Iran and Iraq: New Syria?

Iran and Iraq: New Syria?

The mullah regime is now apparently relying on the fear of a Syriazation of Iran. An editorial on the first page of Tehran Tmes „A Syria Recipe for Iran“ warns the population that terrorist attacks could lead to a bloody civil war like in Syria with the perspective of a collapse and of a failed state:

“A Syria recipe for Iran

By Mehran Shamsuddin October 1, 2022 – 20:17

On Friday, the wave of unrest in Iran took a new turn when a terrorist attack rocked the southwestern province of Sistan-Baluchistan.  The terrorists attacked police stations and public properties in Zahedan after Friday prayer rituals. Hossein Modarres Khiyabani, governor-general of Sistan-Baluchistan, said 19 people were killed and 20 wounded in the clashes in Zahedan. General Seyed Hamid Reza Hashemi, the head of IRGC intelligence in the province who goes by the pseudonym of Seyed Ali Mousavi, was gunned down during the terrorist attack. 

“Those who tried to take over the police station were terrorists and these individuals went on setting fire to public properties. They plundered and set ablaze a number of chain stores belonging to the people. They also did damage banks and government institutions,” the provincial governor told IRNA. 

Protests in Iran began two weeks ago over the death in police custody of Maha Amini. Mahsa Amini collapsed as a result of a stroke suffered in the custody based on footage released by police authorities. The incident caused huge anger and sorrow in Iran, prompting the country’s highest political echelons to highlight the need to investigate the incident. Iranian President Ayatollah Seyed Ebrahim ordered an investigation into the tragic death. He also spoke to the family of Amini to offer condolences and assure them about following up on the case. 

“I learned about this incident during my trip to Uzbekistan, and I immediately ordered my colleagues to investigate the matter especially. I assure you that I will demand this issue from the responsible institutions so that its dimensions are clarified and no rights are violated,” President Raisi told the family, adding, “Your daughter is like my own daughter, and I feel that this incident happened to one of my loved ones. Please accept my condolences.”

But protest soon turned violent amid Western propaganda reminiscent of the early years of the 2010s, when Western media fanned the flames of protests in Syria and Libya in what later paved the way for the two Arab countries‘ near total destruction at the hand of transnational terrorists and Western-backed opposition groups.

Western media outlets and those based in the West have in recent weeks focused on propagating a narrative that is similar to what they did when covering early protests in Syria and Libya: Radicalizing the atmosphere through pushing forward harsh political polarizations. 

Independent analysts have raised alarm bells about the possibility of the Syrianization of Iran unrests. Ali Alizadeh, a London-based political analyst, has said that the West seeks to replicate what it did in Syria and Libya in Iran. 

Alizadeh said Western officials – like Samantha Power – who were behind the destruction of Syria and Libya are now expressing support for protests in Iran. “Exactly the same scenario and the same figures,” Alizadeh said of the similarity between the unrests in Iran the two forgoing Arab countries. 

He called on the leaders of the so-called “progressive movement” of Iran to denounce “war criminals” such as Power. “Despite all the resemblances to Libya and Syria, not a single one of this so-called progressive movement distances himself from these war criminals. Not a single one cries out that we don’t need the backing of you criminals. That’s why we say these protests are of a reactionary nature and do nothing but pave the way for imperialist interventions,” the London-based analyst said.

The warning by Alizadeh comes amid blatant incitement from Iran’s enemies. Israel is a case in point. “Protests will only succeed in toppling the Iranian regime if they explode rapidly and shake the regime to its foundations before it has time to catch its breath,” wrote the Jerusalem Post.

„Terrorists“ guided from abroad would now also promote a Syria and Libya scenario for the destruction of Iran. The masterminds were the same as before and as a string puller with continuity the former UN ambassador under Obama and current development aid minister Samantha Power is named, who should be branded as a war criminal. However, only one assassination attempt on a member of the IRGC and an attack on public property in Baluchistam are cited as evidence of the armament. The Kurdish Iranian opposition in Iraq has officially declared that it does not want to respond to the previous drone attacks by the IRGCs with attacks or military means. Are Baloch separatists behind this? What about the People’s Muddjahedin? Specifically, no suspicion is expressed. But so far, the mass protests have lacked a systematic direction. The conquest of critical infrastructure, a general strike, including in the oil industry, general armament, the capture of economic and political centers. In other words, everything that Lenin warned of as missing in his letter to the Soviet Republic revolutionaries in Munich 1018/1918 after the October revolution in Russia 1917 in order to carry out a real revolution, which is why it failed and the Jerusalem Post denies that the current mass protests have any greater chances of success. So far, with the Baloch exception, the protests still seem to be more spontaneous street fighting with the Basiji. Since a military campaign against Iran’s nuclear facilities seems to be ruled out due to the new underground facilities, regime change is probably the only option to prevent Iran becomig a nuclear power or to and establish a liberal democratic system. But whether that will happen given the current state of the movement is questionable. Otherwise it would have to be done quickly and well organized and in a coup-like manner, otherwise a new Syria could emerge. The Jerusalem Post also ran the headline:

“Why the Iranian protests will fail, at least this time – analysis

Despite heavy media coverage and excitement by Iran critics, there is almost zero chance of the protests in Iran will topple the ayatollahs.

Updated: SEPTEMBER 29, 2022 20:18

It would be great if the protests in Iran, prompted by the regime’s killing of Mahsa Amini by the morality police for not covering her hair to their standards, toppled the ayatollahs and led to a better world.

Yet, despite heavy media coverage and excitement by Iran critics, there is almost zero chance of that happening – at least at this stage.

What does this revolution lack in order to be successful?

Successful revolutions, in Iran and elsewhere, have crucial elements to them that this wave of protests is missing.

