WASHINGTON, DC: “The Dictator of Marg Ba,” or “Death to the Dictator,” became the rallying cry of a massive wave of protests that engulfed nearly the entire Islamic Republic of Iran.
Grainy cellphone videos of protests from schools, strikes at energy installations and rallies along the main road from Tehran to Ahwaz, although the press remains under close control of the state’s internal security apparatus is shaking the hold of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali. Khamenei like never before.
The last major challenge to the status quo in Tehran came during the 2009 Green Revolution. This revolution captured the world’s imagination when social media provided real-time access and a much-needed voice to frustrated and reform-seeking Iranian youth.
Tehran’s response to the 2009 protests was brutal and swift under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But while the world was fascinated by what seemed to be the breaking point of the “Islamic revolution,” the cry for reform was met by the extraordinary atrocities and genocide perpetrated by the government’s plainclothes militia, the Basij, and special forces. encountered. of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) known as Pasadoran.
Protesters inside Iran remain determined. According to Atefe, 32, a member of the People’s Mojahideen resistance unit from the Iranian city of Rasht, “the impoverishment, destruction and embezzlement of the regime against the (Iranian) people” is the driving force. The pace and progress of the uprisings and protests… Iran has completely changed in the last three months. “
This time, observers and experts believe Ayatollah Khamenei’s forces may not be able to use the same tactics to quell what is becoming a sustained nationwide uprising. Saeed Ghaseminejad, an Iranian analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy, told Arab News that he believes the Khamenei government is living on borrowed time.
“There is a pool of blood between the regime and the majority of Iranians. After 30 years of failed reform projects, Iranians no longer believe in the myths of political, economic and social reform. No, and the regime puts itself in the position that making concessions to the protesters is most likely to hasten its collapse,” he said.
Physical and sexual violence, as well as the executions and widespread arrests of change-seekers in Iran over the past few years, are consistent with promises that an improvement in the economic and social environment is on the horizon. However, this tactic may also be a corollary, reducing the likelihood of compromise.
Ghasseminejad says: So far it hasn’t worked, and even if it does work temporarily, protest after protest has led to bigger protests, as we’ve seen in the last five years. “
So will the collapse that began in 1979 occur in 2023?
This is a result that seems no longer exaggerated. The IRGC may have a monopoly on the violence it uses to try to quell popular unrest, but other factors are coming into play that could catalyze the overthrow of the Iranian regime.
Said predicts that “various factors will determine the fate of the Islamic Republic in 2023.”
“For example, the death of the supreme leader or a military attack on a nuclear facility are two events that could occur within the next year, with grave consequences for the Iranian revolution,” he told Arab News. rice field.
A sudden shock to the system can occur. Ayatollah Khamenei can no longer rely on Qassem Soleimani, the former head of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force, who was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad in 2020.
With Soleimani’s death, Khamenei is unable to use him as a master strategist to export Iran’s ideological influence in the region. Soleimani has also played a less significant but equally notable role in organizing crackdowns on protesters by the Revolutionary Guard in the past.
Tehran has been able to weather these storms through a combination of domestic bloodshed and political agility, but the dire economic conditions facing Iranians from all walks of life are likely to have been faced by the ruling elite. are the major existential threats
A recent report from the Washington, DC-based Institute for War Studies states: Protest coordinators and other social media users called on Iranians to urgently withdraw their bank accounts and buy gold recently. “
Fred Kagan, director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project, said the sharp depreciation of the Iranian currency has caused unprecedented inflation and put severe stress on the banking system.
Ayatollah Khamenei and the IRGC, who have taken over most of the major sectors of the economy, are being forced by macroeconomic developments and protests to rethink how they treat traditional business.
“I think it’s too early to know where this is going or how bad it will be, but if serious economic instability is added to the crime, the administration has already committed against its people. The crimes they face, and the brutality and simple malice that oppress them, can add energy to the protest movement,” Kagan told Arab News.
He believes the current protests are more organized by staying in power longer than before. The regime particularly recognizes the importance of preserving the solvency of the banking sector, which is closely linked to the IRGC and charitable trusts known as “Bonyad,” which have enriched the important ruling elite families on which Ayatollah Khamenei relies. ing.
According to Kagan, Tehran “could face the prospect of having to use its own foreign exchange reserves to bail out banks… Protesters have already used organized strikes and boycotts. and attempt to cause limited economic disruption.”
The administration’s response to the protests may eventually extend to freezing and withdrawing bank accounts as part of a more targeted approach. But Cagan argues that such efforts “could start cascading in ways that would be very problematic for the administration.”
The economic drive to stay in power is deeply intertwined with Iran’s broader geopolitical ambitions. Selling and exporting Shahed drones to support the Russian war machine in Ukraine brought much-needed cash to Iran. According to Ghasseminejad, its energy exports continue to bring in enough foreign currency to enable the regime’s survival amid extraordinary domestic turmoil.
“Tehran still exports more than 1.1 million barrels of oil per day, and non-oil exports remain strong. Giving the regime no income to fund the machine should be one of its key priorities,” Ghasseminejad said.
Khamenei and his successors may be able to weather the storm. Past experience shows that the international community, especially Western Europe, rushed to do business with Tehran after condemning its actions within and beyond its borders.
But with the economy plummeting and more and more Iranians saying they have little to lose, an opportunity for change could come in 2023, but it was brutally crushed in 2009. .