It hasn’t been a good month for Iran.
In Lebanon, Iran’s chief ally, Hezbollah, lost seats in the Lebanese Parliament. The majority coalition it previously headed is now in the minority. The anti-Hezbollah forces now constitute the majority. The Free Patriotic Movement, the party of Hezbollah’s main Christian collaborator, President Michel Aoun, has lost seats to the Lebanese Forces, the party of his arch-rival, the anti-Hezbollah Samir Geagea, who has now replaced Aoun as the main leader of the Christians. Hasan Nasrallah has put a brave face on the loss, claiming it will “change nothing.” Few in Lebanon believe him.
The Iranian economy continues to crater. Now more than half the population lives below the poverty line. The crippling U.S. sanctions are still in effect. Iran had assumed that well before now a deal would have been reached in Vienna, so that the sanctions would be lifted. It hasn’t happened, and won’t, as long as Tehran insists on making its non-negotiable demands on the Americans. Biden has proven surprisingly stubborn in refusing Iran’s demand to remove the terrorist designation from the IRGC. Iran has been desperate for outside economic assistance. Iran has even ended its criticism of the UAE for joining the Abraham Accords, in order to obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in investments from the Emirates.
The people in Iran have this May started their street protests against the regime, shouting “death to Khamenei” and “death to Raisi.” These protests have spread to a dozen cities across Iran, and have been put down with extreme violence, only to erupt again. The protests in 2019 were triggered by the removal of subsidies on gasoline. The latest protests – the largest since 2019 — began when the government removed $9 billion in subsidies for food and medicine, and soon morphed from demands that the subsidies be put back into a more general protest against the despotic rulers who through mismanagement and corruption have helped drive Iran’s economy ever downward. And the harsher the repression by the army and police, the more the anger grows.
In Abadan on May 23, a building collapsed, with at least 80 believed to be dead and many others injured. The 10-story building held a combination of commercial and residential tenants. Angry residents reportedly stormed the municipality, blaming faulty construction for the collapse. Locals also say that authorities first sent anti-riot police to the area, leaving those locals angry that instead of ambulances, the authorities first sought to control the people’s anger. The Iranian people know that the shoddy buildings that have been thrown up since 1979 – and have been prone to collapse — are a result of the country’s massive corruption; builders, especially if well connected, can bribe government officials and building inspectors to approve their projects.
The latest bad news for the regime of the ayatollahs is one more feat of derring-do by Mossad agents, who over the years have done so much to slow down Iran’s nuclear program, by cyberwarfare, sabotage, and assassination. Iran has been unable to prevent the Mossad running circles around it. In 2010, Israel infected Iranian computers that regulated centrifuges at Natanz with a computer worm, that caused the centrifuges to speed up so fast they destroyed themselves. Between 2010 and 2012, the Mossad assassinated four of Iran’s most important nuclear scientists. In 2018, Israel managed to steal Iran’s entire nuclear archive. In 2020, Mossad saboteurs caused a fire destroying part of the centrifuge plant in Natanz. In 2021, merely by cutting electric power to the centrifuge plant at Natanz, the Mossad again managed to destroy thousands of the centrifuges. Israel has also engaged in a campaign of blowing up chemical and electrical plants around the country, unsettling the ayatollahs, who never know what Mossad’s next target will be. Of course, the Iranians keep uttering bloodcurdling threats against the Jewish state; the Mossad shrugs these off, as Iran has not managed to carry out any of these threats. Not a single Israeli weapons scientist has been assassinated by Iran, not a single Israeli weapons plant or storehouse of weapons has been damaged. Still, the Iranians keep insisting that they will soon wreak a terrible vengeance on the Jewish state.
Now comes the glad news of another Israeli feat. The IRGC commander in charge of carrying out attacks against Israelis in foreign countries was just assassinated in broad daylight, while sitting in his car right outside his house, demonstrating the boldness of the Mossad agents, and the Islamic Republic’s inability to protect its highest officials. The Biden Administration reportedly had told Israel to stop acting in ways that could derail the nuclear attacks. The Israelis complied, deciding that instead of going after Iran’s nuclear scientists, they would go after other Iranians deemed to be particular threats to the Jewish state. Khodayari was high on the list. He is alleged to have smuggled weapons to Syria, and planned kidnappings and attacks against Jews around the world. He also commanded the Quds Force’s Unit 840, a relatively secret unit that builds terrorist infrastructure and plans attacks against Western targets and opposition groups outside Iran. For Israel, it was his being in charge of attacks on Israelis around the world that sealed his fate.
A report on this latest assassination is here: “Assassination of IRGC official shows Israel has shifted gears – analysis,” by Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post, May 23, 2022:
We will not stop. The message could not be clearer, as Hassan Sayad Khodayari was killed outside his home in central Tehran.
A senior member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Khodayari was killed in his car by five bullets fired by two alleged Israeli assassins on a motorcycle.
Khodayari is not the first Iranian to have been killed in attacks blamed on the Jewish state. But his assassination marks a change in targets in Israel’s war-between-the-wars campaign (Hebrew acronym: Mabam)….
In April, Mansour Rasouli, a purported member of the IRGC who operated under Khodayari’s command in Unit 840, admitted to Mossad agents in his home that he was sent to target an Israeli diplomat in Turkey, an American general in Germany and a journalist in France.
Rasouli was later released by the Israelis and denied his earlier confession. It is hard to imagine that the information he revealed did not somehow contribute to the Unit 840 chief’s assassination.
The killing of Khodayari means Israel has expanded its war-between-the-wars campaign, and it has begun targeting IRGC officials on their home turf.…
The assassination of Khodayari – in an alleyway outside his home in broad daylight in Iran’s capital – is a message: Our abilities are incomparable. We will get to you if we need to.”
As I wrote at the beginning of this piece, this has not been a good month for Iran.