As Mideast war expands, Iran's theocracy faces inevitable downfall

 April 3, 2024

This story was originally published by the WND News Center.

The Islamic clerical regime ruling Iran has been a destabilizing factor in the Middle East ever since its establishment in 1979, following the toppling of the Shah. But in 2002, a stark revelation by the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran, or NCRI, added an urgent new dimension to the destabilizing picture: the existence of a military nuclear program hidden for years.

Since then, a policy of carrot and stick has been the West’s approach towards the clerics in power in Iran, yielding no discernibly good result.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreement – the so-called “Iran nuclear deal” – between Iran and the “P5+1+EU” (the U.N. Security Council's five permanent members: China, France, Russia, the UK, and the U.S., as well as Germany, plus the European Union) – was supposedly intended to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but veered far from its stated objectives. In 2018 the U.S. withdrew from the deal entirely under President Donald Trump, and today Iran seems closer than ever to fabricating a nuclear warhead.

But nuclear weapons, among other destabilizing regional and international factors, are all elements of survival for a regime facing deep, irreversible rejection by its own population.

Unable to quell internal unrest, the regime instigated the Oct. 7 Hamas mega-terror attack on Israel, which continues today, endangering the entire region with a devastating war.

Yet the clerics ruling Iran seem hopeless in the face of growing popular discontent and resistance, and their days may finally be numbered.

Since 2017, there have been numerous regional and nationwide uprisings in Iran. Analysis of these uprisings reveals that each has struck the regime's structure with increasing intensity, and more societal strata have joined in.

2017 Uprising: Khamenei loses his social base
In December 2017, inflation sparked demonstrations that swept across Iran. Notably, the regime's usual support base, the social class the mullahs refer to as “the oppressed,” participated extensively in these protests. Slogans were aimed at supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

This uprising fluctuated until it connected with the 2018 regional uprising in Isfahan, where farmers revolted due to a lack of water. They knew the regime was using the water from the abundant Zayandeh River for industries like steel manufacturing, controlled by Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC.

The 2018 Uprising was instigated after it was revealed that the Obama administration had released $150 billion of frozen Iranian funds to the Islamic regime. Exposing systematic and astronomical corruption, this uprising clearly demonstrated that the regime no longer had a meaningful base among the population. Another hugely significant event was President Donald Trump's withdrawal from the JCPOA in May 2018.

2019 Uprising: Triggered by rising fuel prices, former President Hassan Rouhani said, "I wasn't aware of the gasoline price hike." Ali Khamenei and the IRGC were the main drivers behind the hike to fund their proxies and internal forces through the increased gasoline prices. A characteristic of this uprising was the active role of students. The uprising became even more radicalized. Slogans increasingly targeted Khamenei and Iran's dictatorship. However, the main slogan of this uprising was "The game of reformists and hard-liners is over."

Khamenei, who had used a façade called "reformism" to sell his regime to the West, failed in this tactic. In this new uprising, members of the resistance units under the command of the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran, or NCRI, emerged throughout the country as a force that could overthrow the regime. The Islamic Republic’s newspapers profiled youths who would appear in an alley or neighborhood, encourage people to burn the regime's repressive and plundering centers, organize them, and then quickly move to another area to organize people's protests.

With the widespread presence and unique organization of the resistance units, Khamenei fully understood that he was facing a completely new force. Therefore, he did not hesitate to order shootings against the rebellious youth. As Reuters reported, 1,500 young people were killed by direct fire in a matter of a few days in November 2019. The regime's proven illegitimacy resonated strongly throughout the Western world. The seemingly inevitable death knell for Iran's theocracy had sounded.

2020: The parliamentary elections faced severe boycotts. Resistance units reported a lack of voters in polling stations, but the regime still announced that 42% of eligible voters had participated. Invalid votes secured the second-highest seat count in this election. And Khamenei, having barely survived the 2019 uprising, knew better than anyone that these fabricated statistics foretold yet another uprising.

2021: Further contraction of power: Khamenei completely sidelined the so-called reformist faction in order to counter the waves of uprisings. He abandoned his closest and longest-standing allies, including Ali Larijani, the parliament speaker, and his brother Sadegh, the head of the judiciary, so he could install Ebrahim Raisi as the current president of Iran, all in a bid to gain more unity in his repressive apparatus.

COVID-19: For three years, from 2020 to 2022, COVID-19 dominated Iran as it did most of the rest of the world. Khamenei saw it as a blessing, using the pandemic as a defensive and human shield against further uprisings. Indeed, the country did not face any uprisings during those three years.

