Iran is in the grip of what may be its most serious domestic and foreign crises since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, pundits in Tehran say.
The unprecedented protests that have rocked more than 100 cities since mid-September have now challenged the legitimacy of regime’s rule.
As supreme leader Ali Khamenei tries to quell the protests, every day a new move by Iranians inside and outside the country startles his regime.
The United States has time and again announced that in the current situation it will not hold negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, but president Ebrahim Raisi’s team at the foreign ministry keep making false claims about the willingness of the West for talks. These claims seem to be an attempt to make up for the legitimacy crisis that is tightening the noose on the clerical government in the light of intense public protests.
Supreme leader Khamenei, who considers himself the embodiment of the “sovereignty of God” on earth, seems to be unable to show “heroic flexibility” this time to save his rule. Khamenei first used the term in 2013 when he acknowledged that he had allowed negotiations with the West over Iran’s nuclear program.
Decades of political repression, pervasive corruption, and mismanagement have eroded public confidence in the government and now with the help of Iranian diaspora the West is under pressure to get tough with the clerical regime.
The United States has openly stated that its “focus” now is on “the remarkable bravery and courage that the Iranian people are exhibiting through their peaceful demonstrations”, and the EU has come up with new sanctions on Tehran since the protests began.
A procession of people paying respect to Mahsa Amini on the 40th day of her death in her hometown on October 26, 2022
Iran’s supply of drones to Russia in its war against Ukraine has also made the situation worse for the Islamic Republic.
During previous antigovernment protests in Iran since 1999, the West had usually stayed aloof, not showing strong support for the protesters who mostly remained unknown to foreigners. This time, the world is paying more attention, as the unrest began with the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, which garnered strong sympathy around the globe. At the same time Iran’s unwillingness to compromise on the nuclear issue and its military assistance to Russia persuaded the US and even Germany to adopt tougher positions.
The situation now is so awkward that pundits inside the country are warning the government of the consequences of its misguided domestic and foreign policies.
In an interview with Nameh website, Iranian political analyst Amir Ali Abolfat’h said that with these policies, the situation will not change, and negative conditions will continue to bedevil the regime.
“The [continuation] of verbal attacks and propaganda war of the parties [Iran and the West] will worsen the atmosphere for public diplomacy as a result,” he added.
In his opinion, Iranian officials are making “optimistic statements” about the fate of the nuclear deal, but the US and its three European allies show “no sign of a return to the 2015 nuclear deal”.
The Iranian regime should understand that without public legitimacy it cannot reach agreements with the international community, the commentator added.
Hardliners must know that they cannot quell the protests indefinitely because young Iranians, who comprise almost 65% of the country’s population, are weary of decades of revolutionary rhetoric and theocratic dictates.
Hamid Reza Jalaiepour a reformist political activist said as long as the Islamic Republic shows no flexibility, the situation will get worse, and the society will see more protests.
In an interview with Aftabnews earlier this week, he criticized the fundamental approach of the regime saying that “the country has been the scene of nationwide protests for [over] a month, but people’s requests have fallen on deaf ears. The power institutions must show flexibility toward the people's demands, which is not the case now.”