I don’t know Struan Stevenson, but I’d sure like to. He has laid out a clear-eyed picture of the collapsing Islamic Republic of Iran that is as good as anything you’ll read. It’s in The Scotsman February 4th and it begins, “After a murderous crackdown on nationwide anti-government protests in Iran, infighting has broken out between different factions of the ruling elite as they try desperately to cling to power.”
So it’s a civil war, fought between the different elements of the ruling class. Since the spoils of this war will be measured in terms of government posts and bank accounts around the world, it’s a very intense struggle. As Stevenson puts it,
The slightest spark will ignite a revolution, which will drive the theocratic regime from office and restore freedom to Iran’s 80 million enraged citizens. It is the lull before the inevitable storm.
Under the leadership of President Rouhani, the Islamic Republic of Iran has executed more than four thousand persons, including women and children, thereby making the IRI the leading per capita executioner in the world. Contrary to the myth of Rouhani’s “moderation,” he has made Alireza Avaei the Minister of Justice. Avaei has been singled out as a leading terrorist for his role as the killer of political prisoners in 1988, when more than thirty thousand followers of the MEK opposition movement and their friends were slaughtered.
The internal struggle reminds one of the bloodthirsty struggles among the Sicilian Mafia families half a century ago, in which both family members and their friends and neighbors were compelled to choose up sides. This is evident in the maneuvering leading up to the forthcoming elections in March. The Guardian Council has already banned 90 members of Parliament from running, enabling Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his cronies to stack the deck with their own candidates, locking out the Rouhani crowd. As Stevenson summarizes the situation, this is “a sure sign that the teetering regime is on its last legs.”
Similar conclusions are found in an essay by John Rossomando for the Investigative Project on Terrorism:
The median age of Iran’s population is 31, so most people have no memory of the 1979 revolution. Many want the regime gone because it has only brought them misery, said Iranian-American activist Saghar Erica Kasraie.
“The regime gave them an economy that’s plummeting, a government that has invaded every aspect of their lives, whether that’s your private life, your religious rights, your everything,” Kasraie said. “You’ve had a chess player defect. You’ve had an Olympian defect. You have celebrities defecting. This is a really strong signal to show that people are no longer buying in.”
The clock is ticking on the regime, according to Rossomando. Any one of several factors could throw the country into turmoil. Khamenei is eighty years old, and his death could be a precipitating event.
Meanwhile, the United States continues to eliminate key allies of the Iranian regime. The most recent events have involved al Qaeda leaders, such as Qasim al-Rimi (or al-Raymi), the emir of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The White House confirmed rumors that Rimi was “successfully eliminated” in a “counterterrorism operation in Yemen.”
Rimi was on the “most wanted” list of terrorists, and there was an American public reward of $10 million for information leading to his capture or death. He was the most recent victim of violent action against the forces of repression. His predecessor was killed in a drone strike in 2015.
Although the protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, at least two acts of resistance against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and other security forces that led the crackdown against the recent protests were launched by the protestors. First came the firebombing of a Revolutionary Guards base in Tehran on January 19th, and the following day a similar attack on the Headquarters of State Security Forces in Mashad on Jan. 20.
Within a few days, a close associate of General Soleimani, Abdolhossein Maidam, was killed in Khuzestan by two men on a motorcycle. Maidam was involved in the repression of the protestors, which was notably intense in the southwestern province. Khuzestan is in the heart of the oil-producing region and is largely populated with Arabs.
In the past, such attacks have been blamed on the Israelis, prompting me to say that if Israel was capable of operating in the midst of Iranian cities that are under near-total military occupation, whether to kill high-ranking IRI officials or to steal secret IRI files about its nuclear weapons program, they are capable of most anything.