Iran: Iranian Nightmares


January 14, 2024: Since late 2017 there have been continuing nationwide outbursts against the religious dictatorship running the country. There was similar activity in 2009 to protest the lack of fair elections. The 2009 protests were put down with force as were the recent ones, with over a thousand dead in 2009 and several hundred since then.

What started in late 2017 was different, with the protestors calling for the corrupt religious rulers to be removed. Some called for a return of the constitutional monarchy the religious leaders replaced in the 1980s after first promising true democracy. Even more disturbing were protestors calling for Islam to be banned and replaced with something else, like Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion that Islam replaced, violently and sometimes incompletely in the 7th and 8th centuries. Right before the 2017 unrest the religious rulers saw Iran on the way to some major victories in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen. The optimism turned out to be premature.

The good times were supposed to begin in the wake of a July 2015 treaty that lifted the many sanctions Iran had collected for bad behavior since the 1990s. That did not, as many financial experts pointed out, solve the immediate cash crises because oil prices were still low. This was because of continued use of fracking in North America which triggered a massive more than 70 percent drop in the price of oil in 2013. Iran made their situation worse by trying to avoid complying with the 2015 treaty while still getting most of the sanctions lifted and for a while that seemed to be working. That strategy backfired when the U.S. accused Iran of violating the 2015 deal and by the terms of that agreement the American could and did withdraw. That meant many of the sanctions returned in 2018. Even before the American action, foreign economists believed the Iranian economy wouldn’t get moving again until the 2020s. Now it is going to take even longer, and most Iranians were extremely angry about that. The 2017 protests continue, but more discreetly because of the threat of lethal retaliation. The senior clerics are worried and openly seeking a solution that does not include them losing power. Few Iranians are willing to accept that kind of compromise. The religious dictatorship is not only hated, but also seen as corrupt, incompetent, untrustworthy and willing to kill any Iranians that oppose them too effectively.

This has led to some odd acts of resistance. For example, in late 2022 a young Kurdish woman was arrested by the lifestyle police and accused of not covering her hair properly with her hijab. While in custody the girl died, apparently from beatings. This led to months of protests. The government refused to change its hijab policy and the protests faded away in early 2023.

There are some more complications. Half the population consists of ethnic minorities. mainly Turks, Kurds, and Arabs, and some of these groups, including Arabs, Kurds and Baluchis are getting more restive and violent, for different reasons. Yet the Islamic conservatives are determined to support terrorism overseas and build nuclear weapons at home, rather than concentrating on improving the economy and living standards and addressing the corruption within their ranks.

Expensive efforts to aid pro-Iran groups in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and Lebanon were presented as examples of the ancient Iranian empire being reborn. The government sees these foreign adventures as a way to distract an unhappy population. This ultimately had the opposite effect as Iranians did the math and realized their poverty was the result of all the billions spent on these overseas adventures. At home the nuclear weapons project is still important because Iranian religious leaders have been increasingly vocal about how Iran should be the leader of the Islamic world and the guardian of the major Islamic shrines, especially Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Iranians believe having nukes would motivate the Arabs, and many others, to bend the knee. The potential victims are not cooperating and can retaliate. Saudi Arabia is believed to have funded enough of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program to have first call on some of Pakistan’s several hundred nuclear weapons. The Arabs have been kicked around by the Iranians for thousands of years and take this latest threat very seriously. That has led to a major reform effort in Saudi Arabia with a new generation of leaders willing to take on corruption and go with alliances that benefit the Saudis. This includes openly working with Israel to deal with the Iranian threat. The October 2023 Hamas attack on Israel received little active support from other Moslem nations, in part because Saudi Arabia opposed the Hamas violence.




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