Stop talking to Tehran and listen to Abadan
There have been two major developments regarding Iran in recent weeks that tell us important things about the leadership of the regime.
First, a large demonstration in the southern city of Abadan, where the ayatollah’s envoy was booed by angry crowds at the collapse of a building in which 31 people died.
Second, the nuclear watchdog telling the world that the Iranian regime is rapidly accelerating uranium enrichment while blocking international inspections.
While the latter may be of more concern to people in London or Manchester, the former is significantly more likely to change the weather in Iran. After four decades of corrupt totalitarian rule, the people are fed up with clerical rule and take to the streets every night to demand regime change. These days, most have nothing to lose.
In September 2005, when I first spoke to British journalists about the regime’s clandestine efforts to smuggle beryllium for its nuclear bomb, the same question crossed my mind: what is going on? he first? Will the world succeed in preventing the biggest state sponsor of terrorism from acquiring nuclear weapons, or will the Iranian people make a decisive intervention by toppling the regime?
After the exposure of its clandestine nuclear program, its global network of terrorism and its serious human rights violations inside the country, the Iranian regime is now second only to Russia as the most sanctioned in the world. Thanks to the inability to properly invest in the country’s infrastructure and domestic production, the Iranian economy is now on the brink of collapse and cash reserves have nearly dried up.
The regime’s nuclear dossier and terrorism are closely linked to the protests. Despite official rhetoric that the population supports the state by asserting that “uranium enrichment is an inalienable right”, Iranians have denounced the nuclear program. Indeed, they chanted at numerous protests that “livelihoods and a decent life are our inalienable rights” – a direct retort to the regime’s rhetoric, as well as a call to stop dumping the country’s wealth into the disastrous black hole of the nuclear program.
The nuclear program is not just about wasting money. Last year there were two major uprisings due to water shortages, which were exacerbated by the government funneling huge amounts of water to nuclear power plants and a state-owned steel mill. In doing so, the state deprived the people of the provinces of Isfahan and Khuzestan, both literally surrounded by two great rivers, and destroyed their crops and livestock.
The regime’s foreign adventurism is also becoming a source of internal conflict. Tehran’s continued attempts to gain geopolitical leverage by investing billions in foreign militias have been met with a wave of protests since 2017. Protesters chant slogans such as ‘Drop Syria, start caring about us !” and ‘No to Gaza, no to Lebanon, I will die for Iran!’. There were also open challenges to the powers that be, with cries of “No to the Shah, no to the mullahs, I am for the people” and even “Death to Khameini, long live Rajavi”. [the head of the National Council of Resistance of Iran].
Despite all this, Western leaders are still trying to reason with a regime that has proven time and time again that it cannot be trusted. They have been discussing the nuclear program with Iranian delegations for nearly two decades. As long as they talk, Tehran will understand that there will be no concrete action.
Nor is there any sign that the regime is moderating its policies or outlook. In June 2021, the regime installed President Ebrahim Raisi, a figure whose commitment to brutal and murderous repression of political opponents is all too well known. Eliminating any sign of goodwill towards the West by consolidating power in the executive, legislative and judicial branches, the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader also announced a “policy of looking east”, affirming Tehran’s alliance with Russia and China.
Tehran has clearly made up its mind and now is the time for the rest of the world to do the same. The media being the fourth estate, covering what is happening in the streets of Iran is a matter of life and death.
And it is clear that the regime is wavering. Strapped for funds and certain that sanctions relief is not in sight, the new administration faces a skyrocketing budget deficit and skyrocketing inflation, which is driving up food prices. Since Raisi became president, not a day has passed without protests inside the country and the clashes are becoming more violent day by day.
For better or worse, my question from 2005 still stands: will the international community stop Tehran from having nuclear weapons, or will the Iranian people stop this nightmare by overthrowing the regime?
Perhaps in retrospect, I could have formulated it more precisely. For the question today is: will the world help the Iranian people prevent nuclear-armed religious extremism, or will they sit idly by?
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The columns are the author’s own opinion and do not necessarily reflect the views of CapX.