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Theocracies who have nothing left but the ability to rough up their subjects rarely survive long. Is this regime in trouble?

Iran’s mad mullahs getting awfully nervous as street protests continue for seventh day


By —— Bio and Archives--January 2, 2018

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Iran's mad mullahs getting awfully nervous as street protests continue for seventh day
Things you can’t imagine happening never happen . . . until they do. The Berlin Wall would never come down. The Soviet Union would surely not cease to exist. The Cubs would never win a World Series. Donald Trump couldn’t possibly be elected president.

Things that can’t happen because they simply can’t remain inconceivable until events change the limits of what we can conceive.

Islamic Republic waged a determined civil war against liberals and secularists

So let’s talk about the Iranian regime. In the annals of history, it really hasn’t been around that long. The Islamic Revolution of 1979 overthrew the Shah, and if you’re an American and you’re old enough you certainly remember that. Ayatollah Khomeini came to power and became the most hated man in America, and though the regime has a well-established record of imperialism, terrorism and meddling in the affairs of other nations - not to mention its pursuit of nuclear weapons with the assistance of Barack Obama and John Kerry - the regime itself is only a spry 39 years old. It’s hardly so established that one could say it’s on a path to last forever.

But ever since the mad mullahs took power, they’ve exercised such brutal control over their citizens that it’s been hard to conceive of an uprising that could topple the regime. The Green Revolution of 2009 seemed to have promise, but the mullahs put it down while Obama shamefully stood by and said nothing - lest he annoy the mullahs in advance of his attempt to get a nuclear deal with them.

Barack Obama was such a disgrace. But I digress.

Iran’s street protests of the past week took just about everyone by surprise, and nothing the regime tries seems to be slowing them down. Some of the western media want you think this is just about “unemployment” and not about the oppressive nature of the Islamic regime. But that’s a dishonest diversion. The economic issues on the mind of the protesters are part and parcel of the bigger issue of the regime sucking up resources that are supposed to be for the benefit of Iranians and using them for everything from its nuclear ambitions to support of terrorism to meddling in Syria and Iraq.

This is what the people have had enough of. They don’t want an imperialist, terror-supporting theocracy. They want a government that puts the best interests of Iranians first, and they know that’s not what they have right now. Have we suddenly found ourselves at a tipping point that could result in the regime’s fall?

Instead of channeling that wealth into productive uses, Ayatollah Khamenei, the clerical establishment and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps consumed much of it on foreign adventurism and corruption

Every decade of the Islamist regime’s rule has seen one of its political factions lose its legitimacy through national uprisings. In the 1980s, the Islamic Republic waged a determined civil war against liberals and secularists who sought to redeem the revolution’s pledge of a democratic order. The student riots of 1999 ended the reformist interlude and Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, which had promised that the expansion of civil society and elections would harmonize faith and freedom. The reformists lingered as discredited enablers of a repressive regime, but no one believed in their promises of change from within. The hard-liners offered their own national compact, one that privileged economic justice over political emancipation. But the tumultuous presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad produced only corruption and bellicosity.

Then came Mr. Rouhani and his centrist disciples with their pledge to revive the economy, primarily through foreign investment. Mr. Rouhani needed a nuclear agreement to lift debilitating sanctions and stimulate commerce. The Obama administration was happy to deliver, and Iran received tens of billions of dollars in financial dividends, including $1.7 billion in paper currency.

Instead of channeling that wealth into productive uses, Ayatollah Khamenei, the clerical establishment and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps consumed much of it on foreign adventurism and corruption. Mr. Rouhani made a crucial mistake: overpromising and underdelivering on both economic and political reforms. His modest experiment in centrist rule has come crashing down, taking with it his injunction that all must trust the system. The regime is at an impasse. It has no more political actors—no establishment saviors—to offer its restless constituents.

As with the Soviet Union in its last days, the Islamic Republic can no longer appeal to its ideals; it relies only on its security services for survival. That is deadly for a theocracy, by definition an ideological construct. Ideological authoritarian states need a vision of the future by which their enforcers can condone their own violence. The theocracy’s vast patronage system will not cure this crisis of legitimacy. In many ways, Mr. Rouhani was the ruling clergy’s last gasp, a beguiling mullah who could enchant Westerners while offering Iranians some hope. That hope has vanished.

Continued below...

The regime has the guns, but the public has the numbers

It’s easy to say that eventually the regime will use guns and muscle to put down the demonstrations. They very well may. But that doesn’t mean the regime is out of the woods.

A theocracy doesn’t rely only on force to remain in control. There has to be some sense among the people that the theocracy’s ruling ideology is a righteous one. The Islamic Revolution of 1979 had at least some support among the public, if only because they’d grown tired of the Shah’s corruption. A small cadre of Islamic extremists could not have toppled the Shah’s regime without that support, even if it wasn’t as widespread among the larger population as they would like people to believe it was.

But where does that support stand now? The demonstrations in Iran seem to be a genuine grassroots phenomenon, brought about not only by the public’s discontent with the regime but also by the public’s relative lack of fear of standing up to the mullahs. The regime has the guns, but the public has the numbers, and as the Soviets and their Eastern European client states found out in 1989, even the guns aren’t going to save you if enough of the public no longer fears what you might do to them.

I don’t know if Iran has reached that tipping point such that the regime is in danger of falling immediately. But if the public has permanently lost faith in the regime’s stated raison d’etre, and all that’s left for the regime is to maintain power by force, then the mad mullahs’ days really are numbered.


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Dan Calabrese -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Dan Calabrese’s column is distributed by HermanCain.com, which can be found at HermanCain.com

A new edition of Dan’s book “Powers and Principalities” is now available in hard copy and e-book editions. Follow all of Dan’s work, including his series of Christian spiritual warfare novels, by liking his page on Facebook.


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