The Tehran 2009 demonstrations were an unexpected surprise. But, that’s not because Iran’s regime does not have enemies in its circle, but rather because that demonstrators came from within the core of its system.
Tens of thousands, lasting for several days and the demonstration could only be halted by the use of weapons and acts of bloodshed.
Now, the demonstrations stem from various directions. They stem from cities such as Mashhad and continue spreading. The rioters carry slogans against Ali Khamenei and the state’s policies. The slogans echoed throughout Iran.
Perhaps the popular demonstrations will not kill the regime, but they will definitely wound it. Ali Khamenei, alongside his military and political leadership, believed that promoting their victories in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon would gain them popularity; therefore, extending their existence. But the tables have turned and instead, thanks to these promotions fingers are being pointed at them. Most of the demonstrations that have taken place over the past couple of days were questioning Iran’s involvement in foreign places, its funding and the government’s lack of assuming responsibility within the country.
Nearly four years ago when Iranian involvement began in Syria, a number of parliament members in the ever-excited general for war’s, Qasem Soleimani, parliament warned that the state cannot bare his adventures’ costs. They also warned that the Iranian people will not accept having its people return wrapped and ready for their coffins fighting for other regimes and fighting other people’s war. Responding to them, Soleimani said that his war in Iraq and Syria is one that fights for defending Iran’s security and its regime.
Soleimani’s words weren’t enough to explain the losses. He returned once more boasting that the war defending the Islamic Republic and the regime of the ‘Vilayat Al-Faqih’ doctrine is no longer costing Iran so much. More to it, he worked on establishing militias comprising of poor refugees in Iran including Afghans and Pakistanis. He also took in Iraqis and nearly 20,000 Lebanese nationals from Hezbollah. The number of Iranian military personnel was merely a couple of thousands. The former performed training, intelligence and leadership operations. Full of pride, Soleimani said that all this did not cost the Iranian cabinet an arm and a leg. He only presented Iran with a bill worth a couple of billion dollars, putting most of the cake on Iraq’s platter – whom he also forced to fund the Iranian war. The Iraqi’s paid the fighting militia’s bills. They also dealt with the Iranian regimes annual commitments towards the Lebanese Hezbollah and Hammas in Gaza. However, after the price of petrol sunk Iraq stopped paying for most of them.
Iran is a state comprising of nearly nine million people. It primarily lives off of oil income. Like all other countries in the petroleum region, Iran is suffering. However, Iran is an enclosed country. It suffers under an authority similar to the regimes of Libya’s former Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein in the past. Their authorities relied on security elements. They restricted communication and bank transfer means and they imposed large fines on international travel. They had large and expensive networks of militias and terrorist organizations around the world from Malaysia to Argentina.
Among the poor states
Yes, Iran is an advanced state in military productions when compared to countries in the region. However, it remains among the poor states. The former is the dilemma similar regimes are facing, such as Cuba, North Korea, Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Eastern Germany, Libya, Southern Yemen, Syria and others – Regimes that have failed because they focused on security and military superiority alone while they continued to lack – therefore becoming poorer – in all other aspects.
In Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps does not run security, but controls every other minute detail. It also increased its influence under former Iranian President’s reign, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, where it took over major economic organizations, including oil refineries.
It is only natural that the day when the Iranian regime in Tehran faces the wrath of the majority which supported its arrival in power 40 years ago. The majority who believed they would bring about better change, but only made their lives worse.
I eliminate the theory which sees the Iranian people being able to challenge the repressive regime at current time. However, with their sporadic upheavals they are showing the world a different picture. Ali Khamenei’s republic’s militia may have made their way to Damascus, Mosul, Beirut, Gaza and Sanaa, however they are unable to gain control of Mashhad.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.