The recent Iran sanctions ratified by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump specifically target the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and have caused very interesting reactions from Tehran.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has remained silent, signaling his state of shock. His regime’s president, Hassan Rouhani, also indicated the toll of these new measures.
“…first, the Majlis (parliament) will take steps in this regard. If they have the Congress, we have the Majlis,” he said in a weak reaction. This is a president whose executive branch is in charge of the Iran nuclear deal, passing on the official response to the legislative branch.
Aside from legal and technical aspects of these sanctions, Tehran is currently facing regime change policy and support for the Iranian opposition, represented in the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Ahmad Khatami, a member of Iran’s Assembly of Experts, said Iran’s enemies are seeking to topple the establishment. This has left the entire Iranian regime deeply concerned, rendering it unable to establish a strong position in the face of the status quo.
Prior to this Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi also expressed weak remarks in response to the new U.S. sanctions.
Members of Khamenei’s camp have used their platform in Friday prayers to call on Rouhani’s cabinet to take a strong stance. There are voices also saying that Iran’s Central Bank and the entire government will eventually be sanctioned.
Iran’s reactions are of political importance as they indicate how this crisis is resulting in major internal tension.
“This is the mother of all sanctions,” said Foad Izadi, a Tehran University assistant professor, in a recent interview with state TV. “Based on the text, for example, the IRGC will be linked to the government as the government approves the defense budget. Thus, as this military entity is considered a terrorist organization, the government will suffer the same consequences.”
Elements of Khamenei’s camp, known as the conservatives/hardliners/principalists, are demanding Iran exit the nuclear deal altogether, while Rouhani’s camp is arguing the IRGC was under such sanctions in the past.
The entire regime in Iran, however, is forced to follow in line with the nuclear deal and lacks the will to do otherwise. There are concerns inside Iran that the nuclear deal will lead to similar pacts demanded by the international community, such as Tehran’s ballistic missile drive, meddling in other countries, and support for terrorism abroad, and most importantly, the mullahs’ grave human rights violations dossier.
Khamenei, who has the last word in all national security and foreign affairs, had launched the nuclear negotiations even prior to Rouhani’s first term.
Iran’s regime is currently facing two paths of death or suicide. Khamenei himself has been heard saying any change in behavior will result in regime change. Therefore, his entire apparatus lacks any capacity for meaningful change.
To this end, it appears Iran is seeking to maintain the nuclear deal intact with support from the Europeans. However, even such a policy has its own problems for a ruling system of this nature. Khamenei knows the Europeans will also demand changes, especially in Iran’s human rights dossier. This means another dead end for the mullahs.
Even those who naively dubbed Rouhani a “reformist” have questions to answer after he recently met with several senior IRGC commanders. This is yet another sign that Rouhani is calibrating his ties with the belligerent IRGC. Under Rouhani’s watch the defense budget has risen and the IRGC’s ballistic missile production has advanced dramatically.
All the while, Tehran is facing even larger challenges of regime change. Iran’s powder-keg society continues to gain momentum with daily protests and the organized NCRI opposition is enjoying increasing support.
For over 35 years this organization has emphasized the fact that Iran only understands strong language and must be sanctioned meaningfully. The world is only now beginning to comprehend.
Even during the Bush administration, NCRI President Maryam Rajavi reiterated the fact that while her coalition had blown the whistle on Iran’s clandestine nuclear weapons program, the main threat emanating from Tehran was its meddling in Iraq and export of terrorism and fundamentalism. This phenomenon is far more dangerous than Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, Rajavi emphasized.
The recent sanctions imposed on Iran by the U.S. Congress is in line with this argument. They first target the Iranian regime and seek to tackle the mullahs’ destructive policies that have plunged the Middle East into flames and threaten the entire globe.
The world is beginning to understand how peace and stability in the Middle East hinges on reining in Iran’s utterly dangerous bellicosity.
As the Trump administration continues to weigh its Iran policy with a possibility of regime change on the table, there are voices heard arguing such a move, citing the failures witnessed in the past two decades.
The very reason regime change campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria have failed is the lack of an organized opposition movement ready to provide the alternative afterwards.
Iran enjoys such an alternative, symbolized in the NCRI, its President Maryam Rajavi and her ten-point-plan delivering a free and democratic Iran.