Why the real threat to Iranian regime lies within
The biggest threat to the survival of the Iranian regime comes not from the US or Israel, but from within. One of the key reasons for this is that the overwhelming majority of people in Iran are facing an economic and social crisis. Life in the country has become unbearable, economically and politically, and this could trigger a nationwide uprising at any time.
Inflation is at its highest level since the establishment of the regime. While the official rate is reported to be about 40 percent — higher than countries such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola and Libya — the actual figure is estimated to be closer to 70 percent. According to the World Economic Forum, Iran’s inflation rate places it fifth in the world rankings after Venezuela, Zimbabwe, South Sudan and Argentina.
To put this in perspective, Iran’s inflation rate is about 35 times higher than the average in the Gulf Arab states. Many of the Gulf states, such as Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Oman, are among the countries with the lowest inflation rates in the world.
Skyrocketing inflation is drastically affecting Iranians’ purchasing power, leading to protests across the country. Mohsen, a retiree from Tehran, complained: “I used to be able to live with my pension of 3 million toman a month (about $100). But this now barely covers costs for a week. The price of bread, beans, rice, meat and medication have doubled this year alone. I am 75 and am forced to look for other jobs, but cannot find any work.”
Mohsen owns his house, which he inherited from his parents, but those who have to pay rent are in a much worse situation. The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Tehran is about $600, while monthly living costs for a family of four are estimated to be $1,600. Even Ali Aslani, an Islamic Labor Council board member, has acknowledged the problem, telling the Kar-va-Kargar newspaper that “a worker’s salary of 4 million tomans covers only 10 days of the month, and after that workers barely make ends meet.”
The problem is that the Iranian government has failed to raise wages or pensions to keep pace with the skyrocketing inflation, even though Article 41 of the regime’s labor law clearly states that wages must increase in line with inflation: “The Supreme Labor Council is obliged every year to determine a minimum wage for various parts of the country and for various industries based on the following criteria: Workers’ minimum wage, taking into account the percentage of inflation which is announced by the central bank.”
In recent weeks, Iran has seen renewed protests from various sectors of society, including workers, teachers and retirees. Chants heard across the country have included, “Astronomical salaries for government officials, misery for the public,” “We are fed up with this injustice,” “Our salaries are paid in rial, but we pay our expenses in dollars,” “We will not back down until we get our rights,” “Enough with the tyranny, our tables are empty,” and “The retirees fund has been hijacked by thieves.”
The regime is worried that a widespread uprising could threaten the survival of the country. In his most recent speech on Oct. 4, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned that the enemy is within and that the country’s security forces, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, must be ready to meet that threat.
The problem is that the Iranian government has failed to raise wages or pensions to keep pace with the skyrocketing inflation.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
While US sanctions have had an impact on Iran’s currency and damaged its economy, people’s financial problems result mainly from the government’s inefficient fiscal and monetary policies; the leadership’s reluctance to redistribute wealth; economic mismanagement; the hemorrhaging of the nation’s wealth through spending on terror and militia groups; corruption among officials; the lack of a robust private market; and a state-controlled economy that has pushed more people into poverty.
The state’s monopolization of the economy applies to almost every sector. When it comes to Iran’s economic system, the supreme leader and the IRGC enjoy a considerable amount of control and shares in almost all industries, including financial institutions and banks, transportation, automobile manufacturing, mining, commerce, and the oil and gas sectors.
Indeed, the real threat against the theocratic establishment of Iran comes from within, not from abroad.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh