By Shahriar Kia
September 30, 2017-- During his first address to the UN General Assembly in September, President Donald Trump offered a perspective on the people and the regime of Iran that starkly differed from that of his predecessors. He accurately attested that “The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want to change.” He described the Iran nuclear deal as “an embarrassment,” called off the Iranian regime for its export of “violence, bloodshed, and chaos,” and underlined that “Iran’s people are what their leaders fear most.”
These remarks from the president of the United States are a positive signal after three decades of failed appeasement toward the mullahs ruling Iran. And the testament to the fact are the reactions of Iranian officials, which betray their fear and consternation.
In a meeting with the Assembly of Experts, Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Iranian regime called Trump’s speech “foolish, extremely ugly and hideous” and “gangster and cowboy language fraught with sheer lies.”
“Mr. Trump said the wrong things in the wrong place to the wrong people,” Rouhani said to the state television.
The question that remains is whether President Trump’s remarks at the UNGA were simply a reaction to the failure of the appeasement policy, or was it the result of the natural course of events and the geopolitical dynamics governing the Middle East? Has the explosion in connectivity and social media services been effective in conveying the message of the Iranian people, who want the world to know about their desire for freedom and human rights?
Without a doubt, all of these parameters have been effective. But what are the real foundations of Washington’s new approach to the desires of the Iranian people for regime change?
The first factor that challenges the power of the ruling regime is the looming threat of uprisings. From an economic and social perspective, there has always been a potential for nationwide uprisings in Iran.
The first big occurrence of widespread protests was in 1981 when more than 500,000 people took to the streets of Tehran and demanded the overthrow of the theocratic regime. The protest was brutally suppressed and ruthless executions of protestors and dissidents ensued.
In the summer of 1988 alone, 30,000 political prisoners, mostly members of the opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), were executed in the span of a few months and were buried in secret graves.
In 1999 and 2009, uprisings erupted again. While the regime smothered both instances with a brutal crackdown, yet the potential for another uprising remains, and the ashes wait to be stirred once again.
Presently, sporadic protests are slowly building up across the country and gaining momentum. An example is the staged protests against the Arman and Caspian foundations, two financial organizations run by the Revolutionary Guards, which have been plundering the people’s wealth at an unprecedented scale. Following the start of Rouhani’s second term as president, social dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs has increased.
The second factor that is weakening the regime is the ongoing power struggle between the Supreme Leader and other factions within the regime. So long as the country’s constitution is based on the “guardianship of the jurist,” every key decision will be made by the Supreme Leader. The Supreme Leader is also the commander in chief, which leaves the president with no substantial power.
This religious dictatorship is founded on fundamentalist interpretations of Islam and sees its survival as bound to domestic suppression and foreign terrorism. However, the mullahs’ crimes in the past four decades have intensified the hatred of the Iranian people toward them.
Earlier this year, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation revisited the mass execution of 30,000 Iranian political prisoners in 1988 in her report to the Secretary-General. Moreover, activists and international human rights organizations have called for an independent investigation into this crime against humanity, placing the Iranian regime in another political and social dead end.
A War of Attrition in the Middle East
The Iranian regime is stuck in three long regional wars, involving Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. Some analysts and politicians perceive the Iranian regime’s meddling in these three countries as a sign of power and stability. However, contrary to what Khamenei and other regime officials have insisted on time and again, if they abandon their intervention in the countries of the Middle East, they’ll be fighting their wars in the streets of Tehran. Therefore, the sole purpose of the Iranian regime’s regional forays is to avoid its collapse. The regime’s nuclear and ballistic missile project is for the same purpose.
The Coalition of Arab Countries and U.S. Against Iran’s Regional Ambitions
The coalition of Arab countries and the U.S., the imposition of further sanctions against the Iranian regime’s regional meddling, and the end of the golden era of the Obama administration have faced the regime of Tehran with further challenges. Officials in the new U.S. administration rightly insist that the real threat of Iran comes not only from its nuclear ambitions but also from its ballistic missile program, its chaos mongering in the region and its human rights abuses. The only durable solution to those collective threats is regime change in Iran.
The Existence of a Reliable Alternative to Replace the Regime in Iran
What makes the replacement of a tyrannical regime viable is the presence of a recognized alternative that has a distinct political, social and economic platform for the future, which enjoys the support of the international community. The existence of such a resistance and its international recognition is one of the main parameters that will pave the way for uprisings against the ruling dictatorship.
Iran currently has a democratic alternative, led by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, a Muslim woman who opposes fundamentalism and bases her faith on tolerance. Mrs. Rajavi’s ten-point plan has been praised and acknowledged by many political personalities, jurists, parliamentarians, and human rights activists across the world.
Three decades of appeasement toward Tehran has not moderated the behavior of the Iranian regime -- it has made it worse. However, the foundations for change in Iran exist. What makes regime change in Iran unique is the fact that it requires no foreign intervention. The people of Iran and their organized resistance have the potential to bring about change from Inside Iran.