Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Has the Regime Been Weakened? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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From the title of this article an observer can tell that the regime of ayatollahs is not on the verge of collapse, at least not at present. However, the events have affected its leadership, legitimacy, reputation, and future. These events have most likely weakened it. The weakness of the regime will not be felt out in the open, but we will sense its signs in Iran’s internal as well as external dealings no matter how much it pretends to be standing on its feet with the same solidity that it enjoyed prior to the elections.

In the past, the Iranian regime boasted that it supports external movements in Lebanon, Palestine, the Gulf, and elsewhere. In the coming days, we will see that it will be forced to practice its old habits but as secretly as it can in order not to antagonize the Iranian public opinion that is angry at the external adventures of its government. In order to avoid arousing the wrath of the Iranian citizen, the regime will be forced to increase domestic spending – which will place huge pressures on the budget – so as to win over the broad angry masses. No matter what it costs it and whatever the justifications may be, the regime will refrain from raising prices. It will be more determined to ensure the needs of the people from fuel to food supplies because the deteriorating living conditions are the main reason behind the people’s wrath. The regime’s hardships will increase if the countries trading with Iran will ask for more guarantees after seeing that the regime is tottering under the effective of the raging demonstrations. This will increase the regime’s political problems because the United States and other western countries are boycotting Iran economically. Thus, the cost of its foreign trade transactions with other countries will rise. The situation is not better in its external political relations. Major powers that support Iran, like China and Russia, will wait and reassess the domestic performance of the Iranian government. If they realize that the popularity of this regime is dropping, this would be an indication of long and exhausting problems for the regime. They will thus not risk supporting Tehran’s political stands as they used to do before Iran was struck with the recent political earthquake.

As for the leadership establishment – the Supreme Guide, the president, and the Revolutionary Guard – we do not know how matters are proceeding there. If it is suffering from internal conflict, it will not be able to keep it a family secret for long. In order to understand what is happening these days, let us compare Iran to a boxer that sustained surprise hits but not knockouts. These blows made him reel for a short period and embarrassed him before his fans, shook their confidence in him, and strengthened his rival’s self-confidence to hit him more. Nevertheless, this boxer cannot be considered as defeated. This is the case with the Iranian leadership at present whose first priorities are to restore its image, restore the world’s trust in its ability to stand on its own two feet, and defeat its opponents with the least amount of blood and embarrassment.

This is not an exaggeration but simple calculations about a regime that projected the image of the invincible and that the world fears it. Its over-confidence in itself led it to fan out in its external operations and defy scores of big powers. The surprise came in domestic developments that were like unexpected rapid punches that made it lose its balance. If for the sake of the argument, we recognize the power of the regime that is built on its internal security power, we cannot belittle the damage that it suffered and that will affect its internal and external performance no matter how much it tries to pretend that nothing untoward had happened, no matter how many excuse sit makes, and no matter how much it holds external quarters as responsible for its internal problems. Keep in mind that such disturbances do not disappear even if the demonstrators were to evaporate from the streets because they have turned into a populist current that will hurt the regime and that will be on the lookout against the regime at every opportunity.