Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has mentioned the “security” crisis that his regime faces, which is code for a threat of being overthrown, in almost all of his speeches since the nationwide anti-government protests in December 2018 and November 2019.
These uprisings have challenged the regime’s status quo and – despite the brutal crackdowns that saw over 1,500 people killed by security forces – reminded the regime that overthrow is coming.
Last year’s uprising was especially distinct from previous protests in the country and political observers believe that these should not be written off. The truth is that 2019 was a major year for the regime as international pressure, border insecurity, and regional conflicts increased at the same time that the value of the Iranian rial declined and the country saw increased economic challenges.
These protests began on November 15 after the regime decided to increase fuel prices three-fold overnight while ordinary Iranians were already struggling to cope with rising poverty. Protesters attacked symbols and properties of the Iranian regime, including police kiosks, governor’s offices, and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) bases, but did not touch the property of ordinary Iranians.
Mojtaba Zulnuri, head of the Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said that protesters clashed with security forces in 800 areas in just one day.
Khamenei scared that the uprising would be his end, ordered security forces to “do whatever it takes to end it” and security forces killed at least 1,500 people, including children, in just five days, during a nationwide internet blackout to prevent information from spreading to foreign governments. A further 12,000 were arrested and some still languish in Iranian jails under torture.
But even though the protests appeared to simmer down, anti-regime activities have actually spread, which is worrying news for the regime because now the people are unable to afford bread and milk because of price increases. Thus, more protests are imminent and these will be bigger than ever before because the regime is in a much worse scenario than in 2019.
The coronavirus, international sanctions, and various other economic, social, and political crises, which the regime is unable or unwilling to control have put the mullahs in a bind that they cannot escape. Right now, it will only take the smallest of sparks to set the whole country ablaze with protests and the mullahs don’t have the water to douse the flames that will soon engulf them.