Why is Iran in such an upheaval? And what is the likely endgame?

We are in the fourth month of the nationwide uprising of the Iranian people, in which people in more than 280 cities have rallied to denounce the corrupt, tyrannical regime.

The regime has fiercely retaliated to limit the scope of the uprising.  Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and other security forces have killed at least 750 people, including 638 people whose names we have published.

But despite the regime's efforts, it has failed to extinguish the uprisings.  In fact, the resistance continues to grow and multiply.

Why is Iran in such an upheaval?  And what is the likely endgame? 

This uprising is powered by two great engines.  The first engine is the long-simmering discontent among the Iranian people.  Government mismanagement and corruption have led to widespread poverty; unemployment; inflation; criminal injustice; and, above all, a disastrous situation for women.  Iran's society is at the point of explosion, and the people are determined to see major change in their nation.

The second engine is the presence of an organized resistance, which stands on today's front lines of protests after confronting the regime for forty years.

This resistance — specifically, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) and its Resistance Units — plays an effective role in organizing and directing the protests in the streets.

These two engines, along with other realities, all but guarantee that Iran will not return to the uneasy status quo it had in September 2022.

Today, cries of "Death to Khamenei" can be heard all over Iran.  This unprecedented repudiation of Iran's supreme leader is shattering the regime's prestige.  People are no longer afraid of the regime and are emboldened to call for its ouster.

Various sectors of society, such as artists and athletes, who previously did not participate in protests due to political, economic, or occupational affiliations, have joined the protesters.  There have also been significant defections in the ranks of the regime's security forces, and most of Iran's prominent clerics have refused to support Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei during the uprisings. 

Importantly, the European Parliament has just voted to designate the IRGC a terrorist organization for its human rights violations.  This can only add to the shame and confusion within the regime.

To prevail, the Islamic regime must throttle the two engines driving the uprisings.  But turning off the first engine would mean Iran's mullahs must do what they have failed to do in four decades: carry out competent economic and social reforms, end repression, and enter normal international relations to remove sanctions. 

Since reforming itself is unlikely, the regime will undoubtedly try to stop the second engine by crushing the PMOI and the Iranian resistance. 

But the regime is misjudging its situation.  The people's uprising demonstrates three important truths.

The people seek the overthrow of the dictatorship in its totality.  That is why slogans are focused on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Islamic regime.  The Iranian people already know that this regime cannot reform itself.

Second, this regime will not willingly stop its repression of the people; it understands only the language of firmness and power.

Third, the people strongly reject any kind of dictatorship — including the return to a monarchy.  The next most popular slogan after "Death to Khamenei" is "We don't want either the Shah or the sheikh." 

The Iranian diaspora has the same demand.  The crowd that recently gathered outside the European Parliament in Strasbourg carried big placards with the slogan: "We don't want either the Shah or the Leader."

This rejection of a shah-like government stems from a bitter history.  When the uprising against the last shah began in 1978, freedom fighters were either executed or imprisoned.  This allowed the mullahs to seize control of Iran and erect their tyrannical regime.  So, unlike the 1979 revolution, the people of Iran now distance themselves from any kind of dictatorship.

Therefore, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which has the experience of the anti-monarchy revolution, has called for the formation of the National Solidarity Front since 2002. 

This is a front based on three core principles: the end of the entire Islamic regime; the formation of a new, democratic republic; and the full separation of religion from the state in a new Iran.

Iran's democratic political forces are uniting around these three pillars and are moving forward.  This unity is strong inside the country and is bringing closer the ultimate goal of overthrowing the regime.

Saeed Abed is a member of the NCRI Foreign Affairs Committee and an expert on Iran and the Middle East.

Image: The 360 Degree via Wikimedia CommonsCC BY-SA 4.0.

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