Both hardliners and moderates have failed Iranians

Iranian students run for cover from tear gas at the University of Tehran during an anti-government demonstration, on December 30, 2017.

Iran’s theocratic regime faced its most serious threat in recent weeks when tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets, casting aside fears of the state’s notoriously repressive security apparatus to tell the mullahs enough was enough.
While Tehran, using fundamen­talist Basij militants to suppress a potential uprising, appears to have regained control over most towns and cities where unrest was reaching a boiling point, there is no doubt that Iranians are becoming wise to the mullahs’ games.
What caused working-class Iranians of all ethnic and religious backgrounds to explode with such anger? Across many mainstream media outlets, all we seem to be hearing is how there is a constant battle between the regime’s hard­liners and the so-called reformists, apparently fighting to pull the regime away from hardcore Shia Islamism to a more “moderate” re­gime that is open to the rest of the world and friendly to the West.
To believe that would be to ac­cept the view that the hardliners represent a xenophobic and iso­lationist political trend and Iran’s moderates are looking for ways to be part of the international commu­nity as a respected equal.
In reality, these false moderates are a part of the systemic problem afflicting Iran that can be traced to the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. After all, if the problems in Iran were as simple as a struggle between hardliners and moderates, why are Iranians unhappy even after the “moder­ate” Hassan Rohani has begun his second term as president?
The Obama administration bent over backwards to facilitate Rohani because they bought into the ruse that Iran’s various political elites could be balanced against each other. What Barack Obama failed to realise, however, was that nothing can happen in Iran without Khamenei’s approval, no matter who is in office.
In exchange for their votes, Roha­ni promised that the ill-conceived nuclear deal would grant Iranians a better life and that they would be freer and more able to engage with the outside world. Iranians put their faith in Rohani but Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had other ideas about where to take a post-sanctions Iran.
Although most sanctions have been lifted and billions of dollars are flowing into Iran, the Iranian people have hardly seen a penny, with hyperinflation increasing the price of staple foods and basic goods and services. Iran is very much a picture of near complete economic failure and the mullahs prefer to spend billions financing campaigns of foreign conquest in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen rather than alleviate the suffering of their own people.
Rohani’s promises are exposed for what they were — a mere place­bo to placate Iranians as Khamenei and the IRGC plunder the country of its riches.
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been in existence for 39 years and yet they still point to “foreign agents” and “conspiracies” when­ever they want to clampdown on their own citizens.
If they have not become moder­ate on their own after almost half a century, they never will, and Ira­nians are understanding this more and more.
It is safe to say that rather than spending on military campaigns abroad Iranians would probably prefer investments that could help reverse the desertification of Lake Urmia, relieve unemployment and provide economic opportunities so people are not forced to turn to drugs, which has led to Iranian offi­cials to execute the highest number of people per capita in the world.
Iran’s silver-tongued politicians ought to start taking care of their people before they are overthrown like the shah before them.
Tallha Abdulrazaq
is a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute in England.
This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.