Iranian regime has already been morally defeated
Iran’s leaders may be facing existential challenges at home, but Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was, in recent days, still focused on exporting the revolution overseas. He boasted about how Tehran had succeeded in building a “strong presence” in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, asserting that his theocratic regime had “transformed the hearts of neighboring nations.”
But where are all these supposed “transformed hearts” in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon? Shiites in these countries have been horrified by the carnage in Iran, just as they have been shocked at how Tehran has transformed their once-flourishing nations into failed states. Pro-Iran TV channels like Al-Manar have been defensively tying themselves in knots explaining why vivacious young women like Nika Shakarami, Sarina Esmailzadeh and Mahsa Amini ended up dead. Overseas expressions of support for the brutal crackdown have been notable by their absence.
Not long ago, Sunnis and Shiites throughout the region were at each other’s throats — largely the product of Iranian interference. Yet in locations like Lebanon, Iraq and Bahrain, it increasingly feels as if a new dynamic is in play, bringing various sects together in support of greater national unity and identity — and in opposition to hostile foreign interference. Iran’s revolutionary exports are no longer in demand.
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is effectively in a state of war with Iraqi Kurdistan, having fired hundreds of missiles and drones into Kurdish areas and threatened a ground invasion. Iranian stooges in the Iraqi government have further fueled tensions by demanding measures against Iranian Kurd groups in the north of the country — despite these groups having played no significant role in the uprising. There is a bitter irony in Iraqi troops being sent to the borders to defend against their overbearing neighbor, which never tires of claiming to act in defense of Iraqi Shiites.
Iran has, meanwhile, been seeking to destabilize neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan. This includes efforts to mobilize Shiite Azeris in these states. Local journalists and analysts have warned of the establishment of theological and economic institutions that are transparent vehicles for espionage and subversion. Head of the Azerbaijan-Georgia Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group, MP Arzu Nagiyev, warned that Iran was seeking to trigger sectarian conflict.
The international community must assist long-suffering Iranians in ensuring that this regime is removed in its entirety
With Iranian drones and missiles currently wreaking havoc throughout Ukraine, this lunatic theocracy is hell-bent on waging war against the entire world. In recent days, IRGC commander Hossein Salami declared that “this great sedition and world war will be turned into a graveyard of the enemies,” while denouncing protesters as “unbelievers” and indicating that they would be confronted militarily.
It was announced last week that Iran was embarking on a massive expansion of its nuclear activities and would commence enriching uranium to 60 percent at the Fordow nuclear site, having already been conducting such activities at Natanz. There is no conceivable peaceful purpose for such efforts. The ayatollahs intend to use this highly enriched uranium in warheads that they envisage will soon be pointed at regional states and the West. Are we to just passively observe as — like with North Korea — they cross the threshold to being a military nuclear power?
Khamenei went on to praise Basij militias for “protecting” Iran against “rioters” and “thugs.” He added: “The presence of the Basij shows that the Islamic Revolution is alive.” These Basij elements Khamenei is so proud of are complicit in the routine use of rape and torture against young female and male detainees. Nearly 150 eye specialists last week signed a letter warning of large numbers of protesters who had lost eyes due to live ammunition used by snipers. Khamenei’s own niece, Farideh Moradkhani, has now denounced this “murderous and child-killing” regime, following her own arrest, and called on foreign governments to cut all ties with Tehran.
In another shockingly widespread practice, protesters have been bundled into ambulances full of IRGC personnel ready and waiting to give arrivals a severe beating before detaining them. This has a disturbing parallel with how pro-Iran militias, at the height of the 2006 sectarian bloodshed, exploited their control of Iraq’s Health Ministry to lend out ambulances to Shiite death squads, who used these vehicles to abduct and gruesomely murder thousands of Sunni civilians.
Even staunch insiders have realized that the regime is on course for disaster. Several of these figures made a rare intervention with Khamenei. Prominent officials Ali and Amoli Larijani apparently reminded Khamenei that when the shah attempted to brutally repress demonstrations in 1978 it brought about the end of the monarchy. Khamenei reportedly retorted that those who opposed him deserved to be executed as an example to others.
At the recent Manama Dialogue, senior Western officials voiced their concerns that, if the regime fell, whatever followed could be worse, including the scenario of all-out civil war. If the mullahs were forced out, the most likely scenario would be an IRGC-attempted military takeover. As occurred in Sudan and Algeria after 2019, the military may believe that it can endure by throwing certain civilian leaders overboard, while continuing to wield power with an iron fist. The regime, in any case, has long been moving toward a situation where the Revolutionary Guard controls all the principal centers of power, including its domination of vast economic conglomerates.
The international community must assist long-suffering Iranians in ensuring that this regime is removed in its entirety and that they do not transition from corrupt theocracy to military dictatorship. This requires long-term commitments to support Iranians in building institutions and demilitarizing their nation, so that the IRGC’s immense paramilitary network no longer poses a threat to Iran or its neighbors.
Under the slogan of “Women, Life, Freedom,” Iranians are making unimaginable sacrifices in their struggle against tyranny. It is time world leaders realized that greater sacrifices and commitment will be required on their part if we are truly to be rid of a terrorist regime that excels in crimes against humanity and threatens ballistic, paramilitary and nuclear annihilation.
Now entirely dependent on the tactics of torture, rape and murder to keep its citizenry in check, this is a regime that has already been morally defeated. Now it must be thoroughly dismantled from the top down.
- Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.