On Sunday, the Iranian regime marked the 34th anniversary of the Iranian revolution, yet the regime has little reason to celebrate. Facing growing international isolation, economic depression and social unrest, this year may be the bleakest in the regime's history. The upcoming Presidential elections in June present a new challenge to a government which is lacking popular support or legitimacy, leaving many to wonder if this is year could mark the end of the Iranian regime.
Iran is at a crossroads. The regime has survived on three essential platforms.
Its nuclear program, which it has used as a pillar of its survival. Its export
of terrorism, fermenting chaos and instability throughout the region as a means
to assert itself as a regional power. And finally and most importantly, its
suppression of dissent at home, using an iron fist to smash any resistance or
challenge to authority.
Yet these core elements of the regime's survival are now beginning to crumble.
The regime has invested heavily in its nuclear program, and continues to cite it as one of its crowning achievements of defiance. At the same time the regime remains in a corner in regard to its international isolation. Its nuclear dilemma has brought heavy sanctions and diplomatic isolation upon it. Ali Khamenei, the regime's supreme leader, is faced with a difficult choice; whether to continue its program and face military confrontation with the West, or suspend the program and face internal divisions and a loss of credibility it has worked so hard to achieve. Either way it appears the regime must take on risks and losses in order to prolong its survival, but at what cost?
Iran’s export of terrorism abroad, and assistance to groups like Hezbollah were
once its points of "strength", especially in the Arab world. Since
the start of the Arab Spring however, these policies have been reassessed as
forms of interference and meddling, as opposed to benign assistance. Iran’s
hand in the bloody suppression of dissidents in Syria has also done
irreversible damage to the regime's reputation in the region. The leopard has shown
its spots. Now, with Assad on his last legs in Syria, and the mullahs' ally in
Iraq, Nouri-al Maliki, facing popular protests there, the regime is losing
ground quickly. If it meets popular protests with repression it will only
galvanize anti-Iranian sentiment, yet it if stands by and does nothing it will
lose both its strategic partners in the region.
The schism within the regime has also reached its highest levels. On February 3, during a public parliamentary session when one of Ahmadinejad's ministers was impeached by the Parliament, Ahmadinejad played a videotape and embarked on exposing Ali Larijani, the Speaker of the parliament, and charged him and his influential brothers with corruption and nepotism. In turn, Larijani called Ahmadinejad’s action mafia-like, and threatened to expose him. The heightened infighting between the leaders of the regime occurred only a few weeks after Khamenei had publicly warned about factional feuding and had said exposing the differences of opinion before the elections would be treason. And on December 28th, he said: “Until after elections, any infighting, in any form, is playing in a field that the enemy has prepared.” It was another sign that the supreme leader has lost much of his clout even within the establishment.
With all these issues, the mullahs' biggest problem lies with its population, the majority of whom are under the age of 30 and feel the regime has worn itself out. The popular uprising in 2009 demonstrated the vulnerability of the regime in the face of popular protests, and the threat of a new wave of protests is not far off. The regime has instituted a brutal policy of suppression, starting with online surveillance and censorship, and culminating with torture and execution on the streets. The regime recently showcased a new machine designed to publicly cut off the hands of alleged criminals. The regime has also stepped up its use of public executions as a method of spreading terror throughout the population. But just as with its other dilemmas, the regime's short term actions ensure its long term demise. The more the regime suppresses its population, the more resentment against the dictatorship grows. Waiting to burst into a full- fledged uprising.
But Iran also has something that countries in the Arab Spring did not have: an
organized resistance. The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK),
the main component the National Council of Resistance, has been the Iranian
regime's most feared opponent over the last 30 years. The PMOI played an effective
role in the 2009 uprising, and remains a catalyst for further protests in the
As Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, has said time and again, the solution for the issues raised by the Iranian regime is not warfare or negotiations, but the overthrow of the regime by the Iranian people and their organized resistance.
This does not mean military intervention. Instead, policy makers should focus on increased sanctions against the regime and isolation of its leaders. The regime should be referred to the UN Security Council for crimes against humanity against the people of Iran. Most importantly, it is time to recognize the Iranian resistance as the true representatives of the Iranian people and send a firm message that the future belongs to the people of Iran.
Continuing to sleep walk on Iran will be disastrous. It is time for Western leaders to stand with the Iranian people for regime change.
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