Iran has done its best to encircle the Iraqi uprising against the political regime based on sectarian quota , not only to defend the influence of its proxies, but to prevent the Iranian street from being inspired by this popular uprising.
But contagion soon spread to many Iranian cities in conjunction with the authorities’ decision to increase fuel prices. Interestingly, the demonstrators were inspired by the Iraqi and Lebanese model of burning the symbols of the corrupt political class in both countries. They burned the pictures of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and chanted against him, as well as burned government institutions, in a clear message that they want regime change and not just partial reforms or a retreat from the decision to raise fuel prices.
The demonstrations, according to Agence France-Presse «were between the large in the city of Sirjan and scattered in the cities of Mashhad (north) and Birjand (east) and Bandar Abbas (south) as well as in Ghashsarat and Ahvaz, Abadan, Khorramshahr and Mashher in southwestern Iran», which confirms that the crisis is growing and not limited, and that the demonstrations Sparked by high fuel prices, but as a result of other repressed and suppressed crises suffered by the Iranian people since the rise of the “velayat-e faqih” regime of Khomeini to Khamenei, which has been using the big stick to suppress demonstrators through the Basij security forces and the Revolutionary Guards, the Iranian regime’s arms to maintain survival in the rule of Iran and repression of its people.
High fuel prices are the straw that broke the camel’s back, raising prices by 50 per cent or more. Iran, which has inflation of more than 40 per cent now, and growth rate is almost non-existent, unemployment and stifling economic sanctions , all make the government treasury empty, and the country is sank in the quagmire of unemployment that has exceeded 15 per cent and financial inflation is steadily increasing in a country that is a major oil producer.
In his first comment on the outbreak of protests, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday backed a decision to increase gasoline prices and ration the distribution of gasoline, a decision taken by the government and sparked protests and anger in several Iranian cities.
“I am not an expert and there are different opinions, but I said that if the leaders of the three branches make a decision, I support it,” state television quoted Khamenei as commenting on Friday’s decision by the Supreme Council for Economic Co-ordination, made up of the president, the head of Shura Council and the head of the judiciary. The Supreme Leader blamed what he called “acts of sabotage” against opponents and foreign enemies of the Islamic Republic.
“This decision has undoubtedly made some people worried,” Khamenei said. “But acts of sabotage and arson are carried out by rioters, not our people.” Counter-revolution and Iran’s enemies have always supported and continue to do acts of sabotage and insecurity. “Unfortunately there were some problems, a number of people lost their lives and some centers were destroyed,” he added.
The Supreme Leader’s position did not differ much from what the country witnessed in the protests at the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, where Khamenei accused Iran’s ‘enemies’ of ‘conspiring against it,’ and that ‘the enemies united using their means, money, weapons, politics and security services to create problems for the Islamic regime of Iran ‘.
Khamenei said that some opponents of the current regime in Iran “cheered” two days ago, referring to the Pahlavi family, which was ousted by the Islamic revolution in 1979, as well as the movement of the People’s Mujahedeen organization of Iran in exile, the Mujahedin –e Khalq, which Iran considers a terrorist organization.
Regardless of the many paradoxes of Iranian official’s remarks , the biggest contradiction is that the Iranian authorities are aware of the enormous impact of this decision on the poor , as statements reassure the public that the authorities will distribute the proceeds of price increases to 18 million poor families , but this recognition of the burden imposed on the people , not only been ignored and rejected , but hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets to protest have been considered as traitors as “enemies of the revolution “. If we add to the extreme violence that has been directed at the protests, the expected outcome is that the Iranian masses will raise the ceiling of confrontation also.
The authorities are trying to end the protests without a severe security confrontation that leaves high numbers of dead and wounded, making it difficult to control, especially as the regime lives under the pressure of its external losses due to the collapse of the sectarian system in Iraq, and the shaking of the political sectarian combination behind which Hezbollah conceals to tighten its grip on Lebanon.
