(Apologies for the lack of posting this past week. I was somewhat preoccupied with the shiva.)
When I came back online I discovered that Iran has been undergoing massive popular protests that might possibly even threaten the regime. It seems almost impossible to contemplate. The Khomeinist regime has been solidly entrenched for nearly 40 years and it looked like nothing would budge it, whether because the population supported its extreme Islamist structure, or simply because the regime had no qualms about suppressing any protests by the most violent means.
The following tweet has become the iconic image of the Iranian protests – an Iranian woman waving her hated hijab in protest at the repression of the Islamist regime:
This past week has shown that what was is not necessarily what is, or what will be in the future.
Tablet Magazine explains why the Ayatollah empire is rotting away:
Whether or not this past weekend’s mass demonstrations in Iran will spread, whether a second revolution is imminent or not, the numbers for the ayatollah empire just don’t add up. A breakdown is materially inevitable.
With some 80 million people, and with oil accounting for 80 percent of its exports, Iran would need to export some 25 million barrels a day to make a go of it, but it can barely export 2.5 million. That would be luxuriously ample for the likes of Abu Dhabi with fewer than 800,000 citizens, but it is a miserable pittance for Iran, with a population more than 100 times as large.
Iran cannot even match the $6,000 income per capita of Botswana. […] Neither is Botswana mounting large-scale military expeditions in support of a foreign dictator at war with 80 percent of his own population or providing generous funding for the world’s largest terrorist organization, Hezbollah, whose cocaine-smuggling networks and local extortion rackets cannot possibly cover tens of thousands of salaries. The ayatollah empire is doing all those things, which means that average Iranians are actually much poorer than their Botswanian counterparts.
You would never know it looking at photographs of Tehran, one more bombastic capital city fattened on intercepted oil revenues and graft, but Iran is dirt poor.
That is what happens in an economy whose gross domestic product computes at under $6,000 per capita: very low productivity, very low incomes. The 500,000 or so Iranians employed in the country’s automobile industry are hardly productive enough to make exportable cars: Pistachio nuts are the country’s leading export, after oil and petroleum products.
The pistachios bring us directly to Iran’s second problem after not-enough-oil, namely too much thieving by ayatollahs, including pistachio-orchard-grabbing Akbar Hashemi “Rafsanjani,” former president and a top regime figure for decades.
That is why the crowds have been shouting insults at the clerics—not all are corrupt, but high-living clerics are common enough to take a big bite out of that theoretical $6,000 per capita.
But the largest cause of popular anger is undoubtedly the pasdaran, a.k.a the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), an altogether more costly lot than the several hundred aghazadeh or tens of thousands of high-living clerics. The IRGC’s tab starts with the trillion dollars or more that the pasdaran-provoked nuclear sanctions cost before the Obama team agreed to lift them and continues with the billions that Iran still loses annually because of the ballistic-missile sanctions that Trump will never lift. Then there are the variable costs of the pasdaran’s imperial adventures, as well as the fixed cost of pasdaran military industries that spend plenty on common weapons as well as on “stealth” fighters and supposedly advanced submarines that exist only in the fantasies of regime propagandists. Pasdaran militarism and imperial adventures are unaffordable luxuries that the demonstrators very clearly want to do without—hence their shouts of “no-Gaza, no-Syria.”
As to what the West can do to accelerate the regime’s collapse?
Many European and Japanese big-name companies are staying away from Iran because the missile and terrorism sanctions persist—and to avoid displeasing the United States. They should. But the South Koreans whom we defend with our own troops totally ignore U.S. interests in regard to Iran and have therefore emerged as the lead suppliers of machinery and tooling for the pasdaran weapon factories. …
There is no need to laboriously negotiate a new set of sanctions against Iran—strict, swift, and public enforcement of the restrictions that are already on the books is enough. Every time a South Korean regime-related deal is detected, the offenders need a quick reminder they will be excluded from the United States if they persist. In this, as in everything else, it is just a matter of getting serious in our focus on Iran.
Obama was serious in his courtship of the ayatollahs’ regime. Trump should do the same to bring the regime to an end, faster.
Abu Yehuda speculates on the day after, if such a day ever comes, in his post “The Iranian counter-revolution: a good start”:
Apparently, many Iranians are tired of the corrupt regime and don’t see the point of its adventures in Syria and elsewhere. I would like to believe also that they see the regime heading for a direct collision with Israel and other regional powers, and they would prefer to avoid an unnecessary and bloody war.
Although the immediate irritants are economic, the demonstrations are strongly political and aimed at the regime. Posters of Supreme Leader Khamenei, General Qassam Solemani of the IRGC’s “Quds Force” (a sort of foreign legion), and President Rouhani have been destroyed. Chants of “death to the IRGC” and “death to the dictator” have been reported.
Is it possible that the revolutionary Islamic regime established in 1979 could be overthrown?
At this point we don’t know if the demonstrations are the beginning of a planned putsch with an organization behind them, or just a spontaneous explosion of frustration. If the latter, the regime will probably succeed in shutting them down by the escalating use of force. But if the former is the case, then regime change is a possibility.
This raises so many questions! Could Iran get a non-Islamist regime? Could it get one that is not committed to imperial conquest? Could it even dream of a democratic government?
Iran is a relatively advanced country with a well-educated population. It was at one time one of the most Westernized countries in the Middle East. The 1979 revolution imposed an atavistic, medieval regime on a people that has chafed under its rule ever since. There is certainly popular support for a counter-revolution.
The consequences in the region if the Iranian regime were replaced by one which prioritized economic development over foreign adventures would be immense. If the demonstrators got their wish and the millions sent to Hezbollah and the Iraqi Shiite militias stayed in Iran, the air would go out of Bashar al-Assad’s plan to re-conquer Syria. The best he could hope for with plenty of Russian air support would be to survive in a small enclave. The Sunni resistance to his regime would be reenergized.
Needless to say, Israel would be overjoyed. Hezbollah is Israel’s most dangerous immediate enemy, with its 150,000 rockets aimed at us. Without Iranian support, the process of disarmament, which was called for by UNSC Resolution 1701 at the end of the Second Lebanon War, but never implemented, could finally begin. Lebanon could begin to think about becoming an independent sovereign nation again, instead of a country-sized human shield for Hezbollah rocket launchers.
Abu Yehuda tries not to get our hopes up too far with dreams of a rosy peace, and yet:
If Iran stopped exporting revolutionary Islamism, it wouldn’t create a new, more peaceful world all at once.
But what a good start it would be!
Here are some interesting tweets on the Iranian protests which shed more light on current events:
Other tweeters commented on the political classes’ and intelligentsia’s obtuseness in commenting on the Iran protests:
Many commentators remarked on the lack of coverage of the protests by the Western media:
All in all it is the standard “non-Westerners can do no wrong” attitude both of politicians and the media. Unless they shake off this attitude they will never understand what is happening in other parts of the world, and all the Iranian civilians’ sacrifices will have been in vain