The Mullah Panic
Iran gauges that time's up.
The regime in Tehran is panicking, and Israel (or was it a Revolutionary Guards defector?) seems to have told the United States that the Mullahs are preparing to take violent action against Americans in their neighborhood, prompting harsh words from National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, plus real military power, in the form of a carrier group and bombers, sent to the region.
I don’t think the Iranian regime is going to open hostilities against us. They don’t want to start a fight they would surely lose, and their current strategy is to stall, hoping Trump loses the next presidential election and is replaced by a friendlier Democrat. The problem with that approach is that the regime might not last that long. As Shoshanah Bryen surveys the domestic battlefield, she sees a lot of anti-regime action all over the country:
Early protests were registered in 70 towns and cities, with at least 22 people killed and 3,700 arrested in the first three weeks. Protesters chanted, “Reza Shah, bless your soul,” and called for Khomeini to step down, shouting, “Khamenei, shame on you, leave the country alone.”
There were strikes of shopkeepers, whole bazaars in Tehran, Kermanshah, Arak and Tabriz. Economic protests emerged in Karaj, Qeshm, Bandar Abbas, and Mashhad and more. There were strikes by teachers, factory workers, university students, farmers, railway workers, and retirees. Truckers — a mainstay of the rebellion — have been on a rolling series of strikes in various locations for more than a year. They have so irritated the government that the Iranian judiciary announced that truckers face the possibility of the death penalty.
On the political side, workers in Ahvaz marked the 25th day of strikes with the chant, “Palestine and Syria are not our problem.” “Not for Gaza, not for Syria, my life only for Iran.”
Through the summer of 2018, Iranians in various cities protested a shortage of clean drinking water. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s video message to the Iranian people offering Israeli water technology as a gift was vehemently rejected by the Iranian government, but nearly 100,000 Iranians joined the Israeli government’s Farsi-language Telegram account within 24 hours of the video going live.
Moreover, regime security officers are getting shot, whereas in the past only anti-regime protesters were victims. Khamenei believes that the Islamic Republic will defeat the American infidels in the end, but the true believers are diminishing. The Supreme Leader may feel it necessary to demonstrate his capacity to thwart Trump, which, as Commander Dyer, is what Tehran is up to by sending its agents into Nicaragua, and from there into our homeland. As Bryen writes:
At least some of what the Iranians in Venezuela are doing is probably about reposturing in the Americas. While Maduro still holds a semblance of power is the time to do that: to move people, materiel, assets, before they have to be abandoned. Iran has a lot invested in Venezuela. If Maduro is dragged out the door, the Iranian regime doesn’t want to have to execute a disorderly retreat. It will want to move stuff north (e.g., to Nicaragua, perhaps Cuba), rather than end up scrambling off to the east being chased by torches and pitchforks.
Iran may also double down on hemispheric efforts to hold the U.S. homeland at risk, as a means of lashing out when sanctions bite. The “Iranians” arriving in Venezuela probably aren’t all actual Iranians. Syrians and other Middle Easterners recruited by Iran have been ferried into Venezuela for some time now for the purpose of getting through Central America to Mexico and the United States.
And then, needless to say, there are the missiles aimed at Israel, apparently at Iran’s behest. But this is a fool’s game, driven by desperation. The Iranian leaders know Hamas can’t defeat Israel, and indeed an impressive number of Iranians want Israel to win, and hope that the Israelis can help with the dreadful water shortages and floods.
So what we’ve got is panic in Tehran, and the Mullahs are spreading it from the Middle East to Latin America. Trump famously hates the idea of military conflict with the Iranians, but he may eventually have to act. The longer he waits, the harder it will be.