What just Happened in Iran?

posted by Karim Pakravan on December 10, 2019 - 11:48am

1.The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is faced with unprecedented anti-government demonstrations. Whether there was foreign intervention (there might have been), the scale of the riots and the depth of popular anger has been unprecedented, especially come from the “deplorables”. The regime reacted with extreme brutality. However, it has been forced to acknowledge the killings, especially at the city of Mahshahr—even Parliament is reacting, with talk of a special commission of inquiry

2. While the government has a sound macroeconomic case for higher fuel prices, this kind of move should not happen in the middle off a deep financial and economic crisis. The fuel price increases reflect the fiscal crisis facing the government

3. The US has returned to a hard line, after the unsuccessful ventures by President Trump in the early Fall. The usual suspects are egging on the administration to promote regime change through a further squeezing of the IRI. However, that is unlikely to work, as it has not done so in the past. Ultimately, we are facing total chaos in the President’s policy towards Iran and the Middle East, as usual.

4. Iran’s regional position, which had been strengthened after the attack on Saudi oil fields, has been weakened by the unrest in Iraq and Lebanon. Once again, there might have been some foreign interference, but those movements reflect deep alienation of the populations, and Iran should be concerned about their strong anti-Iranian content.

5. The IRI will continue mercilessly its repression of any dissent. However, developments inside the regime and a sharpening of the rivalries should be interesting to watch. For the people of Iran, little will change, except maybe more misery. But, in the words of Herb Stein, "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop."
6. In principle, there are grounds for a US-Iran negotiation. President Trump is facing impeachment and needs a foreign policy success and the IRI is desperate to have the sanctions softened. However, with the 2020 election looming, the IRI is unlikely to invest in a negotiation with the US, and Khamenei is likely to want to wait out, hoping for a Democrat victory. On the US side, the hawks are ascendant.

Footnote: Foreign interference is nothing new in the region.  (The Iranian revolution of 1979 would not have succeeded without massive and open foreign interference).  What we have to look for is the underlying causes of unhappiness.