For over 40 years, Iran’s clerical government has maintained its grip on power through domestic repression and foreign terrorism, and warmongering, none of which is in line with modern countries.
Of course, it is the illicit actions abroad that have raised concerns amongst those in the EU and US, so Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani know that even if further negotiations take place to prop up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it will focus on far more than the nuclear deal.
Khamenei defended Iran’s regional actions and missile program on January 8, saying that Iran had a “duty” to do this because it “strengthens” their alliances across the Middle East, reiterating that ayatollahs will not give up its missiles or regional influence.
But German Foreign Minister Haiku Moss said on behalf of the EU that any new deal with Iran must contain increased nuclear restrictions, an end to ballistic missile testing, and limits on Iran’s regional power.
So, the international community is clearly targeting one of the two branches of Iran’s power. The other, domestic repression, is being targeted by the people.
Over the past few months, protesters in Iran have attacked hundreds of centers controlled by the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Basij, and the Intelligence and Security Ministry (MOIS), while also burning countless posters of Iran’s leaders.
The intention of these activists, often guided by the Resistance Units of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), is to overthrow the ruling system in Iran and the institution of democracy.
Their actions are on the rise and many, including in Iran’s state-run media, are predicting that a popular protest will happen in 2021, based on previous protests in 2019 and 2017.
Why are they so certain? Well, these nationwide protests, which rocked the clerical government to its core and ended in a bloody crackdown that left thousands of protesters dead, began over economic concerns and these have only worsened since because of the ayatollahs’ mishandling of the pandemic.
Khamenei is stuck in an unwinnable situation. To try and ease the economic crisis and prevent protests, he must negotiate with the West so that sanctions on Iranian oil sales can be eased. But if he does this, he will look weak, which is dangerous for him ahead of the election in June.
Thus, he is closing ranks, which included purging the parliament of people he suspected would not support him and changing the rules for presidential candidates to favor his allies, like parliamentary speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. The idea being that if he can ensure total, unyielding control over the system, he can negotiate.
But will the rest of the world want to negotiate? It’s looking less likely by the day.