Following the success of the Khomeini-led revolution in 1979, many who were familiar with the situation in Iran did not expect the regime to last long.
The signs included the regime’s premature recourse to brutal repression that did not only target supporters of the Shah and his regime, but also targeted forces of the revolution itself.
The latter included People’s Fedaian, People’s Mujahedin, communists of the Tudeh Party as well as moderate Islamist factions or factions that opposed the Khomeini dictatorship which was represented by leaders such as Mehdi Bazargan, the first prime minister during the revolutionary period, and Abolhassan Banisadr, the first president of the republic at that time.
Saddam Hussein’s greatest folly was to launch a war against Iran as this was tantamount to a gift for the regime since Khomeini was able to seize control over all aspects of Iranian life and politicsHazem Saghieh
Saddam Hussein’s greatest folly was to launch a war against Iran as this was tantamount to a gift for the regime since Khomeini was able to seize control over all aspects of Iranian life and politics and was able to promote a false correlation between Iranian nationalism and his own continuity.
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He thus worked to serve his own interests and tighten his grip on power. When Saddam attempted to put an end to the war, it was Khomeini and those surrounding them that held firmly to the continuity of war.
The war, which lasted eight years and caused enormous economic devastation and hundreds of thousands of fatalities, ironically provided longevity to the regime. Saddam’s second blunder was his invasion of Kuwait. This put Iraq in a confrontation with the world and allowed Iran, for the second time, to be an acceptable part of the world order.
And finally, the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, followed by the withdrawal of US forces, came as a great gift for the Khomeini regime.
Iran’s sense of power peaked via direct interferences in Syria. However, the countdown against the regime may have begun in recent months. On the international level, two major developments have taken place: the appointment of two “hawks” to the Trump administration, Pompeo and Bolton, and the US’ decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran.
Although Europe still defends the deal, the US’ withdrawal from it makes it ineffectual due to the disparity of economic weight. On the other hand, it is quite clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin does not mind diminishing Iran’s role in Syria, as he has publicly called on foreign powers to withdraw their troops from Syria.
This was interpreted as a call on the Iranians and their militias to withdraw from Syria. Strong evidence in this respect is the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Moscow and his attendance of the celebration of victory over fascism during World War II, just a day before his bloody celebration of moving the US embassy to Jerusalem.
Rise of Muqtada Al Sadr
On the regional level, there are two more developments. First the Iranian military’s prestige suffered a setback after the Israeli military strikes in Syria, which Tehran did not retaliate against. If the Israeli army’s narrative that it destroyed the Iranian military infrastructure there is proven true, it will mean that Iran’s claims about “liberating Jerusalem” and “wiping Israel out” are closer to a cheap and ridiculous propaganda.
The second development is the outcome of the recent Iraqi elections as Muqtada Al-Sadr and his alliance won the lion’s share. Sadr is known for being one of the shrillest voices against Iran and its policy in Iraq, and he has defied Iran’s influence within the Shiite sect.
If we add Iran’s domestic problems to all these factors, the dark picture appears complete. Iran’s economy is witnessing its worst days which is apparent in the daily fall in the value of its currency. Needless to say that reinstating sanctions will lead to further economic deterioration thus public discontent.
It is not unlikely that the conflict between the “moderate” Rouhani faction, that is afflicted by the annulment of the nuclear agreement, and the Revolutionary Guard hardliners, who want to take advantage of this cancellation, will widen on the ideological level.
In this context, Mike Pompeo made his recent statement warning Tehran that it would suffer from the “toughest sanctions in history”. This is why he demanded Iran’s withdrawal from Syria and the rest of the Middle East. Regardless of any opinion on this last count, it is indisputable that the position of the Iranian regime is currently an unenviable one.
The article is also available in Arabic.
Hazem Saghieh is a Lebanese political analyst and the political editor of the London-based Arab newspaper al-Hayat.