Several factors that led to the fall of the Roman Empire, can clearly be seen in the problems now facing the Iranian regime.
When the Roman Empire was close to collapse, it had been notching up victories in foreign wars, while at home economic stagnation had taken hold, political corruption was rife, and as a result of the administration’s money wasting, much of which came in the form of military spending, the poor had taken the brunt of the country’s woes, and as a result, serious civil disturbances had broken out across the land.
In Iran, the massive sums being spent on the military, as well as being earmarked for foreign wars, has begun to sink the economy, and with inflation rising, cracks are beginning to show. With vast numbers unemployed, a large proportion of those unable to find work is the younger generation, which is causing much dissent on the streets.
On top of this, while the ordinary people suffer, there is much corruption within the leadership, money has been accumulated by the elite, and with cash having been salted away in foreign bank accounts, those in charge have acquired property abroad, all in preparation for regime collapse.
Just like the Roman elite, the Iranian regime pumps vast amounts of money into the coffers of its own praetorian guard, the Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which keeps order through violence, allowing the chosen few to cling to power.
While on the streets, alongside its subservient militia the Basij, the IRGC is doing its upmost to quell dissent. Beating their own people into submission, they are violently attacking demonstrators, with all those resisting suffering arbitrary arrest, many dying in prison as a result of torture and abuse.
But in the end, it matters not what force is used against the people, even the leaders of the great Roman Empire couldn’t stave off fate, and in the end, their blood-soaked regime collapsed around them, consumed by the flames set off by an enraged population.
With the Iranian regime not being one to learn from the past mistakes of others, in its recent push for hegemony across the Middle East, having spent billions of dollars on its military, as well as on foreign wars, it has allowed its citizens to subsidise these ventures with wage cuts, and hikes in food prices.
Due to this, the cost of living has risen dramatically, with even the once much-protected middle classes feeling the pinch, but those that have suffered the most misery, are families with children living below the poverty line.
To sustain these foreign military ventures, the Iranian regime has embarked on a massive financial boost to its army, allocating $25 billion to the numerous branches of its military and paramilitary groups, which is the highest expenditure since the regime seized power in 1979.
As always, with the IRGC being Khamenei’s personal praetorian guard, whose commanders take orders from him alone, and whose loyalty he wishes to keep intact, to insure he keeps them on side, the Guards have been allocated $7 billion.
What makes the full allocation such a significant amount, is the fact it equates to almost a quarter of Iran’s national budget, and so, to obtain any substantial growth in the economy, international sanctions would need to be relaxed, which in turn would create jobs, and dampen down disquiet. As right now, foreign banks are very nervous about dealing with Iran, as foreign businesses are loathed to make deals with a country that has such an uncertain future.
With hegemonic desire ingrained into the psyche of the Iranian regime’s leadership, they have a thirst for conquering nations, aligned with a quest to spread their own form of radical Shia doctrine across the globe. This revolutionary pursuit is heavily infused with a martyrdom zeal, etched in the genes of Persian leaders since ancient times, back to when the great Persian empires ruled the Middle East, and this zeal shows no sign of diminishing.
Extent of expansionism
With Iran’s lust for conquering still prominent today, the extent of its expansionism can be measured in the secretive wars it is conducting in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, all of which are conducted under the umbrella of aiding nations whose administrations are in line with the regime’s own ideology, all of which eventually become beholden to Iran in their struggle to remain in power, through receiving vast amounts of military assistance.
To attain its hegemonic goal, the regime uses the IRGCs extraterritorial special forces unit the Quds Force (Jerusalem Force), which is the global “long arm” of the Iranian regime, which through its various branches takes care of intelligence abroad, the financing or aiding of terror proxies and governments allied to the regime, which often comes with military assistance and weaponry.
The Quds also deal in acts of sabotage and special operations, designed to spread chaos amongst neighbouring countries perceived to be enemies. According to the Iranian regime, it has already received $100 billion in frozen assets, through its compliance to terms set out in the Iran Deal, and with very little of this having been spent to ease the financial plight of its people, it is certain to result in future public dissent much deadlier than recently seen.
