The Sarallah drone is supposedly capable of evading missile interception, and the Iranain propaganda network Press TV asserted that the Nour cruise missile has a range of 120 kilometers while the Nasr cruise missile is powerful enough to “destroy 3,000 tonne enemy’s war ships.” Hassan Akbari Layeq, the designer of the Sarallah drone, cited “daily progress of drones” and told Fars News Agency that the missile-evading drone is a first in the world.
These claims are reminiscent of a range of other claims made by Iranian officials, many of which have been called into question or falsified by outside sources. In December, Iran’s defense minister declared that Iran was the world’s fourth leading missile power, after only the United States, Russia, and China. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps has previously made specific claims about being able to destroy American aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, but these claims were based on exercises targeting mock-up vessels that independent analysts judged to be poorly made and not sea-worthy.
Iran does routinely unveil new weaponry and military craft, but often these are similarly determined to be mock-ups or jury-rigged innovations, despite being presented as world-leading technology by the IRGC and the Iranian government.
Of course, recent Iranian rhetoric has not been limited to the military sphere. Many regime officials have also contributed to a narrative that largely denies the economic troubles faced by Iran amidst international sanctions and falling oil prices. On Monday those prices were reported to be around 55 dollars per barrel, but according to Customs Today, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh predicted that the situation would quickly reverse itself, bringing prices back over 60 dollars and as high as 90 in the next few months. Iran’s national budget for the forthcoming year assumes an annual average of 70 dollars, down from 100 the previous year.
Even though the budget demonstrates optimism about the regime’s ability to weather the storm, and even though Zanganeh insists that current problems are short-term, he has also admitted that the drop in prices has now resulted in a similar drop in Iranian oil exports, according to Bloomberg. But even this fits into the Iranian regime’s optimistic narrative, in that Zanganeh used the subject as a starting point for insistence that Iran would not lose market share to any country, including Saudi Arabia, which Iran blames for keeping prices low by refusing to cut OPEC production.
According to Zanganeh, Iran’s oil exports have declined by 60 percent, although he was vague about the time frame for that decline. This brings the nation’s current average to about one million barrels per day, a figure that is ironically the same a widely-cited upper limit that was place on Iran’s oil exports for the duration of negotiations between the Islamic Republic and the P5+1 over the Iranian nuclear program.
The strict limit was imposed by the United States and was not part of the Joint Plan of Action governing the negotiations, and Zanganeh subsequently explicitly rejected those restrictions, saying that Iran would export at the highest rate possible. For many critics of the talks, the violation of these limits has served as consistent proof of a lack of Iranian good faith in its dealings with the West.
On one hand, the decline in oil prices has apparently brought Iran begrudgingly into compliance with the oil export limits. On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether the associated economic crisis will motivate further compromise between Iran and the West. An editorial at Watchdog.org suggests that exactly the opposite may be the result.
The article also considers the effect of low oil prices on Russia and Venezuela. It observes that in all three places, the government relies on the oil economy as a lynchpin for its own hold on power. It goes on to argue that with that economy threatened, these governments may become more dangerous and take greater risks as a way of holding onto power in other areas.
Specifically with regard to Iran, Watchdog.org cites the regime’s tendency to exploit sectarian conflict in the Middle East as a way of broadening its own influence. It suggests that the oil price decline may motivate greater interventionism in Bahrain, as well as more direct shows of strength in and around the Strait of Hormuz than the world saw in December’s military exercises.
The issues of Iran’s militarist and economic rhetoric are easily connected to each other. Being a long-time regional rival to Saudi Arabia, Iran is in a unique position to use force or the threat of force to compel the Saudis to change their current oil policies if the economic crisis becomes bad enough to justify that risk.
Meanwhile, Watchdog.org also observes that Russia could similarly force oil prices to rise again if it was able to contribute to the creation of a new crisis in the Middle East. As a member of the P5+1, Russia is in a unique position to do this by obstructing nuclear negotiations, thus preventing Iran from obtaining economic relief through the alternative route of suspended international sanctions.
But the failure of nuclear negotiations does not necessarily mean that Iran will continue to experience the same pain from sanctions. The Islamic Republic has been making considerable efforts in recent months to secure foreign investment, which could have the effect of weakening international support for the sanctions that have thus far crippled the Iranian economy.
According to Turkish Weekly, Hassan Rouhani reaffirmed this strategy on Sunday when he told attendees at a Tehran economic conference that Iran would not be able to secure large-scale development amidst international isolation. In addition, Rouhani also reaffirmed national commitment to the ideals of the Iranian Revolution, saying that exploitation of foreign investment does not translate to forfeiture of independence.