Discover more from The International Correspondent
Is this the End of the Islamic Republic?
When you are up against an enemy willing to do anything to remain in power no matter how barbarous, you have to be strategic. Lest you become a mirror image of your enemy in the process.
After Qasim Sulimani was killed by the United States in January 2020, I saw video after video of people celebrating his death inside Iran. When I asked a friend who had just visited the country if this was common, he said that these views are widespread among the youth. “They are fed up with the Mullas.” He said, “They want to listen to music and enjoy life. This generation is so plugged-in to the internet, and they now know what the outside world is like… They see videos on Instagram and Tiktok, and they wonder why they can’t have access to the same luxuries.” Some Iranians who have traveled outside the country’s borders to places like Turkey, Malaysia, and the United Arab Emirates experienced a taste of the potential the outside world has to offer them. They see countries with similar cultures and religions that experience a much more free and prosperous life than they do. The culminating unrest that has finally come to a head with the current Iranian revolution has been brewing for many years. Will this revolution mark the end of the Islamic Republic?
I relate to a lot of what is being said about the Iranian youth because they share a very similar mindset to the one that led to the Tishreen movement and protests in Iraq, where I grew up. At least in Iraq, women are not forced by law to wear the hijab. By comparison, Iran makes Iraq appear quite liberal. The irony is palpable.
The killing of Mahsa Amini by the morality police only added fuel to the fire already spreading inside Iran. Many Iranians are fed up with the corrupt and theocratic regime that rules over them. But is this fire strong enough to end the Islamic Republic? I think so, but with some conditions. Real change will take time and strategic maneuvering on the part of the Iranian opposition absent a direct military intervention from a Western nation.
How exactly would a regime as powerful and brutal as the Islamic Republic, which has been in power for more than 4 decades, be overthrown? When you are up against an enemy willing to do anything to remain in power no matter how barbarous, you have to be strategic. Lest you become a mirror image of your enemy in the process. This regime stands to lose everything. They are keenly aware of what this uprising could mean for them and their way of life. The ramping up of the imprisonment and execution of dissidents demonstrates the extent of their fear, and what they are willing to do to keep it at bay.
I lead an organization of more than 200 people in the MENA region, so I know that success, an Iran free from theocratic autocracy, will largely come down to logistics. Logistics are everything— even though they are very boring. Not many people like to talk about the nitty-gritty details that are required to get things done, and the subject only begins to appear interesting after 5 shots of tequila. For this regime to fall, the following four steps must occur:
First: The anti-regime protests began in the Kurdistan region of Iran. Imposing a no-fly zone over the Kurdistan region would empower both the non-separatist and separatist sides of the Kurdish opposition. This would allow the Iranian opposition to remain close by, rather than fleeing to exile in London or the United States. Welcoming defectors that can be trained to launch a physical attack to overthrow the regime would give them a great advantage. This would mean an actual no-fly zone, not like the fake one Obama imposed in Syria. Imposing a no-fly zone would necessitate the support of US-based military forces or other regional allies to enforce it.
Second: The Iranian economy currently rests on a bedrock of corruption. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards, who are in cahoots with Islamic Republic government officials, have Iran’s economy in a chokehold. They were already a military-industrial conglomerate benefiting from post-war reconstruction contracts, dwarfing all other competing companies. The IRGC owns newspapers, media companies, banks, mobile phone networks, shopping malls, the nation’s biggest construction company, and much more. In 2007 one member of parliament estimated that the guards were involved in smuggling operations worth $12 billion a year. If Western countries continue to do business with the regime, they should know that this is how the state generates most of the revenue it uses to falsely imprison and kill Iranians. The execution of innocent protestors in Iran relies on state-sanctioned terrorism, funded by the outside world. The Iranian economy must be destabilized and dismantled from every angle. Render the country non-functional for months.
Third: Fully end any conversations about the Iran nuclear deal. The Biden administration needs to take a firm stance that it will not restore the deal as long as the regime is in place. That will signal to opposition forces that their moment has come, and they must fight to the death to remove this regime. The administration should be clear: This is the last chance, take it or leave it, otherwise, the US will not support you anymore. While this may seem harsh, it is necessary.
Fourth: The Iranian opposition needs to call upon neighboring countries (many of which are hostile to Iran, especially the Arab ones) for help. These countries must be convinced to send their armies to protect the new government while ensuring that the old regime cannot flee to any nearby countries.
This moment could very well be the beginning of the end of the Islamic Republic regime, and I believe Iranians are willing to do what it takes to make it happen. They know what is at stake and that it will come at great cost, as anything worth fighting for inevitably does. Will the international community do what is necessary to support them in their efforts, or will we stand back and watch as innocent civilians are murdered for fighting for their fundamental human rights? As cries of “Woman, Life, Freedom” echo across the world, there is no better time to create change than now. How will the West respond?
The International Correspondent is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.