The fourth and final issue of 2022 continues with the analysis of the scenarios opened up by Russia's aggression against Ukraine last February.

On the cover, a surreal image of the portrait of the Nod Korean leader Kim Jong-un, which completes the quartet of autocrats to whom the covers of the year were dedicated.

Space for two interviews with the co-presidents of the circle of diplomatic studies in Rome, the ambassadors Paolo Casardi and Maurizio Melani

For the attention of the reader one of the Diplomatic dialogues, edited by the Circolo di Studi Diplomatici.

The contributions of Eleonora Lorusso, the valid presenter of the International Festival of European Geopolitics and Domenico Letizia are always appreciated.

The collaboration with Sconfinare continues.




The coming year


With this fourth issue of Atlantis, the year 2022 closes which has laid the foundations for a global instability that will hardly find immediate or easy-to-follow solutions.

As soon as we emerged from the most acute two-year phase of the international health emergency due to the Covid 19 epidemic, Europe found itself with a war on its territory with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The military question is still completely open to even diametrically opposed scenarios. In Iran, winds of revolt have risen against the regime in power but despite the war commitment, Moscow does not fail to support Tehran where an exemplary and macabre trail of death sentences and other repressive actions does not bode well . The reappointment of Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Communist Party of China, as president of the People's Republic of China, at least, provides stability. It is no coincidence that after the re-election, relations between Xi and Biden have intensified. The international economy is suffering and the European one in line with it. The ECB had to intervene on rates and Lagarde showed a much higher concern towards the inflationary phenomenon than the European central bank could have expected. In Italy, starting from a slim 2.6 percent, Giorgia Meloni brought her party, the Brothers of Italy, to the government, leading a coalition formed by Forza Italia of a revived Silvio Berlusconi and the League of Matteo Salvini which, however, since the days of Papeete and the government with the 5 Star Movement, it has dropped from 32 to 8 percent of the popular consensus. The obvious consequence, the internal divisions on the strategy of the party, given the re-emergence of the old lion Bossi and the incumbent of the two Venetian and Friulian governors Luca Zaia and Massimiliano Fedriga. Italy, in 2023, will be called to make important field choices.

Meloni clearly said that: "Only an Italy that respects its commitments can have the authority to make requests at a European and Western level". But it is known that a coalition government must give way and concede. In any case, both Matteo Renzi and Carlo Calenda are ready to support the action of a Meloni who is not a prisoner of the "melonism" of the electoral campaign. But we also need to see what the ever-changing attitude of public opinion will be in the face of a maneuver that two-thirds will be committed to tackling the energy emergency and the remainder will be rain distribution. So much for the Pnrr which in its European philosophy should have been an impetus for the structural improvement of the national economy to make it more competitive but above all more homogeneous by interrupting the age-old question of the southern gap. However, Italy will also have to be the stabilizing country of the European Union, mediating with France, and preventing Germany from falling back into temptations of self-support which would perhaps forever deny the principle of solidarity between European countries.




Actuality and Geopolitics

The protests over the death of the young woman, the youth movements, the economic problems and the difficult relations with Kurds and Israelis. Because what happens in Tehran also affects Brussels and Washington

Eleonora Lorusso

There is a watershed date in Iran's recent history. A symbolic date because it represents the beginning of a period of potential destabilization that does not only concern the Islamic Republic, but has gone beyond borders to involve Western and European markets in particular, landing on social networks, also conquering the front pages of the media and even the stadiums of Qatar, on the occasion of the 2022 football world cup. It is September 13, the day of the arrest in Tehran of Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old Kurdish woman guilty of not wearing the Islamic veil correctly, the obligatory hijab for women since the 1979 Revolution, and died soon after. Officially due to the consequences of a previous illness, but in reality in circumstances that suggest that the violence suffered in prison was fatal for the girl. Since then, protests have begun that have brought young men and women especially to the streets, who have chanted slogans "Women, life and freedom!", which have also gradually echoed in the squares of western capitals. A very harsh repression followed, which affected not only the demonstrators in Tehran, but also those who paraded in the streets of smaller cities in other areas of Iran, particularly in the south-east and north-west of the country; "hot" areas where the rekindling of tensions that have never died down now worries the observers and not a little, because it is the mirror of a situation of strong internal contrasts that cannot be reduced only to the youth emancipation movement of Tehran university students, but which joins and fuels the clash with the Kurdish and Azeri ethnic groups present in the Islamic Republic. If all this is combined with Iran's serious economic problems, the risk is that the situation could become even more explosive. For this reason it is no coincidence that the state is considered even more under special surveillance by Israel and the United States.

