Is Iran on the Brink of Catastrophic Nationwide Meltdown?

Horrifying signs of the deteriorating social and political situation in Iran can be seen most shockingly in the prevalence of increase in human trafficking, prostitution, homelessness, child labor, suicide in young people and unemployment. All these things continue to worsen in spite of blatant denial by the regime and the ferocious oppression and silencing of any dissent, or attempts to reveal the facts by human rights activists.

While the regime continues to boast about what it sees as its regional power, observers note on the contrary that the situation inside Iran is extremely fragile and may become catastrophic at any time. The explosive situation is also exacerbated by the regime’s squandering of the country’s resources in partisan or proxy wars beyond its borders, for example in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

The Iranian regime’s promises to improve the country’s problems and above issues greatly exaggerate the resources available to accomplish the tasks. One example is that Rouhani’s government pledged to provide jobs for five million unemployed youth. So far, this promise remains completely unfulfilled.

The multi-dimensional crisis unfolding in Iran is severe, and anyone promising easy solutions is clearly engaging in deception. This is especially true for the so-called reformists in the regime, who try to lure the masses into believing their lofty promises and good intentions, all the while engaging in huge corruption and theft.

People Against IRGC, Court Corruption

In addition, there is growing anger amongst the public over the corrupt ties between public financial institutions and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) militia. These institutions have illegally expanded their outreach, especially under the previous government of Ahmadinejad, who had close ties with Ali Khamenei, Iran’s ‘Supreme Leader.’

Activists, through social media networks, have circulated footage of Iranian protesters whose money was impounded by financial institutions, chanting “Be ashamed, Mr. Ali … and step down,” The video shows dozens of angry protesters in the Iranian capital Tehran on Friday 3 November 2017 chanting against the Iranian leader. Their chants blame him for increasing corruption, financial misappropriation, and poverty in the country.

In recent days and months, Iranian security forces have repressed dozens of protests in Tehran and even whole provinces where citizens have protested that their money has been looted by state financial institutions. The protesters are demanding that their money be returned by the IRGC, the judiciary, and other government institutions, at the same time refusing to repay money to the regime, under the pretext of bankruptcy.

The protesters accuse Chief Justice Sadiq al-Larijani of involvement in the looting of their money as he allegedly has 63 personal accounts in banks which generate billions of monthly profits from financial bails forced upon citizens and their families who have been arrested for protesting and to be temporarily released from jail waiting for their court trial. On Wednesday, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council issued a decree banning state media, including state television, from broadcasting protests by citizens, who were met with severe repression by the authorities. This is clearly a serious censoring of human rights.

On Thursday 2 November 2017, Tehran witnessed clashes between Iranian police and some 2,000 financial depositors’ protesters. This wave of demonstrations is now occurring in other Iranian cities as well as Tehran, but has not been reported by the regime’s media due to the ban.

The ongoing deterioration of the country could be argued to be reminiscent of the USSR prior to its collapse, which was also caused by an unrestrained desire to expand while not paying heed to issues needing to be resolved at the heart of the country.

Discontent, Anger, Ethnic Minorities

As a result of the escalating frustration of its citizens, the Iranian regime is facing an insurgent wave of protests against these issues, and those mentioned above, in addition to domestic and foreign policies. University students, workers, teachers, and ethnic minority groups suffering from both marginalization and economic deterioration have been all been taking part in these mass protests. They are therefore harnessing powerful public feelings of discontent and anger at the regime’s policies.

ahwaz arab
An Ahwaz Arab political prisoner mistreated by the Iranian regime.

On another front, the Iranian regime is engaged in a bitter standoff with ethnic minorities in the country. The regime favors Persian ethnicity in all its policy-making, and as result, the disenfranchisement of the country’s minorities is deep-rooted, systematic and progressively worsening.

One example of this oppression is the regime’s corruption and mismanagement of water resources, which has led to an acute water crisis in some regions. The regime, for example, has funded projects redirecting large amounts of water to Persian areas, depriving the already impoverished Arab region of Ahwaz. Since most Arabs in this region subsist on working with the area’s natural resources, the redistribution of water is severely impacting their livelihoods.

