Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei fears increased and growing popular protests in 2019.
The state-run Tasnim News Agency reported that during a meeting with the families of the so-called “Shrine Defenders” who were killed in Syria and Iraq, Khamenei accused the US of planning to “create [disruption] and civil war with the help of sanctions and counter security measures” and “drag people on the streets” to protest in Iran.
He told the families that “contrary to the irrelevant analysis of some people who were senseless and attached to the West” the regime was strong and claimed that they would “celebrate the occasion [of the Regime’s 40th Birthday in February] grander than previous years”, in response to comments from UN National Security Advisor John Bolton that the Regime would not see its 40th birthday.
However, recent street protests in cities across Iran especially in Ahwaz and Shush have underlined the fundamental weakness of a regime.
Despite striving to circumvent US sanctions by most EU countries and turning their back to human rights and attempted terror attacks on their soil, the regime has been unable to satisfy the expectations of everyday Iranians, who see the country’s resources plundered on corruption and foreign military adventures by clerics and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who deny basic freedom.
Protests that began in Mashad on Dec 28, 2107, over rising food prices, quickly expanded into a nationwide uprising focused at the rule of Ali Khamenei. The protesters’ demand has resonated outside of Iran and led to international support.
US secretary Mike Pompeo sent out a tweet that said: “The people of Iran are tired of the corruption, injustice, and incompetence from their leaders. The world hears their voice,” Pompeo wrote.
A coalition of bipartisan Congress members has joined Iranian Americans to express support for Iranian protesters, and highlight the Iranian regime’s malign role around the world at a Congressional event.
At the event, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the nationwide anti-regime protests of December 2017, the Congressmen announced a bipartisan initiative to support the protesters and their dream of a free Iran.
Tom McClintock (R-CA) said: “As the journey of the mullahs has become more extreme, the international resistance to them has become more resolute”.
“105 of my colleagues, here in the House of Representatives who co-sponsored my bill, House Resolution 1034 that we affirmed our committed support of the Iranian people’s desire for a democratic, secular, and non-nuclear republic of Iran,” he said.
Judy Chu (D-CA) said that she was “proud” to co-sponsor the resolution condemning Iran’s state-sponsored terrorism and expressing support for the Iranian people who are fighting for a “free, democratic, and secular future”.
The representatives were keen to point out that the recent midterm and a significant shift in power would not stop the US from fighting for the Iranian people. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) said: “The change of Congress will not stop us from fighting for victory, a new majority is in power [in the House], please know that democracy will not be far from our heart, our mind and our lips.”
Steve Cohen (D-TN), a co-chair of the Congressional Iran Human Rights and Democracy Caucus, advised that he would continue to condemn the Iranian regime for human rights abuses and support for terrorism.
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) said: “It’s so important for the United States to not lose its focus [on the Iranian regime].” Aside from the bill, many of the Congresspersons used their time to address that the Iranian Regime was terrified of the protests that could soon see them ousted from power.
“The international community should, therefore, consider the impact that it could have on future events in Iran by paying as much attention to the aspirations of the Iranian people and their organized opposition as they do to those in the regime desperate to maintain their grip on power.” Ivan Sascha Sheehan wrote.
It is support from these quarters that is likely to tile the balance in favor of the embattled Iranian people.
Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate, specializing in economic issues relating to Iran. Follow him on Twitter at @hassan_mahmou1