Iran is “boiling” but… will it “explode”?

By Panayiotis Alimisis

Iran is not the country when everyone is expecting to see an uprising against the theocratic government of Hassan Ruhani. However the recent events which cost the lives of more than 30 protestors reveal a growing willingness for radical changes and reforms. Since the regime gave up its nuclear program –or at least partially- much of the population, especially the growing middle class, feels that it’s time for the country to open up to the rest of the world focusing on the economy and human rights. But Iran is not an ordinary case and it doesn’t resemble at all the «Arabic spring». Still it has a solid leadership, it’s a vast territory with high presentence of homogenous population, it has a log and successful tradition of ‘resistance’ against the USA (defeated the US expedition force in 1982) invest on a growing military industry and it’s a key player to any possible solution on the Syrian conflict. Generally Iran maintains a ‘decent’ profile in the Middle East compare to its Arab neighbors. 

After decades of domestic repression and constant «conflicts» with the West, Tehran’s opening to the world is not easy. The backward political structure which governs the country for 38 years finds difficult to come in terms with the ‘new order’. To be fair though, the Iranian government fears that if the democratization of the country follows the western example, which might be the beginning of Iran’s «enslavement» to the western interest, mainly to that of the United States. Already, high rank officials stated that «there are many who want to resurrect the pre-1979 era» implicating that American agents are behind the protests…

What the world can do…

Frankly nothing… World reaction can only be limited because the Middle East suffers from the Syrian conflict and there is no place for another civil war. Any possible proposition to impose sanctions to Iran once again, it will cause the resurrection of the nuclear program and further radicalization of the Ruhani government. Even during the «green movement» in Iran in 2009, the American President Barak Obama gave limited support to the protestor’s… in words, and this, when the nuclear program was at its peak! Besides, today the geopolitical realities are different. The western multinationals look now to Iran as the land of opportunity, rather than a brutal enemy. For example, the American government has signed an expensive contract with Tehran, for an order of 60 Boeing passenger airplanes. Additionally, China expressed its interest for further investment in the energy sector. The Asiatic superpower increased its oil import from Iran by 20% only the last two years.

The future of the protest…

Most of Ruhani inner circle appears united against the accusations by the protestors. The security forces, the mullahs and the army are still loyal to the government and there are no reports for defections. Even the political opposition -which has a weak presence in the decision making-, called the protestors to calm down and demonstrate peacefully without violence like they’ve done back in the 2009 uprising. It was actually the opposition leaders, who urged the government to take immediate measures for the growing corruption, cost of living, fraud and mismanagement of state money. And these demands were enough to give the signal for the 2 million, or so, Iranians to take out the streets. Now, the question is where this unprecedented unrest will lead. Most probably the Ruhani’s government will allow the protestors do their part without causing further deaths and finally decompress the unrest. Otherwise, there is a danger to create martyrs out of nowhere, putting its own existence into the «roulette». The regime has the big majority support from the population and a strong secret police, capable -at least by now- to eliminate any violent demonstration or «asymmetric attack». However, the need for reforms is more imperative than ever, so it won’t be a surprise if in the coming months Ruhani satisfies some of the demands, in order to calm the public anger.

Panayiotis Alimisis is a journalist and a geopolitical analyst. He studied Modern History and International Relations at London Metropolitan University

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