What Could Trigger Iran's Mullahs' Demise

Following my essay on why Iran's ruling mullahs are slow-walking a nuclear deal even with weak Joe Biden, which is based on their belief that nuclear weapons help them cling to power in an unpopular dictatorship, here are the factors that are in play that could ensure that their detested regime collapses anyway.

Start with the economic factors:

Eighty percent of Iranians are currently living below the poverty line. Accounts of self-immolation or suicide due to poverty are covered even by state-run media on a daily basis. Inflation has crossed the 45% threshold. Point-to-point inflation of necessary items is 66.7 percent, according to the state-run ISNA news agency. Institutionalized corruption and bribery permeate the economy. The unbridled import of goods by the IRGC has effectively destroyed local manufacturing, resulting in high unemployment. Furthermore, the Iranian regime is unwilling to enact standards consistent with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF)—an intergovernmental anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing (CFT) organization. It refuses to do so because it wants to continue financing Hezbollah and other terrorist proxies. The Iranian regime sees the continuation of its survival in inciting wars, chaos, and conflicts throughout the region, which trigger widespread misery among the Iranian people and peoples of the region.

Now, let's move onto the explosive conditions of Iranian society

The two uprisings of January 2018 and November 2019, initiated by inflation and poverty, took the regime by surprise. The uprisings of Baluchistan and Khuzestan provinces, initiated by severe water shortages, brought to light the complete rejection of the regime by the majority of the people of Iran. To intimidate the public, the regime executed sixteen people from Oct. 11 to Oct. 18. These callous acts are meant to prevent further uprisings or rebellions.

To contain explosive social conditions and associated imminent unrest, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa banning the import of vaccines from France, Britain, and the United States about a year ago. The ban was intended to keep people occupied with the high death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic and to lower the priority of deepening socio-economic challenges.

"The country is in a situation where it faces both a foreign enemy and serious threats inside the country. If the hungry and unemployed army starts to march, its ferocity will be much greater than the 2019 uprising. People do not see hope for their future," said an engineer working in Tehran. "The situation in the country is like a building whose foundation is collapsing."

Fundamentally, the regime's strategy of keeping itself in a position of strength through regional and nuclear maneuvering is unlikely to be successful. Further, it does not put a lid on the worsening social, economic, and environmental issues emerging throughout the country.

There's also Iran's water crisis:

Today, the Iranian regime is facing a major crisis in the form of water shortages, which is simply one among other noteworthy environmental crises. The water supply from Afghanistan to Iran is likely to be cut off, and this will deepen an already debilitating crisis for the Iranian regime, perhaps even provoking armed conflict. The water shortage will affect southern Iran where Turkey closes Iraq's upstream water resources. Water shortages have been one source of the people's protests and uprisings, which broke out most recently in Khuzestan, Baluchistan, Isfahan, and Chaharmahal Bakhtiari provinces. The regime is facing a host of serious social, political, and economic challenges.

In short, the Iranian regime is in a deadlock:

According to the Strategic Think Tank website in Iran, which predominantly reflects the views of the IRGC, the Taliban in Afghanistan are stationed on Iran's eastern borders, intent on tightening the siege and putting more pressure on Iran. In the northwest, the Republic of Azerbaijan and Turkey, in cooperation with Israel, have blocked critical transit routes and have cut off Iran's communication routes.

Iraq is moving towards building alliances with other Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, and in the south, the Persian Gulf states are embracing peace with Israel. The recent Iraqi elections and the sharp decline in the number of votes for pro-Iranian groups reflect Tehran's declining status when it comes to the regional balance of power. Although the regime wants to continue using its regional influence to wreak havoc, the shifting political landscape is setting palpable limits on its ability.

An analyst close to the Iranian regime has noted that the convergence of European and American positions regarding the nuclear talks has never been this strong. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin potentially to persuade him to pressure Iran and to refer the issue to the U.N. Security Council.

What could be the trigger mechanism?

The JCPOA is primarily a security agreement. What led the Iranian nuclear case to be referred to the U.N. Security Council, which is responsible for maintaining peace and security in the world, was that world powers considered Iran's nuclear program as a threat to world peace and security. As a result, the JCPOA agreement was concluded.

The sanctions imposed by the U.S. and Europe were meant to prevent Iran's nuclear activities and reduce their security risk. If the current JCPOA talks do not come to a successful conclusion, the security debate will escalate. Western countries should continue their "maximum pressure" policy on Iran and send Iran's nuclear dossier back to the U.N. Security Council. The latter will revive the previous six resolutions against Iran under Article 41. Furthermore, Iran's dossier may trigger Article 42, which is an executive measure.

On Saturday, Nov. 29, the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced the flight of the B-1B strategic bomber in the area of their authority in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. "The purpose of the bomber mission, which is the fifth mission in the U.S. Central Command area this year, was to send a clear message of reassurance," said Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command. CENTCOM says fighters from Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia joined the five-hour mission by allowing passage over their airspaces.

How long can Iran's Supreme Leader and his increasingly fragile regime withstand such pressure without giving in to the demands of the P5+1? All signs are that the Iranian government is in a state of confusion. However, the Vienna negotiations regarding the JCPOA can proceed in one of two ways.

First, the regime believes that Europe and the U.S. are unwilling to engage in a military conflict with Iran. Thus, Tehran feels it can corner them, forcing the U.S. to resume the 2015 JCPOA and abandon its insistence on reducing Iran's regional influence and missile program. This could lead to the removal of most of the sanctions against Iran. Additionally, the regime will do its utmost to crack down on Iranian society and suppress any potential uprisings. They will violate the terms of the JCPOA by continuing to build a nuclear bomb anyway. That is seen by Iranian authorities as the strategic means to keep the regime from losing its power and control.

Second, the regime could step on a path that it did in 1988. In that year, the regime bowed to international pressure and signed on to U.N. Resolution 598, which ended the Iran-Iraq War. In this scenario, it will be forced to sign on to a deal that would see the loss of its enriched uranium stockpile, accepting permanent monitoring by IAEA, signing on to FATF, accepting restrictions on its missiles program, and effectively dismantling the Quds Force and proxy forces from countries of the region.

This second path will map a new era for the region, forcing the regime's internal repression to loosen up, thereby resulting in a total collapse of the regime in Tehran.

Image: Pixabay / Pixabay License

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