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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Look Ahead 2023: Why the Iranian regime’s future hangs in the balance

WASHINGTON D.C.: “Margh bar diktator” — or “dying to the dictator” — has turn out to be the rallying cry of a large wave of protests which have consumed almost the complete Islamic Republic of Iran.

Although the information media stays underneath the tight management of the state’s inside safety equipment, grainy cellular phone video of protests from colleges, strikes at power services, and rallies alongside essential roads from Tehran to Ahvaz are shaking the rule of Iran’s supreme chief, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as by no means earlier than.

The final large problem to the established order in Tehran got here in 2009 through the Inexperienced Revolution, which captured the world’s creativeness at a time when social media provided real-time entry and a badly wanted voice for dissatisfied Iranian youth calling for reform.

Tehran’s response to the 2009 protests, through the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, was brutal and swift.

However whereas the world was captivated by what gave the impression to be a breaking level for the “Islamic Revolution,” the cries for reform had been met with distinctive brutality and mass killings carried out by the Basij, the plainclothes paramilitary arm of the federal government, and particular items of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) often called Pasadran.

Protesters inside Iran are as decided as ever. In keeping with 32-year-old Atefeh, a member of the Resistance Items of the Individuals’s Mojahedin from the Iranian metropolis of Rasht, “the poverty, destruction, and embezzlement of the regime in opposition to (Iran’s) folks” are driving forces which have “fueled the pace and progress of the uprisings and protests … Iran has fully modified in these three months.”

This time round, observers and specialists consider that Khamenei’s forces might not be capable of use the identical playbook to quell what’s turning into a sustained nationwide rebellion. Saeed Ghasseminejad, an Iran analyst for the US-based Basis for the Protection of Democracies, advised Arab Information that he thinks Khamenei’s regime resides on borrowed time.

Placards displaying victims of the regime’s repression (beneath) had been displayed close to the French Nationwide Meeting in Paris this month. (AFP)

“There’s a sea of blood between the regime and majority of Iranians.  After three a long time of failed expertise with the reform undertaking, Iranians don’t purchase the parable of reform anymore, be it political, financial or social. And the regime has put itself ready that making concessions to the protesters will most probably solely expedite its fall,” he stated.

Bodily and sexual violence, and the executions and sweeping arrests of these calling for change in Iran in earlier years have coincided with guarantees that enhancements within the financial and social atmosphere had been simply across the nook. Nevertheless, this tactic might have additionally run its course, and the prospects for compromise have diminished.

Ghasseminejad stated: “Using brute power has turn out to be the regime’s solely possibility. To date it has not labored, and even when it quickly works, as we’ve got seen over the past 5 years, each spherical of protests is adopted by a good larger one.”

So, will 2023 convey in regards to the collapse of what started in 1979?

It’s an consequence that now not appears too far-fetched. Whereas the IRGC might maintain a monopoly on the violence that it wields in an try to quell widespread unrest, different elements are coming into play that would catalyze the Iranian regime’s downfall.

Saeed predicts that “varied elements will determine the destiny of the Islamic Republic in 2023.”

“For instance, the dying of the supreme chief or a navy assault in opposition to the nuclear services are two occasions which might occur over the subsequent 12 months and can have important penalties for the revolution in Iran,” he advised Arab Information.

A photograph posted on Twitter in October (above) confirmed hundreds heading to Aichi cemetery to mark 40 days for the reason that dying of Mahsa Amini. (UGC / AFP)

A sudden shock to the system might occur. Khamenei can now not lean on the previous head of the Revolutionary Guards elite Quds Pressure, Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad in 2020.

With Soleimani’s dying, Khamenei is unable to make use of him as a grasp strategist exporting Iran’s ideological affect within the area. Soleimani additionally performed a lesser — however equally notable — function in organizing the Revolutionary Guards’ crackdown on protesters previously.

Whereas Tehran has been in a position to climate these storms by a combination of bloodshed and political agility at house, the dire financial scenario going through Iranians from all walks of life, and throughout the ideological spectrum, is maybe the primary existential menace going through the ruling elite.

A latest report from the Washington D.C.-based Institute for the Examine of Battle stated: “The Iranian economic system seems to be coming into a interval of probably important disruption. Protester coordinators and different social media customers have known as on Iranians to urgently withdraw their checking account financial savings and purchase gold in latest days.”

Fred Kagan, director of the Vital Threats Challenge on the American Enterprise Institute, says the steep decline of Iran’s foreign money is driving unprecedented inflation and placing severe stress on the banking system.

Macroeconomic traits coupled with the protests are forcing Khamenei and the IRGC, who’ve taken over giant elements of key sectors of the economic system, to rethink how they’ve historically dealt with enterprise.

“We expect it’s too quickly to inform the place that is headed or how unhealthy it will likely be, but when severe financial instability had been added to the crimes the regime is already committing in opposition to its folks and the brutality and easy viciousness with which it’s oppressing them, that would add power to a protest motion,” Kagan advised Arab Information.

Ongoing protests in Tehran (beneath) and throughout Iran are placing Supreme Chief Ali Khamenei and his regime underneath stress like by no means earlier than. (UGC / AFP)

He thinks the present protests are higher organized with longer endurance than earlier than. The regime is especially acutely aware of the significance of sustaining the solvency of a banking sector that’s closely linked to the IRGC and charitable trusts known as “bonyads,” which have enriched key ruling elite households that Khamenei depends upon.

In keeping with Kagan, Tehran “might face the prospect of getting to make use of its personal arduous foreign money reserves to bail out banks … The protesters have already been experimenting with utilizing coordinated strikes and boycotts to trigger restricted financial disruptions.”

The response of the regime to the protests may finally prolong to freezing financial institution accounts and withdrawals, as a part of a extra focused strategy. Nevertheless, Kagan claims that such efforts “might doubtlessly begin to cascade in ways in which could be very problematic for the regime.”

The financial engine protecting the regime afloat is closely intertwined with Iran’s wider geopolitical aspirations: Promoting and exporting its Shahed drones to assist the Russian conflict machine in Ukraine has introduced it badly wanted money. Its power exports proceed to usher in adequate arduous foreign money to allow the regime’s survival amid distinctive home turbulence, in response to Ghasseminejad.

“Tehran continues to be exporting greater than 1.1 million barrels per day of oil and its non-oil exports stay robust. Imposing symbolic and focused sanctions on human rights violators is an efficient factor, however denying the regime the income to fund its oppression machine must be one of many key priorities,” Ghasseminejad stated.

Khamenei and his successor might be able to climate the storm. Previous expertise has proven that the worldwide group, Western Europe specifically, has rushed to do enterprise with Tehran after condemning its actions each inside and outdoors of its borders.

Nevertheless, with the economic system in free fall, and increasingly more Iranians saying they’ve little left to lose, 2023 might convey the prospect of a transformational change that was so brutally quashed in 2009.

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