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How Long Can the Iranian Regime Last?

I’ve received many questions about the recent explosion at a Revolutionary Guards base near Khorramabad (near the Iraqi border) that reportedly killed nearly twenty Guardsmen and, according to some accounts, destroyed several new Shehab missiles.    The regime described it as an accident, but even the Washington Post’s Thomas Erdbrink, who often shows a touching tendency to accept the official version of events, had his doubts: “It was unclear whether the incident...was an accident or the result of terrorism or sabotage.”  He was right to wonder; there have been three such events at the Imam Ali Base in the last several months, and while there are lots of accidents in Iran, it is most unlikely that repeated explosions are all accidental.

The base is a training center for high-level Iranian officers and experienced foreign fighters. According to a reliable Iranian source, the foreigners were being trained in the use of roadside bombs, the so-called IEDs that account for most American and other NATO casualties in Afghanistan. Those were apparently ignited, along with jet fuel, and killed 19 Iranian officers and badly burnt another 14, most of whom are in critical condition. No figures are available for the foreigners, although some of them were certainly killed or wounded.

The base was attacked by two men on motorcycles, who first killed two security guards and then launched rockets over the walls into the base. There were indeed four missiles at the site, but they were short-range missile with a range of 200-250 kilometers, not the latest generation of intermediate-range Shehabs.

The latest deaths bring the number of RG casualties in the last 26 days to 102, which gives you a sense of the intensity of the internal war against the Iranian regime.  Earlier in the month, armed gunmen attacked police in Kurdestan, killing five and wounding four others.

Meanwhile, Iranian workers and merchants were also challenging the regime, with workers walking off the job in the south and the operators of the gold bazaars locking up their shops all over the country, nominally in protest against the new 3% value added tax, but actually against the regime’s increasingly centralized control over the national economy.  Negotiations to end the shutdown broke down early this week,  as it became evident that the regime was determined to crush the traditional merchant class.  Indeed, the Iranian currency becomes weaker by the day, which has the dual effect of ruining the traders and smugglers who have long been the source of merchandise for the bazaars, and further empowering the Revolutionary Guards who have abundant quantities of hard currency from their (legal and illegal) oil business.

In addition to pauperizing the merchant class, the regime is striking at other middle-class sectors by rationing gasoline and ending subsidies for such staples as cooking oil, sugar, and rice. The subsidies will be replaced by aid -- in the form of coupons -- for the staples, which will be given to supporters and withheld from opponents. In this manner, the Iranian economy will increasingly resemble that of North Korea, albeit with a very wealthy state and elite, living the good life financed by oil revenues.