“Preservation of Nezam (‘the system’) is a momentous obligation”, said the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini.
With these words, he set out the regime’s overarching policy, a necessity that is to be preserved at the expense of all else.
In practice, this has meant supporting Shia armed groups across the Middle East and a heavy dose of domestic oppression, mainly through issuing death sentences against dissidents.
Now, however, President Trump’s maximum pressure campaign is putting this system under severe strain.
It is achieving its aims in curbing some of Iran’s regional disruption through militias in Iraq and limiting the degree to which it can help finance the Houthi rebels in the Yemen.
The killing of the leader of the Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, in January, was a bitter blow to the regime’s morale. And Israeli strikes at nuclear facilities inside the country have damaged the regime’s prestige as well as its infrastructure.
When this is added to the pressure from US economic sanctions, the regime is in a weak position in Iranian society.
This position raises big questions among the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and among other hardline forces within the regime about the future of the system as it is currently constituted.
Amid all these ups and downs, the regime faces a significant challenge at home. Before Iran’s parliamentary election in March, I wrote for Radio Free Europe that the election was a prelude to tightening repression in the country.
I explained that the regime loathed domestically by many, riddled with corruption, moribund and incapable of finding real solutions to people’s concerns. Under these circumstances, ruthless oppression is the only option left. domestic repression
But increasing the number of executions, arresting activists, and aiming to intimidate people will become counterproductive in the long run.
In a rare show of unity among all Iranians, the hashtag “Don’t Execute” in Farsi trended worldwide, gaining about five millions tweets and retweets.
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