Iran: From dictatorship to civil strife?

Published 25.11.2019 19:22
Updated 20.12.2019 01:55

What can be concluded from the protests in Iran is that the people deserve more democracy, but not aggressive rule

Imagine a country extremely rich in oil and natural gas reserves but unable to offer cheap fuel to its own population. Such a country is obligated to increase the price of oil at gas stations by a blunt 50%, which is not at all to the taste of the public opinion. So long as the country is a full-fledged dictatorship, there is no possibility for the population to vote down a government. So what would they do? Well, protest obviously. Out on the streets shouting their discontent, showing that enough is enough, they are fed up with the idiotic governance of their rich country, which has turned into a poor one thanks to the regime.

This is what is happening in Iran, but we do not have any real and dependable information, because the state-controlled media is showing a different picture of what is really happening in Iran. According to the official declarations, it is a "war" ignited by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the “mounafiguan” (hypocrites), representing the Mujahedeen. More than a simple uprising, according to Gen. Salar Abnoosh, deputy-chief commander of the Bassidji, so-called “volunteers of the revolution," an organization similar to the Third Reich’s Sturmabteilung (SA), “a world war has been avoided.”

Starting Nov.15, many towns and cities saw their population on the streets vehemently protesting against the gas price increase. This caught the ruling authorities unprepared and took them a few days before they “turned off” the internet and similar means of communication. Police forces were quickly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the protests and the outcry turned into pitched battles. The Pasdaran quickly intervened, together with the Bassidji forces, using weapons. Nobody knows how many lives were lost in less than a week. In their initial assessment, Amnesty International spoke about approximately 100 deaths, but very likely the real number is far higher. Some hospital personnel said police officers and Bassidji militiamen were among those killed. However, obviously such information has to be fine-tuned.

Around a couple of hundred people have been arrested and just by miracle they have already confessed to being manipulated by a “coalition of evil” including the usual culprits. The streets were full of people chanting “Khamenei binamus” ("Khamenei without honour"), though very few mobile phone video recordings could make their way onto social media.

We do not know yet whether the regular Iranian armed forces have intervened in the protests. Up until now, only the representatives and commanders of either the Pasdaran or the Bassidji have made declarations. Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei also made a brief declaration, saluting the victory of the revolution over the counter-revolutionaries.

This is the third time in less than 10 years that Iranians have taken to the streets to shout their despair and boredom. As I had the opportunity to analyze recently, it is extremely difficult to foresee the outcry of a whole population in totalitarian regimes. It is worth remembering the fall of the Shah Reza Pahlavi in 1978, at a time when Iran was considered the overwhelming regional power, staunchly supported by the U.S. and practically all Western countries. Shah Reza’s army was by far the best equipped and armed military force in the region; there was also a very important elite force called the Javidan (immortals), directly controlled by the sovereign himself.

Reza Pahlavi did not foresee the magnitude of discontent among the population and was unable to control the situation despite his army and despite his loyal elite troops; he was removed from office in 1978. He escaped to Egypt and died there a few months later of cancer. Some religious authorities usurped the Iranian Revolution swiftly and the Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979.

Two major consequences to draw from the last uprising of the Iranian people: they definitely deserved a better and more democratic regime. This is a very old, traditional, ancient state representing an immensely sophisticated civilization. Its people do not deserve to simply live under different oppressive regimes punctuated every 40 or 50 years by revolutions.

The second issue is that U.S. President Donald Trump’s strategy to corner Iran by disregarding international law seems to have had some success. This is not good news for anyone because all the Iranian regime can now do is use more force and be even more aggressive. In a nutshell to run like lemmings into the sea... This will not bring peace to the already deeply devastated Middle East.

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