While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will boast about the regime’s perceived successes, military might and technological superiority in his annual anniversary speech, the reality of the Republic’s 40th year is grim.
Celebrations this week mark the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. In this week in 1979, monarchical rule was abruptly squashed as fundamentalist Shi’ite clerics seized power under the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Each year around the anniversary, Iranian officials typically unveil technological advancements in their armed forces, nuclear and space arsenals. On Saturday, Ayatollah Khamenei claimed Iran’s Air Force capabilities, once weak under the Shah Reza Pahlavi dynasty, were thriving under the Islamic regime. On Sunday, Iran tried and failed to put a satellite into orbit. This failure came after two failed launches last year of the Doosti and Payam satellites and a botched rocket explosion during the summer.
Iran’s nuclear program has faced similar deterioration this year. The 2015 deal between Iran, the US, UK, China, Russia, Germany and France is close to collapse. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, insisting any new deal must curb Iran’s ballistic missile program as well as uranium enrichment. The Iranian leadership unsurprisingly refused, leading to economic disaster in the country.
Last month, Iran declared it will no longer abide by its uranium enrichment commitment, compelling Germany, France and the UK to prompt the deal’s dispute-resolution mechanism. If international sanctions are indeed reinstated, the worsening economic crisis in Iran will become catastrophic.
Iran also suffered blows to its military and proxy power this past year. On January 3, a US airstrike outside Baghdad, Iraq, killed Iran’s top commander, Qasem Soleimani, leader of the IRGC’s Quds Force.
Soleimani was a critical player in Iran’s terrorist regime. Trump ordered his killing following months of attacks on American troops by Iran proxies in Iraq. In response to Soleimani’s death, Khamenei assured his Twitter followers that “jihad of resistance will continue with more motivation” as Iran must “congratulate Soleimani’s pure soul and console the Iranian nation on this great martyrdom.”
Hezbollah, Iran’s most successful export, faced protest long before Soleimani’s killing in January. Since October, fed-up demonstrators have taken to the streets of Lebanon and Iraq to voice their grievances against Iran’s infiltration and influence in both governments. According to the UN special envoy to Iraq, more than 500 demonstrators have been killed and 19,000 wounded, the majority at the hands of Iranian-backed militias. As the Iranian regime continues to dismiss these protests as inauthentic and foreign-led, their weakening grasp on the Middle East progresses.
Despite the propaganda Iran’s regime will put forth on this week’s anniversary, the world has witnessed its monumental failures. Blows to Tehran’s nuclear arsenal, economic durability, technological development, proxy strength and military power prove that Iran is indeed losing grip on the Middle East.
The writer is an M.A. candidate in counter-terrorism and homeland security at IDC Herzliya’s Lauder School of Government. She is also an analyst at the Center for Security Policy in Washington DC.