Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s war in Syria and Iraq isn’t going well, and he has accordingly purged those in charge. Yes, General Firouzabadi is obese, but he’s been fat for quite a while, and his successor—his deputy Mohammed Baqeri—doesn’t have much battlefield experience. The redoubtable Amir Taheri tweets that the new chief of staff is an intelligence professional, not a warrior. (He’s very slim, by the way). And he’s got lots of experience in business, where the Revolutionary Guards have done a lot better than in Syrian fights against ISIS and anti-Assad forces.
Aside from Firouzabadi, the biggest loser in this shakeup is the celebrated General Suleimani, easily the most recognizable face among the Revolutionary Guards. Suleimani was a selfie star for years, and was even considered a possible successor to the supreme leader by some of the Tehranologists. That surge of popular stardom has ended. One manifest sign of the times is that former President Ahmadinejad seems to have entered the lists for the next elections, which is bad news for current President Rouhani.
Indeed, to judge by the regime’s behavior of late, the war to preserve Assad in power in Damascus and expand Iranian control over Iraq isn’t at all popular. Many Iranians have died in the fighting, and Khamenei has banned memorial ceremonies for the “martyrs” throughout the country, from Tehran to Tabriz, from Isfahan to Qazvin, from Rasht and Gorgan to Mashhad and Neyriz.
The regime is afraid of the Iranian people. Indeed, it is even afraid of their dogs. Dogs are being sequestered by regime authorities, who do not even have the nerve to announce it is official policy. They take the pets away, pretending they will be vaccinated, but the canines then disappear. The head of the animal rights organization in one town wrote to the authorities with snide humor:
We are very happy that all the problems of the country have been resolved and that the presence of a few guard dogs in people’s homes is the last remaining problem for the people of Shahin Shahr, which you have set out to resolve.
The Iranian people know that the country is failing—the bonanza delivered as a result of the No Deal Deal has not reached the workers or the lower middle classes—and workers’ spokesmen have driven the point home repeatedly. The official poverty line in Iran is four hundred dollars a month, but trade union spokesman Hadi Abavi claims that the average monthly wage is just half that. Nor does education provide an escape route for the poor; there are five million unemployed university graduates at last count.
No wonder Khamenei bans demonstrations, even to mourn the dead.
Meanwhile, hatred of the Islamic Republic is rampant across the Iraqi border. A couple of weeks ago, a quarter million Iraqi Shi’ites demonstrated in Baghdad chanting “down with Iran, down with Suleimani!” A bit further north, in Kurdistan, Kurdish fighters are attacking Iranian Revolutionary Guards troops.
The clashes were continuing in the area of Mahabad, a Kurdish city, and the Sarvabad border area. (The Revolutionary Guards) said that a number of “terrorists linked to counterrevolutionary groups” had been killed in the fighting.
“The operation is underway for the destruction of the remaining terrorists,” the statement said.
General Baqeri has a multi-front war to supervise. It won’t be easy. All those pundits who warned us that the billions from the No Deal Deal would stabilize the regime will have to rethink, it seems. Most of the money goes into the accounts of the corrupt leaders. Some of it goes for Russian weapons. But the people hate this hollow regime more than ever, and they have every good reason for that. It’s a failed regime whose stability is in considerable doubt. Even the Obama administration may not be able to save it.