2022 Uprising: Following the death of Mahsa Amini – the 22-year-old Iranian woman who was beaten to death by Tehran’s “morality police” for refusing to wear a hijab – the city of Kurdistan, and then almost all cities in Iran, erupted in rioting. This uprising lasted for several months. On one hand, the world witnessed the brutality of Khamenei's forces, and on the other, the heroism of the young rebels, especially young women. Khamenei, with his accomplices in the West, tried to appease the outraged public by promoting the former Shah of Iran's son as an alternative to the Iranian theocracy but was just attempting to deceive the masses by suggesting that their uprising would lead to another dictatorship, thereby briefly pausing the uprising.

This time, though, the resistance units took the initiative. They popularized the slogans rejecting both the dictatorship of the Supreme Leader and the monarchy throughout Iran. In the 2022 uprising, students played an active and decisive role, while women, representing the resistance units, took on leadership roles. This uprising marked the evolution of dispersed rebel units across Iran. They carried out 1,800 revolutionary acts in 106 different cities, including 43 areas in Tehran during the Charshanb-e-Suri* campaign, the ancient festival on the last Wednesday of the Iranian year, and carried out 1,170 revolutionary acts in 87 cities during the campaign against the regime's elections to boycott it. They also exposed the actual participation figures in the recent elections by checking voting centers in 243 cities.

The anti-repression actions and operations during the election campaign occurred while the regime claimed, "Over 250 to 300 thousand security guards engaged in protection, defense, and security care." On the occasion of Charshanb-e-Suri – the annual Iranian New Year celebration featuring lighting fires and jumping over them – in Tehran alone 19,000 police, 23,000 members of the IRGC and Basij, and more than 2,000 undercover agents from the Ministry of Intelligence were deployed to minimize the people’s movements and celebrations.

Meanwhile, in the 2022 uprising, the rebel units managed to grow in number by 500% despite arrests and casualties. Slogans primarily focused on the “death of the dictator, whether it be the Shah or the leader.” During the uprising, the regime’s symbols were set on fire in all cities of Iran.

A downfall in minds
Despite billions of dollars having flowed into Iran, the 2017 uprising demonstrated the complete impotence of the regime in front of the very class the mullahs claimed to have the support of, whom they referred to as “the oppressed.” And since 2019, the full illegitimacy of the regime has been utterly exposed. Whether in the 2020 elections or the recent parliamentary elections, excluding white ballots, no more than 5% of the eligible population actually voted. Although this regime has always suffered from a legitimacy crisis, for which it compensated with internal repression and belligerence, its lack of legitimacy was evident in the 2020 elections and especially in 2024 on the international stage.

In the 2022 uprising, all symbols of the system were set on fire throughout the nation. Passing through these three stages is what is referred to in sociology as a collapse in the minds of the society. Then only physical collapse remains.

After the 2024 elections
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hoped he could partially rebuild his legitimacy in the recent elections, aiming to bridge the deep gap that had grown in his repressive apparatus since 2019. However, he was not successful. The parliament currently under Khamenei's control is such that no faction within the same camp has an absolute majority. These factions are in intense conflict. In his last speech, Khamenei said that the worst thing for the people is the conflict between his forces. Former Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stated that the election was entirely controlled by Mohammad-Ali Jafari, former IRGC commander, as well as Hossein Taib, former head of intelligence in the IRGC. Mohammad-Bagher Qalibaf, the speaker of the previous parliament, who is supported by the IRGC’s extraterritorial Quds Force, also stands against those who have won top positions in Tehran elections, and therefore the conflict will continue.

The recent introduction of war in the Middle East was essentially aimed at helping Iran escape the circle of internal uprisings and resistance units’ operations and the regime’s inevitable overthrow. Although Khamenei is trying to glue together the broken pieces of his camp and his repressive apparatus through the adventures undertaken by the Houthis in international waterways, the last election demonstrated the opposite.

During the Shah's time, when the army no longer took to the streets to suppress the people or was not able to do so, the Shah said he had heard the call of the revolution, and that was when he appointed Shapour Bakhtiar as his last Prime Minister – who held on to the government for a mere 36 days before being swept aside by the 1979 anti-monarchy uprising.

Right now, with the division among suppression forces and within Khamenei's regime itself, the Supreme Leader likewise should be hearing the call of the people's revolution, as several thousand organized resistance units stand arrayed against him.

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