Considering the historic rebellion underway in Iran, the Islamic Republic may indeed be facing greater problems than it has ever seen.
Iran’s currency has fallen to nearly half its former value, and poor economic indicators may exacerbate an already emboldened country-wide active protest movement. What began last December in the holy city of Mashhad, continues to grow, as the country faces poverty and runaway inflation. Political demonstrations have continued, and become ever more confrontational. The people have grown scornful of a regime that doesn’t address their problems.
In mid-January, people publicly chanted slogans such as “death to Khamenei” and “death to Rouhani,” risking imprisonment, and perhaps a death penalty. Although the uprising was temporarily suppressed by Iranian security forces and the Revolutionary Guard Corps, protests continue across the country.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei acknowledged that the principal Iranian Resistance group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), had played a leading role in planning and organizing these demonstrations. In a speech at the Iranian New Year, opposition leader Maryam Rajavi promised more to come, and called for the year ahead to be “a year full of uprisings.”
If Trump wants to strike a blow to the regime, he could order immediate action in support of Iran’s domestic resistance movement — starting by sanctions of the Iranian institutions and individuals responsible for crackdowns on freedom-seeking demonstrators. He could urge European leaders to support this, and other measures.
Although France, Germany, and the UK continue to stand by the nuclear deal, those same nations have been concerned in regards to Iran’s ballistic missile program and its destabilizing effect in the Middle East. France’s President Macron, said that leaders should look at the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action “in a wider regional context.” Western governments share a mutual interest in curtailing Tehran’s influence in the region, with the Iranian people. In fact, during the January uprising Iran’s populace called on the Iranian government to “forget about Syria; think of us.”
The US and France can work together to support the MEK and other pro-democracy groups inside Iran. “France is not naive when it comes to Iran,” Macron said last week. “But we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.” He already demonstrated this when he rebuffed Iran’s President, who called on him to urge a crackdown on the French headquarters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the coalition of pro-democracy dissidents, led by Maryam Rajavi, of which MEK is the main constituent.
Internal threats are already consuming Tehran’s attention, and the West can exploit the situation, and curb Iran’s behavior.