Under these rapidly deteriorating conditions, therefore, the regime faces a serious dilemma: it seeks to maintain repressive control over the country’s ethnic minorities, to effectively keep them imprisoned under its rule. At the same time, however, its actions directly contribute to the destabilization of the country as a whole.

The problems are snowballing, and they will inevitably culminate in an outpouring of social and political upheaval, similar to that which took place in Iran after the 2009 elections. Then, the IRGC’s rigging of the elections in favor of Ahmadinejad, by direction of the supreme leader Khamenei, initiated the current crisis, but its roots go all the way back to Khamenei, who came into power in 1989. He saw the country’s ethnic minorities as a threat to the Iranian regime and its culture and it was he who established the policies that have discriminated against ethnic minorities since then.

Regime Supports External Sectarian Militias

Now the regime seeks to buoy its base of support by promoting the development of sectarian militias throughout the Middle East. Sources within the regime, close to current President Hassan Rouhani, speculate the next wave of protests will have an even broader impact than did the uprising of 2009, which managed to gain the attention of the world.

Despite the regime’s blustering about its position in the Middle East, it is, therefore, actually facing a severe crisis at home; Iran is on the verge of collapse. Profound social and political crises are threatening to escalate, including public reactions to Major General Qassim Soleimani. He is heavily involved in the war in Syria, as well as being culpable for the dissolution of the international Iran nuclear deal, and the overall weakness of the government.

These are new developments, which played no part in the 2009 protests, yet today are tearing the country apart. The regime has been plagued by a multitude of problems of its own causing since it took power 39 years ago, but after nearly four decades of rule by the vali-Faqih, the people of Iran have become certain and are speaking out about the fact that the regime lacks the capacity and will to deal with the country’s chronic economic, social, cultural, and political problems.

After taking power in Iran, in 1979, Khamenei’s predecessor Khomeini put in place a law that asserts: “loyalty to the regime has precedence over efficiency.” This law, 28 years after his demise, is still the standard in Iran by which impunity for criminal activity is judged and granted to those loyal to the regime. As such, according to the tenets of Khomeini and his successor Ali Khamenei, if an Iranian minister were to be found guilty of corruption, squandering public funds, or committing crimes against the people, he could not be held accountable so long as he were loyal to the regime. The irony and hypocrisy of this is startling, but ensures corruption is entrenched in the regime’s policies.

The prize placed upon loyalty to the regime has created deep divisions and rivalries within the ranks of the ruling Mullahs. Disputes have continued to widen, reaching up into the top echelons of state institutions, such as the intelligence services. Public feuding between the ministry of intelligence and the IRGC over espionage charges leveled at Zahra Sadiq Larijani, whose father is the speaker of the parliament, reflect an even broader crisis that threatens the regime’s ability to function effectively.

The rift between the people and the regime continues to deepen in Iran, as the regime does nothing to serve the demands of the people. Iran’s people want solutions to Iran’s problems. The Iranian people, unlike their rulers, do not aspire to meddle in Yemen, to support Hezbollah’s efforts to control Lebanon or to provide soldiers so that Bashar al-Assad can massacre the Syrian people. Most Iranians believe they have sufficient resources within their own borders to satisfy the country’s needs, but the regime is funneling these resources to serve a regionally expansionist, terrorist and human rights-abusing agenda.

Conclusion: Expansionist Regional Policy

To conclude, it is clear that the expansionist regional policy adopted by the Iranian regime runs completely contrary to the general population’s demands and needs. This policy stems from the complete lack of legitimacy of the regime in the Iranian streets, which is increasingly resulting in larger and more widespread protests against it. The only people who approve of the regime are the IRGC and their affiliates, who are paid to do so, and imprisoned if they do not. Faced with a crisis of legitimacy at home, the regime has chosen to build regional support through affiliated militias in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. The regime is sponsoring these militias to earn itself more support, even at the price of its only support coming from beyond its own borders.

In the meantime, these policies have led to a decomposition of the regime’s structural stability, triggering more crises, and leading to mass protests across the country. These crises will inevitably trigger a far-reaching upheaval, one that is predicted to be far more difficult to crush and control than was the Green Revolution of eight years ago.

Rahim Hamid is an Ahwazi Arab freelance journalist and human rights advocate who mainly writes about the plight of his people in Iran.