyber-attacks on American energy companies and other networks. These incidents indicate that the Iranian threat to cyberspace is growing.