A man carries a giant flag made of flags of Iran, Palestine, Syria and Hezbollah, during a ceremony marking the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, in Tehran, Feburary 2016.
(photo credit: RAHEB HOMAVANDI/REUTERS)
With the protests in Iran continuing into their sixth day on Tuesday, the critical questions remain: Is the regime of the Islamic Republic really in danger and can the demonstrators really topple its four-decades long grasp on power?
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Menashe Amir, a veteran Persian-language broadcaster and Iran expert, said three factors will determine whether or not the protests can turn into a revolution.
First, the protests would clearly have to continue and do so for an extended period of time, and larger numbers of people who have yet to participate would need to join.
Second, and critically, there would need to be desertions from the security services – including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Basij paramilitary militia – to the side of the protesters.
Should this occur, it would presumably turn the protesters into insurgents and revolutionaries and pose a serious threat to the security of the regime, Amir said.
The third factor is whether mass killings by the Iranian security services, should they transpire, will deter and suppress the protests or instead, further inflame the mass of Iranian citizens who are suffering under grinding economic conditions and large-scale corruption by regime officials.
If the protests continue and parts of the security services defect to the protesters and the populace become even more incensed by government oppression and repression, then, says Amir, the regime could truly be in danger.
In terms of what the US and other members of the international community could do to assist the protests, Amir said that increasing rhetorical pressure on Tehran, as US President Donald Trump
has done and the EU has belatedly begun to do, would send an important message to the demonstrators.
He added that action in international arenas, such as boycotts and other actions against the Islamic regime in international institutions such as the UN, would be helpful.
Iranian journalist protests in Jerusalem against the Iranian regime and asks Netanyahu for help, January 2, 2018
“Today, Trump and [US Vice President Mike] Pence and others are talking about the right of Iranian citizens to work toward changing the regime. This is very positive, although it remains to be seen if it will remain in the realm of talk or if the US, Israel, Europe and Saudi Arabia will try and practically help the uprising of the Iranian people,” said Amir.
He said international powers “could find ways to help practically on the ground,” but declined to explain what such help would include.
Amir noted, however, that the regime will likely be extremely ruthless in preserving its grip on power, although it has shown restraint so far.
“They are trying not to kill [the protesters], but if there is no choice then they will not refrain from killing. Those sitting in power know that if they fall everyone will be killed, their lives will be in danger, and therefore they will stand to the last moment and do everything to stay in power.”