A bomb that no one expected? One of the most recurring questions concerns the predictability of the situation that has arisen in Iran, not new in the past to street demonstrations and even very violent repressions: “Protests are certainly not new in Iran, especially in recent years. We recall those of 2009, for example, which were rather extensive and harshly repressed by the Government, but also the series of clashes recorded in 2018 and 2019, which in some way demonstrated a generalized discontent with the economic situation of the country which is far from rosy, especially because of international sanctions”, comments Tiziano Marino, analyst at CeSI, International Studies Center. “In this case the protests arose from the killing of Mahsa Amini, originally from Iranian Kurdistan (and this is not a negligible detail), which were linked to more typically youthful, student and cultural issues. The real feature is precisely this: the avant-garde is student and so far there has not been a union with the working sector, which is the one most sensitive to economic discontent. For example, there have been several strikes in the past in the mining and oil sectors, which this time have not and are not. In short, the protest goes on only on the track followed by young people and in particular by women, so much so that the fulcrum of the demonstrations is in the big cities where there are universities, such as in Tehran. To use two more typically Italian definitions, we could say that what happens looks more like a student's '68 than a worker's '77”, Marino continues.

From the center to the periphery: which scenarios - The violence with which the demonstrations were repressed has aroused a wave of international indignation, but there is also another worrying aspect, which risks going unnoticed and that is what is happening in the "periphery ” of the country: “If the processions of young people are there for all to see, there is not enough emphasis on what is happening in the north-west and south-east, where there are Kurdish minorities (Sunni, in a country with a Shiite majority) and Azerbaijani. In the first case, there is a strong resentment on the part of this segment of the population towards the central government, which has been dragging on for some time. In the second case, the autonomist demands weigh because Tehran fears a possible enlargement of Azerbaijan at the expense of Armenia. Let us not forget that the Azeri ethnic group, despite the lack of official data, is estimated at around 20% - 25% of the population – continues the analyst – Today both these groups have become the real epicenter of the protest, which has lost its national character, also due to the lack of a leadership true among young people, just as there is no political opposition to the government".

Europe, Israel and the risk of destabilization in the Middle East - The fact that youth dissent has gradually evolved represents a factor of no small importance which international observers take into account, not only in the Middle East, but also in Europe. It is no coincidence that the events of recent months come just after the attempt to "resuscitate" the Iranian nuclear deal, strongly desired by the former US president, Barack Obama, and culminated with the 2015 agreement. Brussels had presented a "final" text to relaunch the pact after four days of indirect talks between US and Iranian officials in Vienna, especially in light of the energy crisis caused by the war in Ukraine. Last August, Tehran was also pressing to reach a conclusion, after more than 15 months of negotiations, but the wave of clashes that began in September effectively froze everything. What happens, however, does not only concern relations between Iran, Europe and the USA, but also regional arrangements. “The clashes have intensified in the peripheral areas of the country, such as on the border with Iraq which is considered by Tehran to be particularly "porous", with components that move easily across the border. Not at home, even the Iranian regime itself has painted the protests as linked to the Kurds, implementing a strong repression: the attacks by the revolutionary guards are aimed above all at avoiding the possible passage of weapons and funds from Kurdish Iraq to the same ethnic groups protesting in Iran, therefore essentially to avert a real 'armed struggle' in the country”, underlines the CeSI analyst. “A last aspect also concerns the south-eastern area, where the Sunni component is prevalent and which is located on the border with Pakistan, where jihadist groups operate who have taken part in the protests. Here, too, there have been armed attacks against Iranian security forces. This is why the situation remains incandescent”. In short, Iran remains an actor who, if destabilized, could create problems throughout the area and Israel knows this well, which is considered 'the US arm' in the Middle East. In this case, what Tel Aviv fears most is the continuation of the Iranian nuclear program and the return as prime minister of Benjamin Netanyahu does not leave room for a future of détente in relations”, explains Marino.

The USA and Iran: what changes after the Midterm vote - Meanwhile, the United States is returning from a Midterm vote which has partially changed the balance within the US Congress, with a House with a Republican majority while the Senate remains to Democrats. If the risk of the so-called "crippled duck" for President Joe Biden is averted, it is true that his margins of action are partially reduced. So what will become of the Iranian nuclear deal? Barbara Slavin asked herself some time ago: the director of the Future of Iran Initiative is convinced that Congress will not block the agreement, if there really is a change to what was signed in 2015 by the then head of the White House, Barack Obama. However, indirect US support for Iranian protest movements remains, along with a clear condemnation of Tehran's supply of drones to Ukraine. Once again, therefore, what is happening in the Islamic Republic is not a purely Iranian issue.

An after Khamenei? – The last aspect of uncertainty concerns the internal power relations in Iran, after the rumors about the health of Ayatollah Khamenei (and even of his death and burial, which have already taken place). “We have been talking about it for months, but there is no official information. The mere fact that we talk about it is destabilizing: there are many components, officially aligned, but in fact conflicting in the internal management of power - concludes Tiziano Marino - It is not possible to make predictions about a possible succession, as it is not for Putin, even he is periodically at the center of speculation about possible diseases from which he would suffer. In any case, if the youth component of the protest does not join the working class, the regime will have little to fear".


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