This week's 31st anniversary of the establishment of Iran's Islamic Republic is likely to be marked by bloody and brutal crackdowns on protesters and the execution of nine currently on death row. The question must now be how long before the regime implodes.
This Thursday will be a critical marker in the future of the Iranian government. It will be the 31st anniversary of the ousting of the pro-Western Shah, and while most of those 30 previous anniversaries have been occasions of ‘celebration’, this February 11 will be vastly different and the theocrats have good cause to be nervous.
No matter how the hardliner religious leaders and President Ahmadinejad try with their brutal crackdowns on their own people, the protesters just won’t go away.
Since the highly disputed election last June scores have been imprisoned, beaten, raped, forced to take part in sham exhibitions of ‘justice’, and so far, two have been officially executed. Iran at the moment sits waiting to hear of the fate of nine other protesters said to be headed for the gallows “soon” with little optimism that their death sentences will be successfully appealed.
Talk about the ultimate in terms of warnings that dissension will not be tolerated. It seems those who successfully protested against the Shah in the 1970s and who now sit comfortably within the lofty heights of the Islamic Republic have a new interpretation of Shar’ia enabling them to label those who protest now as enemies of God. How convenient.
And still the Opposition leaders, families of those who have died and of those still in Evin Prison, together with rank and file Iranians who have had enough of the religious and political fraud being foisted upon them, will not be beaten into submission. They will not put down their green banners, nor stay silently at home as commanded by the Ayatollahs.
The regime is in such a state of panic it can’t see its repression serves only to reinforce a committed tidal wave of reform. It is a panic further induced by the part global technology is playing in an ultimate battle of the past and the future. With that comes a form of paranoia that would be utterly laughable were its consequences not so deadly.
Perhaps in trying to justify their own brutality the clergy and the police have come to believe their own garbage about the CIA and Zionist powers forming the organisational and financial structure of the protest movement. It is a paranoia that has led them to label their own citizens as foreign agents if they dare to take to the streets and foreign agents are dealt with severely in the Islamic Republic of Iran. That was made ever so clear during the December Ashura demonstrations, in which Mir Hossein Mousavi’s own nephew was amongst the estimated eight who died and countless injured and imprisoned.
So the question must be, can the fragile regime of Ayatollah Khamenei and his bizarre President Ahmadinejad survive, or will the anniversary be the next major date in the timeline of an inevitable unraveling, which began last June?
In an interview one of the opposition candidates, Mehdi Karroubi, told the Financial Times at the end of January that Ahmadinejad will be unable to survive the full four years of his term. Brave words from a devout supporter of, and high office holder within, the IRI who is now under “virtual house arrest”. Like the protest movement he too is now accused of being linked to foreign sources because he has come out in defence of political prisoners, but his prediction could well be right - eventually.
Iran is essentially collapsing under its own disastrous economy, and Ahmadinejad has done nothing to relieve the poverty and joblessness of his people, nor concentrate on developing the country’s vast oil reserves. Iran actually imports refined fuel and sells it to its own people at a huge loss.
Instead Ahmadinejad struts around on the world stage infuriating some nations, deliberately provoking others and playing a puzzling game of cat and mouse in terms of nuclear capabilities and ambitions. This poor excuse for a foreign policy was once seen as a way of boosting his people’s collective self esteem. It is now seen as reckless endangerment as the world tries to work out what sanctions to impose to force the belligerent President to act responsibly, and Israel grows increasingly trigger prone.
Sanctions won’t hurt Ahmadinejad the same way they will hurt ordinary Iranians – the ones who have been out on the streets and will be back this week.
Karroubi’s point is that Ahmadinejad’s behaviour has divided intellectuals and clerics to the point they may consider allowing him to be the high profile sacrificial lamb in exchange for the preservation of the regime by way of new elections and consultation between the Supreme Leader Khamenei and election casualties Mousavi and Karroubi.
Logical as it seems, however, Thursday is approaching mighty fast and there’s no tangible sign of forcing Ahmadinejad to fall on his sword.
Thursday will witness the ancient cries of “God is Great” together with those unheard of in the last 30 years, to bring down the “dictator”.
The throngs, the batons, the green armbands and, more than likely, the bloody faces will be tweeted and texted around the world as civil disobedience continues to edge ever so much closer to revolution.
Implosion can be only a matter of time for a regime that looks set to mark its 31st anniversary with the hanging of nine citizens who dared to question it. That is a fragile regime indeed.