ANALYSIS: Targeted by fresh sanctions, will the Iranian regime begin to unravel?

Tony Duheaume
Tony Duheaume - Special to Al Arabiya English
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Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was a ruthless man, he knew the minute he stepped from a plane at Tehran Airport, after being forced into years of exile during Shah Pahlavi’s regime, he would do all in his power to keep his long sought-after revolution on track, even if it meant walking on the bodies of those who had sided with him throughout the insurrection.

These were the men from other anti-Shah rebel groups, who after the dust had settled, were soon raising angry voices against Khomeini over the repressive path he was now taking.

Right from the very outset of the revolution, as the street battles became bloodier, Shah Pahlavi’s top officials and military officers were hunted down, and with Khomeini’s faithful moving from street to street, they slaughtered from dusk till dawn, eradicating all those they could find who were connected to the former regime, or who might propose a future threat to his leadership.

This slaughter would set a precedent for what was to come in Khomeini’s newly-formed Islamic republic, the carnage would continue in many forms for decades, with hardly a whimper of condemnation from Western leaders.

It was in 1980 that Khomeini made it quite plain his commitment to exporting revolution, in his bid to expand his Persian Empire to encompass the whole of the Middle East, and eventually the globe. Right from the very founding of his long sought after Iranian Islamic Republic, his plan was for Tehran to be at the hub of a vast Persian Empire, with an Iranian Supreme Leader sitting at the head of it.

As the dust settled on the 1979 revolution, the blueprint for an Islamic state was laid down in Tehran, as it was decided by the ruling mullahs that through the use of fear, Iranian society would be gelled into a single mindset of protecting the revolution at all cost, and to keep the people in line, making them compliable to the rules of the state, no person would have the right to their own identity, with individualism virtually becoming a criminal offence.

Under a multitude of new draconian rules, all demonstrations would be quelled, and all dissidents would be severely dealt with by the state. It was under these rules; tens of thousands met their deaths, as a series of production-line hanging sprees took place within the Iranian prison system, with the Mujahedeen el-Khalq - Khomeini’s main opposition group - suffering the brunt of it.

As far as oppression is concerned, from the very beginning of his rule, Khomeini realised the need for a well-structured police state to take over full control of the country, whose eyes and ears were everywhere. So, to achieve this, he set up a powerful bodyguard that was independent of the regular army, one that would be in control of all areas of the nation’s security, which would answer to him alone.

Khomeini eventually created a police state much like the one he had overthrown, and went about creating a carefully moulded personality cult for himself, showing to the public a pious religious leader, who had the reverence of God’s representative on earth, which he claimed to be, a persona carefully fashioned by a well-controlled state media.

But Khomeini should have taken a leaf out of history, as throughout his reign of terror, Shah Pahlavi had developed his own personality cult as a regal leader, promising his people a better way of life.

But it was in fear of ending up like the Shah, Khomeini had constructed a powerful bodyguard to protect him at all costs. This elite force would be totally beholden to him, and would protect his revolutionary government with their lives. This force came in the guise of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an elite group that became known as the “Guardians of the Revolution.”

Then years later, with Khamenei becoming Iran’s Supreme Leader, Barack Obama eventually became US president, and things began to look very rosy for the IRGC leadership. It was due to the Iran Deal being put in place by the Obama administration, cash began to pour into the IRGC’s coffers from billions being returned to the Iranian regime, from money having been impounded over Iran breaking international rules over its nuclear program.

It was through the regime’s so-called compliance to the Iran Deal, a one-sided agreement had been devised by the Obama administration, which virtually gave the Iranian’s a license to cheat. The returned cash was soon put to effective use by the regime, as the IRGC immediately began to shore up its military strength, through the requisitioning of modern sophisticated equipment, and the development of nuclear capable long-range missiles, which they tested even though they were in violation of rules negotiated under the Iran Deal agreement.

A view shows Tehran’s skyline at night with the Milad tower, the sixth tallest tower in the world, Iran May 3, 2016. (Reuters)
A view shows Tehran’s skyline at night with the Milad tower, the sixth tallest tower in the world, Iran May 3, 2016. (Reuters)

Change of guard

But with Obama out of the White House, no sooner had Donald Trump won the presidency in America, a change of leadership in the White House soon saw a change of attitude toward Iran, as the Trump administration began to bring the Iranian leadership to book over its ongoing program of destabilisation in the region, and its constant breeches of the Iran Deal.

Part of this came in the form of conducting ballistic missile tests banned under the agreement, stipulated in a paragraph which Iran is “called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

The regime has also been accused by various members of the US Congress of indulging in a protracted sequence of belligerent activities that include; meddling in the affairs of its neighbors, terrorist training, illegal arms transfers to terrorist entities such as Hezbollah and Hamas, using the Syrian, Iraqi and Yemen conflicts to effect a clandestine annexation of all three countries through the shoring up of puppet administrations.

All this is besides accusations of carrying out of illicit financial activities, the targeting of US naval ships in the Strait of Hormuz using multiple fast-attack vessels in acts of harassment, pointing lasers at a US Marine helicopter in “unsafe and unprofessional” moves, during an incident which also took place in the Strait of Hormuz, and last but not least, flagrant human rights abuses.

So with the Trump administration bringing to bear much more stringent sanctions against Iran, the IRGC will be feeling the brunt of them, and once these “mother of all sanctions” are fully in place, any foreign individual or entity deemed to be doing business with the IRGC, through the supply of components or financial support for its ballistic missile program, whether it be a foreign company or a financial institution, will face being internationally blacklisted, which in the case of those dealing with the IRGC, could amount to a vast number of companies.

With more plans seeming to be afoot to enforce even more stringent sanctions the IRGC faces a rough ride ahead, which could eventually end with it being blacklisted itself as a terror group.

So, at this point, the Iranian regime should remember, those who ignore history are condemned to relive it, as just like Shah Pahlavi felt the wrath of the Iranian people, disturbances are beginning to arise today for Khamenei, as groups ranging from students to factory workers and even pensioners, are beginning to rebel openly on the streets.

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