Ordinary Iranians have come to realise the regime is the source of their woes
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps became used to disbanding limited protests here and there by using mostly their clubs and, from time to time, live ammunition. Those protests led nowhere and disappeared quickly because the reasons behind them did not call for an all-out confrontation with the regime.
Things are different with the latest protests across Iran.
These protests are fuelled by popular anger at the deteriorating standards of living, especially among poor families, caused by the spiralling fall of the Iranian currency and non-stop US sanctions. The sanctions bode more misery for Iranians suffering the horrible consequences of the corrupt and incompetent regime and its failed internal policies.
As more citizens fall below the poverty line and unemployment is at unprecedented levels, the Iranian regime is struggling. It is obvious it has no real and effective solutions for the currency crisis.
Under these circumstances, the Iranians find themselves at a crossroads. The supreme leader could get inspired by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s madness and use all kinds of weapons, including explosive barrels, against protesters and then hurry to call in one or more “friends” to the rescue, in other words, turn Iran into a second Syria.
Alternatively, our hero can surprise the world and become another Nelson Mandela. He would step down peacefully and hand power to an independent council of national salvation that would start dealing with the country’s economic woes through new and rational policies that would end international sanctions against Iran.
For a change, Iran would have normal friendly relations with its neighbours and would seek the help of international financial institutions to salvage whatever it is possible to salvage economically.
But we are dreaming here.
There is no way in heaven that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei would think of the second scenario. He is a dictatorial extremist and old-fashioned hardliner who cannot stand being contradicted or disobeyed. There is no better demonstration of that than the deadly shootings by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of four unarmed protesters in Ahvaz.
The new thing in the nature of the recent popular unrest is that the ordinary Iranian citizen, regardless of ethnic or religious background, has become aware that the country’s economic woes are due to bad policy choices by the supreme leader and his entourage. They are the real reasons behind the endless US and international sanctions against Iran.
Many protesters spoke of the mindless waste of money by the regime on its wars abroad and on its proxy organisations and militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and the Palestinian territories. There is no justification for this profligacy. Half of that wasted fortune would have been sufficient to relieve the daily pains of Iranian citizens.
The regime’s interventionist policies resulted in international isolation for Iranian citizens. Trade and economic cooperation with neighbouring countries have practically stopped. Khamenei’s policies are based on destabilising countries rather than cooperation. By continuously threatening US interests in the region, Khamenei has placed the state and the people of Iran in direct confrontation with the world’s major power.
It is hard to predict what is going to happen in Iran because of the fresh wave of protests. What’s certain is that this time Iranians find it impossible to remain silent while their livelihoods and that of their families are threatened by a bloody and dictatorial regime not much different from that of Assad in Syria.
They will continue to protest until their rightful demands are met.