Observers believe that these demonstrations add further pressure on the regime, which is already suffering under the weight of US economic sanctions. They point out that the increase in fuel prices, which reached about 50 percent, led to large and violent demonstrations in various parts of the country, some of which burned pictures of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
They say these demonstrations could turn into a serious threat to the Iranian regime as a whole if they continue for a long time and on the President Hassan Rouhani in particular, ahead of the parliamentary elections due in the coming February because they illustrate the impact of low income, high unemployment and the collapse of the value of riyal’s local currency.
They point out that despite these demonstrations, Iran remains, after the recent increase, among the countries that provide fuel to its citizens at the lowest prices in the world, where the price of a liter about 15 thousand riyals equivalent to 35 pence, pointing out that “something citizens expect simply because the country has huge oil reserves and is the fourth largest country in the world in this regard.
Observers say that the Iranian authorities do not want to open a new facade at home after various shocks abroad, especially with regard to the tightening of US sanctions on the oil sector, and banks in Iran, in response to targeting the security of navigation, a strong message pressing Tehran to review its regional performance and underestimate the interests of neighboring countries and major powers.
They pointed out that Khamenei could no longer resort to conspiracy theory by accusing the United States or Israel of triggering the demonstrations, because this charge no longer tempted the Iranian street, including those who applauded his slogans and fatwa , as happened in Iraq.
They say the growing US pressure, coupled with popular discontent among many Iranians over the economic situation, is shaking the regime with little indication that its leaders have any solutions. It also revealed a high degree of administrative corruption in the country.
Iran ‘s crises are not in the fuel , they are accumulated, and are further exacerbated by sanctions imposed by US President Donald Trump under the strategy of “extreme pressure” against the regime in Iran, ending the exemptions that allowed some countries to buy Iranian oil.
International sanctions on the Iranian regime, in return for the Iranian economic stagnation, unemployment, and increased corruption and corrupt between supporters of the regime .
The Iranian regime has increased its stalemate since it announced the resumption of uranium enrichment at the Fordow facility, in violation of the nuclear deal , this has put the regime in a collision with international system , which is internally incoherent , even in its geography that it has made by its standards . Iran, which swallowed the Arab state of Ahwaz, after displacing its Arab inhabitants and replacing them with the aim of changing the demography of the region, which is an extension of the Arab geography, and suppressed its inhabitants, to the extent that they were prevented from talking by their Arabic language, and used in the streets of Ahwaz, which was called the Arabistan, the Arab countries.
In Iran, even the “reformists” have disappointed the street, and it turns out that they are part of an Iranian regime, merely people in the choir of an arrogant tyrannical regime with the greatest file of human rights violations and executions based on identity and belief in the streets.
The Iranian crisis is big and worsening, and If the Iranian regime does not wake up from its coma and its mental separation from reality, the results will be catastrophic, although the crisis will inevitably end with its demise, even the time goes on , we hope it will not end with a painful big blood bill for the Iranian people.
It is really strange that Iran’s current rulers forget that they did not inherit power like kings but came as a result of a mass popular revolution 40 years ago , and that the thousands who sacrificed their lives , and the tens of thousands who were arrested and tortured to secure the victory of that revolution , were dreaming of a state that preserves their dignity , secures justice and development and stop repression , oppression , torture and corruption.
According to the head of the Iranian President office , Mahmoud Vaizi , the decision to raise fuel prices was not taken by the government alone , but was co-endorsed by the executive judicial , and legislative authorities . If this does not contradict the call by 60 deputies in parliament to hold President Rouhani accountable , it is especially evident in Khamenei’s violent remarks that there is a disparity among officials , some of whom we heard earlier , warns of these protests and calls for curbing corruption and tackling growing misery and poverty .
Every time protests emerge, the authorities in Iran have affirmed their use of repression, which may be viable at times but certainly will not succeed every time, and the protests could turn into another revolution, no one knows its extent. The question is whether Iran’s protests are following the same path of Iraq and Lebanon.
Unit of Iranian Studies
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies