ANALYSIS: What Iran fears even more than sanctions

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Tensions in Iran’s society are running high due to increasing poverty, skyrocketing prices and unemployment, alongside escalating oppression. Public anger is on the rise due to drastic economic/social pressures and we are reaching the tipping point. This is far more alarming for those sitting on the throne in Tehran.

Schoolteachers, truck drivers, storeowners, farmers, sugar mill and steel workers are among the various branches of Iran’s restive society continuing to protest, launch long-term strikes and raise their demands in significant fashion.

Considering the fact that more than 80 percent of Iranians are living in poverty, there is no doubt these movements will evolve into a new uprising of unprecedented proportions.

Senior Iranian regime officials are fully aware of this developing reality on the ground. Not being in sync with the 21st century or the Iranian society, the only “solution” they deem possible is to increase their crackdown.

This will only fuel the fire already simmering deep within the Iranian populace.

Growing tension

The latest round of nationwide strikes, including launched by Iran’s hardworking truck drivers, have expanded to over 75 cities in at least 24 of Iran’s 31 provinces. Further concerning for officials and authorities is the support truckers enjoy among people from all walks of life.

Adding to the regime’s troubles are protests heard from the international community in response to its oppressive measures. Amnesty International has raised concern over the mass arrest campaign and secret executions launched by authorities in Khuzestan Province of southwest Iran.

Since 24 September, up to 600 Ahwazi Arabs have been detained incommunicado in a wave of arrests following a deadly armed attack that took place in Ahvaz, Khuzestan province, two days earlier.

“If confirmed, the secret executions of these men would be not only a crime under international law but also an abhorrent violation of their right to life and a complete mockery of justice, even by the shocking standards of Iran’s judicial system,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The situation across the country is reaching a certain dangerous climax, a conglomerate of:

- Human rights violations and continuing crackdown,

- Poor economic management and institutionalized plundering of people’s wealth by state-linked institutions,

- A significant decrease in production due to skyrocketing imports,

- Officials neglecting vast poverty and the people’s needs, parallel to increasing unemployment,

- Adopting temporary remedies for the currency market while those linked to the regime are taking advantage of the mayhem and making huge profits.

Sounds of alarm

In Iran, members of parliament should not be considered the people’s representatives. Considering the fact that the Guardian Council (with strong links to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei) vets electoral candidates, these so-called MPs are merely seeking their own interests.

“Mr. President, what is your agenda for the teachers’ living conditions? And what have you done?” asked Shadmehr Kazemzadeh, a parliament member in a recent session.

Another member shouted in response, “Nothing! Nothing!”

The main concerns lies in the fact that the regime lacks any answers in response to escalating popular protests.

“Mr. Speaker, we were with the people for a few days and we had no answers for them in regards to economic issues, regarding skyrocketing prices… the truth is people are having problems in their lives,” said Haji Doleigani, another parliament member.

Push comes to shove

It is common knowledge in Iran that Khamenei enjoys a certain influence over the parliament, aka the Majlis. If there is even an iota of support in the Majlis for Rouhani’s government, this is not equivalent to a white check.

The factional disputes are the result of each current pointing fingers at others for the country’s dilemmas, all in fear of an escalation in public upheaval. Yet when push comes to shove, all government, provincial, city, town and village officials are in one front in the face of any security development threatening the regime.

Currently the media is mainly focusing on how US sanctions will influence the future of Iran. While doing so, it is necessary to remind ourselves the main reason for the Iranian people’s ongoing sufferings – being the regime – and the subject senior regime officials fear most, being protests by the people.

Mojtaba Zolnour, Majlis member from the city of Qom in central Iran, made interesting remarks in a recent TV interview.

“Today, in a period of sanctions, if we ask ourselves have we made progress or failed to do so, it would be a lie to claim we are making advancements. Why are we cloaking our incompetence behind the wall of sanctions?”

Protests in Iran have reached a point of no return. While the ruling may seek to wait out US sanctions in the hope of US President Donald Trump failing reelection in November 2020, it has no answers for Iran’s powder keg society.

Disclaimer - This author is writing under a pseudonym to protect his identity.