Last month, I attended a convention of the Coalition of Iranian Opposition Groups (CIOG) at George Washington University. This was an assemblage of the top exiled groups from Iran.
Some have been working here as long as their escape and exile after the revolution in Iran in 1979. While, it was a collection of septuagenarians calling for change and reliving their past triumphs, it was also a truly representative gathering for regime change in Iran.
They had participants and members from all ethnic, religious and racial minorities in Iran. For the first time in my experience these disparate groups spoke with one voice. This convocation is distinguished from the annual meeting in Paris last month of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich and others from the United States appeared and spoke of their personal support and of the support of the Trump Administration’s call for an end to the regime.
The NCRI has been the international focal point for Iranian resistance. However, it is an imperfect messenger. The Paris meeting lacked representation from the ethnic minorities in Iran and the NCRI has its origins in a checkered past.
The new is better than the old but both have the same goal and should find a way to work together. Both meetings stressed that it appears that the Trump Administration has made the decision that this is the time to support the dissidents abroad and the protesters inside Iran.
Regime change is the obvious goal and more and more public meetings of dissidents should be expected working toward the end of the theocracy in Tehran. A bombing plot against the Paris NCRI meeting was thwarted in Europe and was apparently planed with some assistance from government functionaries in Iran.
Such a desperate act may point to a greater weakness in the hold that the regime has on power than we otherwise understand. It is possible that the regime is more brittle that we understand and that talk among dissidents is actually dangerous to their otherwise precarious position.
Regime change is the obvious goal and more and more public meetings of dissidents should be expected working toward the end of the theocracy in TehranMichael Flanagan
Over the past few months, Secretary Pompeo has attacked the “criminal regime” for its external activities in directing the Revolutionary Guards’, Hamas’ and Hezbollah’s activities abroad. At the same time, protests against the regime have markedly shot up recently in both number and intensity.
Notably, the Arab minority in Southwestern Iran arose because of a lack of water for consumption and for irrigation and has had continuous protest demanding radical change in the provincial leadership and a proper response to their need from Tehran.
Their response in Tehran is weak (and a little insane). An Iranian General was sent forth to accuse Israel of controlling the clouds and stealing the rain.
Sad attempts like this to divert the attention of the protesters from their thirst will fail and will erode credibility for the regime. In short, it will embolden the protestors and lead to more and bigger protests.
Unrelated but constant protests have spread throughout Iran – not just in the Arab Southwest. The protests are no longer merely sporadic events usually occurring in opposition centers like Iran’s large cities.
Troubling for the regime, the renewed protests are in rural areas and have real demands. These rural areas are the stronghold of the Ayatollahs, which provide the base of their most ardent supporters. In almost every province of the Islamic Republic, people are protesting the regime.
The regime in Tehran is facing new and challenging times internally as well as externally. They would do well to put their own houses in order first before trying to export the revolution. I doubt that they can – or even want to.
Michael Patrick Flanagan represented the 5th District of Illinois in the historic 104th Congress. He sat on the Committees on the Judiciary, Government Reform and Oversight, and Veterans’ Affairs. Prior to his Congressional Service, Michael was commissioned in the United States Army Field Artillery. After leaving Congress, Michael and his firm, Flanagan Consulting LLC, have represented both large and small corporations, organizations, and associations. In 2009, Michael took a sabbatical from his lobbying business and entered public service again with the United States Department of State in Iraq as the Senior Rule of Law Advisor on the Maysan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Maysan, Iraq. For his work, Michael was awarded the Man of the Year by the Iraqi Courts, the Civilian Service Medal by the US Army and was also given the Individual Distinguished Honor Award. Michael is currently a consultant in Washington, D.C. His email ID is CommentsForMike@flanaganconsulting.com.