Iran’s main ally in carrying out its hegemonic goals is Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia group, which has become a crucial wing of Iran’s overseas terror capabilities, as well as cannon fodder in the wars it is conducting. As far as its allegiance to Iran is concerned, Hezbollah is just another extension of Iran’s overseas military arm, which works alongside the Quds Force on foreign campaigns.
Fully aligned to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Hezbollah sees him as their spiritual leader, giving him their devout loyalty. But to maintain this loyalty, Iran pays out $60-$100 million a year in financial assistance to Hezbollah.
Right now, the regime is feeling victorious in turning around the Syrian Uprising in favour of Assad, in a country it is believed to bankroll to the tune of $35 billion annually, but this will prove to be a hollow victory in the end, as much of Assad’s army has been destroyed through years of warfare, and it will take both Iranian and Hezbollah fighters to attain security once the unrest has settled, in a country certain to feel the brunt of a costly long-term guerrilla war.
Syria’s strategic importance
Due to the strategic importance of Syria to its hegemonic desires, the Iranian regime is certain to embark on a long-term commitment, which will prove to be costly in terms of rebuilding both the country’s infrastructure and its army, an army that will require a vast amount of military assistance lasting many years, all of which will drain billions from the Iranian economy.
On top of this is Iran’s commitment to Iraq, a country that has seen itself gradually being turned into an Iranian province. The moment Saddam Hussein had fallen, agents of Khamenei poured across the border to infiltrate all facets of the Iraqi government, on both national and local level, eventually pumping money into infrastructure projects, such as building hospitals and schools.
Then in 2014, through an invitation extended by the Iraqi administration, Iranian troops entered the country, in an effort to aid the floundering Iraqi army in its fight back against ISIS. But during this campaign, the IRGC Qods Force integrated vast numbers of Iranian-backed militias into the ranks of the Iraqi army, all of which are financially-backed, armed and fully trained by the Iranian regime.
In the case of Yemen, Iran has been using Houthi rebels to enable it to gain a foothold in the country, which is strategically important to Iran, as Yemen borders Saudi Arabia, a country it has looked upon as an enemy since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini swept to power in 1979.
Throughout Yemen’s two year plus civil war, Iran’s IRGC Quds Force personnel is said to have been working alongside the Houthis, supplying them with weapons and logistics, and as well as setting up training programs, the Quds have coordinated missile attacks, and handed over tens of millions of dollars’ in cash to the group.
Through this backing, the Iranian regime is determined to overthrow the internationally recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansur Hadi with the intention of replacing it with the Houthis, a Shia rebel group allied to Iran.
Presence in Yemen
The whole idea of Iran’s presence in Yemen, is to bring about a partial encirclement strategy, which will complete its Shia Crescent, and also lead to its control of the strategic Bab-al-Mandab Strait. But just like the other wars Iran is taking part in, the conflict is not only costing it manpower in ground troops, and mounting financial costs, it is also costing the regime mounting casualties.
Through its participation in all these recent conflicts, the Iranian military is believed to have lost at least ten high-ranking IRGC commanders, as well as thousands of ground troops in the fierce fighting taking place. As far as these fatalities are concerned, with the majority of senior officers killed known to have held a rank equivalent to brigadier general, with them being the cream of the Iranian army, such losses deal a huge blow to its military command structure.
With senior officers in elite divisions taking years to train, they would have had much more experience in military matters than any officer succeeding them, which is certain to impact on the overall quality of leadership, and should Iran continue along its current path of hegemony, further losses are certain to impact negatively on its performance in the battlefield.
Where in the case of losing vast numbers of troops in the lower ranks, although Iran would have no problem replacing ordinary soldiers, such losses still cause lack of morale in the ranks, as well as a public outcry back home, which was prevalent in the latest mass protests on Iranian streets.
But in the case of recent losses, with many low-ranking troops dying having served with the IRGC and its sister group the Quds Force, they are the most faithful to Khamenei, and with Hezbollah having suffered terrible casualties, should the mass dissent on Iran’s streets become more widespread, or foreign conflicts widen, he’ll be needing his praetorian guard, as his regime is now weaker than it has ever been.