Prospects for regime change in Iran seen coming from labor force
If there is any hope for regime change in Iran in the near future, it may have to come from the working class.
Observers cite growing resentment toward the current leadership within Iranian trade unions, particularly since the death on Sept. 13 of union activist Shahrokh Zamani.
Zamani was serving an 11-year prison sentence for “acting against national security by attempting to form [a] house painters’ union” and “propaganda against the state.” He died in prison allegedly from a stroke, but many within the union ranks believe it was an execution ordered by the regime in Teheran.
A great number of working class Iranians see leadership as corrupt and unconcerned about their needs, dimming expectations when Iran signed the recent nuclear deal that will result in the influx of tens of billions of dollars in relief from international sanctions.
“Labor unions are prevented from operating independently in Iran and labor leaders are systematically arrested, prosecuted under national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms.” according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Recently, two leaders of Iran’s teachers’ unions were arrested after a group of 6,000 teachers signed on to a letter to Iranian parliament protesting their paltry salaries. Alireza Hashemi, the secretary-general of the Iranian Teachers’ Association, and Esmail Abdi, the head of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association were detained after the letter was received in parliament.
The letter read: “The majority of Iran’s teachers are not able to take care of their basic needs and live under the poverty line. Their status in society has been damaged and they have lost their motivation to work.”
Observers say two other key blocs of workers who could shake things up in Teheran are in the energy sector and at the Tehran Bazaar. The Bazaar went on strike for a brief period in 2012 when the value of Iran’s currency plummeted.
Some officials have pointed to Tunisia and Egypt as a possible sign of things to come for Iran. The Arab Spring which saw major shakeups in the halls of power in both countries were fueled in large part by labor strikes and protests over economic woes.
Any quick change in Iran would have to come from within, as the Obama administration has declined to challenge the Teheran regime.
“Decades after the 1979 uprising that ousted Washington’s ally, Shah Reza Pahlavi, and led to the 444-day captivity of American hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran, the United States is no longer intent on effecting regime change and settling scores. The nuclear accord signifies a belated acceptance of, and accommodation with, the Islamic Revolution and the clerical order it spawned.” wrote Joost Hiltermann last week for Reuters.
Any U.S. moves to upset the power structure in Iran would have to come after 2016, experts say, when a new administration in Washington could take a page from Ronald Reagan’s regime-change playbook for the Soviet Union.
Other Iran watchers say that regime change in Iran is just a matter of time. Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote on the web site Commentary: “The Islamic Republic is not popular in Iran. There have been nationwide protests against it in 1999, 2001 and 2009. That does not mean the Iranian population is revolutionary; they are not. At best, they are apathetic.
“Ultimately, the Iranian people will shed the Islamist dictatorship which has murdered so many, tortured thousands more, deprived others of their dreams, and transformed the image of Iran across the globe not as the repository of an ancient civilization, but rather into the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”
Michael Ledeen, the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote in The Weekly Standard earlier this year:
“If you made a list of social, economic and political conditions that undermine the legitimacy of a regime, you’d likely conclude that Iran is in what we used to call a ‘prerevolutionary situation.'” He wrote, “Remember that Reagan was told that [former president Mikhail] Gorbachev was firmly in control on the eve of the Soviet Union’s implosion, and the CIA scoffed at the very idea of an organized uprising in Iran before the massive demonstrations of 2009… Western support for regime change – which has long been the most sensible and honorable Iran policy – once again beckons to anyone who wants to take a giant step toward a rational policy.”
Rouhani promotes Iran’s military as best defense against ISIL
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani boasted this week that Teheran has “the biggest anti-terrorism force in the region.”
Rouhani’s pronouncement came on Sept. 22 during a speech at a ceremony marking the Iran-Iraq War of 1980. Along with funding Hizbullah in the fight in Syria against Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), Iran is also said to have deployed a number of Iranian Republican Guard Corps (IRGC) personnel to Syria and is aiding the fight vs. ISIL in Iraq.
“We tell the world today that the biggest anti-terrorism force in the region is the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Rouhani said, according to the semi-offical Mehr news agency.
“Just as we have helped the governments of Syria and Iraq against terrorism, upon requests from their governments, if, heavens forbid, terrorism emerged in other countries, the governments of those countries will pin their hopes to the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
Rouhani added that Iran “has never had the intention to invade another country,” though Teheran remains one of the world’s leading sponsors of terror groups and has even recently increased funding to proxies Hizbullah and Hamas in anticipation of the lifting of international sanctions after the nuclear deal with world powers.