(January 31, 2019 / JNS)
As the Islamist regime in Iran marks 40 years to its establishment, local leaders there will admit there is not much reason to celebrate. They talk openly of their fears of an uprising and threaten that attempts to riot will be met with an iron fist.
In the streets of Tehran and other major cities throughout the country, protesters call to “leave Syria alone, deal with us!” and demand Iran end its financial support for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian organizations.
The country’s coffers are quickly growing empty, its oil exports increasingly on the decline. While the United States may not meet its stated goal of bringing Iranian oil sales to zero, Iran is not being paid for the oil it does manage to sell in U.S. dollars. China, India and Turkey are willing to pay for Iran’s oil in either local currency or goods, but these goods cannot provide for all of Iran’s needs. While Europe was very much interested in continuing to engage in trade with Iran, almost all of the continent’s large companies have already cut ties to the country.
Tehran’s leaders are now openly talking about the dire straits the country is in. In cabinet meetings, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has spoken about the increasing problem of poverty in the country and the growing impact it is having on the public, including the middle class. Noting he was born into a poor family, Rouhani has noted he is well-aware of the pains of poverty. Even radical religious figures have spoken out about the issue, although they attribute it to the inefficacy of Rouhani and his advisers.
The Rouhani government has been busy in recent weeks working on a budget proposal for the coming year, and in light of Iran’s financial woes, budget cuts across all fields and sectors would seem the natural way to go. But Iran’s institutions of influence are trying to squeeze everything they can out of the government, going so far as to demand increases to their budgets. Religious figures are leading the struggle on this end at a time when media outlets are reporting that education, health and welfare in the country are already suffering as a result of a lack of funding.
It is still hard to predict if and when the regime will fall, but it is safe to say the ayatollahs are on shaky ground. In the past two years, protests in Iran have seen demonstrators shout, “Death to the dictator!” While the regime has so far succeeded in keeping the protests under control, the next time their anger boils over, it could lead to the collapse of the regime. It is not only the United States but also Arab states that are working towards this end. According to foreign reports, Israel is involved as well.
Menashe Amir is an expert on Iranian affairs and former head of the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s Persian-language division.