In most revolutions At some point, the regime under threat will switch from trying to control the crowd without shedding too much blood to sending in the military to suppress the rebellion. Iran may be approaching that point. Large swaths of the country already look like a war zone. The armored vehicle column of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), the regime’s Janissaries marched into cities such as Mahabad and Jawanrud in northwestern Iran’s Kurdistan, and opened fire on protesters with machine guns. Helicopters fly overhead. A hovering drone played military songs.
The death toll across the country has risen sharply. Iran Human Rights, a Norway-based watchdog, estimated the death toll had jumped to at least 416 in the past week from 342 in the previous two months. It said the true figure was likely to be much higher because the internet blockade had disrupted the flow of information.
Protesters are fighting back. “You cannot peacefully demand your rights from a brutal dictator,” said one Kurd, echoing the intensifying fighting. Street fighting manuals began to circulate. There have been growing reports that security forces have been stabbed and shot at. Supporters of the Kurdistan Free Life Party (PJAK), based in neighboring Iraq, said they were smuggling weapons and protective gear across the Mountains into Iran. Some 60 Iranian soldiers and police were killed, according to Iranian state media and outside observers.
While turmoil spreads at home, Iran’s rulers are fighting back and trying to stir up trouble abroad.this Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Missiles and drones are regularly fired at armed camps manned by Iranian exiles in Iraqi Kurdish north. Its commander threatened a ground invasion. They could signal to other governments in the region that if the regime falters, it could still lash out at enemies across the Middle East. Visitors to Kurdistan say its leaders fear their Western allies are too preoccupied with the economic crisis and the war in Ukraine to bail them out.
Elsewhere, Iran is trying to show that it can still trouble those who take cheer from its current predicament. It hit an Israeli-owned oil tanker near the Strait of Hormuz. It has shipped missile components to its Houthi allies in Yemen, which have previously attacked the capitals of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.this Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps released a video showing how its drones attacked Saudi oil facilities.
Iran has also brazenly announced that it is enriching uranium to near weapons grade and is building more advanced centrifuges. “The more pressure the Tehran regime is under, the more it will lash out,” said Christian Koch of the Swiss Gulf Research Center Foundation. “It will stop at nothing. It’s a game of survival.” The end of the world, some fear, may beckon.
Yet Iranians are also showing foreigners the benefits of having the regime on their side. The militias they have long supported in Iraq used to open fire on the US “occupiers”. But now that they are settled in Baghdad’s government, militias are courting them. Iraq’s new prime minister, Mohammad al-Sudani, is said to have had several productive meetings with the US ambassador.
Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, is also in tacit engagement with the United States, which recently struck a deal on a maritime border between Lebanon and Israel. “Iran is telling the Americans: Don’t miss the opportunity … to make a deal you never dreamed of,” said a former senior Iraqi official. Several of his colleagues believe that Iran wants the United States to worsen relations with Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, which could make it more willing to deal with Iran.
Some hardliners in Iran’s government, including national security chief Ali Shamkhani, have been trying to bring reformers back into government. After nearly a decade of scrutiny of Muhammad Khatami, state media has been quoting him as the most moderate of past presidents. Some reformers have proposed a referendum on the future type of government. Others suggested early elections.Many analysts believe Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Some Islamic requirements, such as women must wear the veil, will be dropped as the price of remaining in power. But protesters say the regime must go, hardliners and reformers alike.
In any case, Western governments are unlikely to re-engage with Iran amid internal turmoil in Iran. The technical differences between the U.S. and Europe over nuclear negotiations have all but disappeared. Both sides are tired of Iran’s delays and angry that Iran has supplied drones to Russia for use in Ukraine.
Some have also questioned Iran’s ability to follow through on its threats to wreak havoc abroad.Since the 2020 assassination of Qassim Suleimani, the powerful long-serving commander Islamic Revolutionary Guard CorpsAs a foreign strike force, many of Iran’s satellite countries are concentrating on doing their own things anyway, rather than acting as the cat’s paws of the Iranian Ayatollah. “Even if the regime is restored, [Ali] Khamenei is no longer the key,” said one Iranian analyst, referring to Iran’s supreme leader.
Hezbollah may also be constrained by Lebanon’s dealings with Israel. Another Iranian disciple, Hamas, the Islamic Palestinian faction that runs the Gaza Strip, has been relatively quiet.this Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is struggling to maintain its lead in Syria, where it is regularly hit by Israel. Now that the fighting has subsided, Syria is increasingly leaning toward forging ties with deep-pocketed Arab Gulf states. Iran is also trying to wake up its Shia brethren in Gulf countries like Bahrain.Give Islamic Revolutionary Guard CorpsFurious, they oppose normalizing relations with Israel under the Abraham Accords, but rarely take to the streets. “Shiites no longer chant ‘Death to America and Israel’ in Friday prayers,” said a Shiite Bahraini politician.
All in all, Iran’s ayatollahs are facing an increasingly emboldened internal enemy. However, their friends in the area are increasingly reluctant to help. The Iranian regime’s struggle for survival may be becoming a lonely affair.■