First, there is no protest leader, and most potential leaders were under house arrest long before this latest wave started.

The regime learned from the 2009 protests that it cannot grow into a revolution without coherent leadership and coordination.

Former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo told The Jerusalem Post that 2009 might have been a golden opportunity to remove the threat of the Islamic Republic’s fanatical leaders, but that the US was too haunted by its coup of Iranian leader Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953.

In that coup, the CIA and Britain’s MI6 helped remove Mosaddegh. Eventually, anger at that coup and at the US’s installed ruler, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, contributed to the Islamic Revolution and the ayatollah’s unqualified hatred of America for the last 43 years.

This held the US and others back from intervening to help the protesters 13 years ago.

The protesters lack one more thing: a clear cohesive message to unite disparate ethnic and class groups. There is the women’s rights angle, but many of those protesters’ beliefs are limited to reformers who are a minority compared to the ruling regime, or even the pragmatists, some of whom criticize the regime, but are generally against ideas favored by feminists and the West.

Even if the reformers were crafty enough to form an alliance with the pragmatists, none of these groups have key allies who can use force on their behalf.

They do not have support in the military, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is deeply intertwined with the fate of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his allies.

A revolution does not need to control all the institutions that wield force, but usually, it needs at least one highly sympathetic arm on its side.

The regime is well prepared for the demonstrations

Not only that, but the ayatollahs learned from the fall of the USSR and some other dictatorships when the professional military refused to fire on its own citizens, that another group was needed to maintain domestic order – the Basij.

There are no accurate estimates for the Basij’s manpower, but some put its numbers at one million or even millions.

Their ranks are usually filled by fanatics, hooligans or a mix of the two who have no compunction about beating or slaughtering their own people for protesting.

But we are in 2022, a time when revolutions have happened through the Internet and social media.

Iran has learned from these soft Internet revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia. With technological support from China and Russia, it has developed tools for shutting down the country’s internet and all cellphone service.

If the Internet was once a space where democracy could spread too quickly for incompetent old-school authoritarians to compete, in 2022, authoritarians have control when they need to – even using the Internet to identify protest leaders.

No insurrection has yet found a new playing field or tactic to outflank Iran, China, Russia or other authoritarian regimes since these regimes jumped ahead of democrats in their use of technology to oppress dissent.

The past does not necessarily predict the future

Next, many analysts make the mistake of looking at the protests of 1979 and earlier Iranian protest waves as a guideline for understanding the present – a point of view that would mistakenly lead to the conclusion that very long protests make revolution more likely.

Yet, after the 2009 protests, Khamenei has consistently used a playbook of temporarily showing a soft side and willingness to dialogue with protesters if they end their activities within a short period. That is followed by an unregulated brutal crackdown if the protests make it past that unspecified period of time.

Also, the longer the protests go on, the more confident the regime seems to be that it will not fall, and the more it appears ready to act in the most brutal manner possible to end them, while discounting them as being led by foreign traitors.

It seems that post-2022, protests will only succeed in toppling the Iranian regime if they explode rapidly and shake the regime to its foundations before it has time to catch its breath.

This is partly because the regime does not care how much its wider public suffers, and because the wider public has become used to unusual levels of suffering after spending most of the last decade under heavy global or Western sanctions.

All of that said, the future is not hopeless.

Khamenei has had several encounters with poor health over the last decade. When he dies, neither his son, Mojtaba, nor Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, will likely command the same loyalty of the IRGC and the clerics’ class.

A fracturing of unity in those groups could finally give those seeking to rebel the power they need to win or weaken the regime’s ability to crack down enough and allow protesters to overwhelm it.

Alternatively, the cumulative damage by periodic protests every few years could harm the economy enough or slowly turn enough key economic players against the regime to transform holes in the regime’s support into a chasm.

But like the stunning and sudden fall of the USSR in 1991, no one knows whether we are on the verge of such a game-changing moment or if the regime’s tools of oppression may be strong enough to let it hold on for some decades more before the internal rot of authoritarianism and corruption catches up with it. “

The Iranian opposition was last seen openly at their “Free Iran” alliance meeting in June 2018 in Paris, with the People’s Mujahideen, led by the headscarf-wearing wife of their deceased leader, still at the center and being Trump’s and Bolton’s hopes. I got to know the People’s Mudjahedin in the 1980s when I worked at student parliament ASTA in Munich. They always had their information stands in the halls of univeristy canteen and were very proud that they had their own armored tank troops, army and guerrilla forces and also waged an armed struggle against the mullahs both ideologically because of their “people´s  Islam” and militarily and were organized in a strict Leninist manner. Their ideology was a strange mix of Marxism and popular Islam, and one did not know exactly whether they were Marxists or disguised Islamists or a kind of Islamic theology of liberation. Most Iranians, however, remained disaffected because they fought on the side of Saddam Hussein in the Iraq-Iran war and were also supported by him afterwards. However, they would be disarmed by the US after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, although Bolton still had his protective hand over them, especially since they were still providing useful information about Iran’s nuclear program through their underground network in Iran. But in the meantime, in the opposition in exile as well as in Iran, a new generation has grown up and they are no longer so fond of popular Islam and headscarves. However, the Jerusalem Post estimates that today’s mass movement lacks precisely this conspiratorial, Leninist organizational structure to be victorious this time. But maybe next time the opposition has built up underground organizational cores that can then lead the mass struggle. Possibly, in succession struggles after the foreseeable death of the spiritual leader Khameini, insofar as he does not arrange his successor early on and in the event of succession turbulence in the case of a leader who is less popular with the clergy, insofar as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards do not stage a coup in this power vacuum and establish a kind of Islamist SS military dictatorship.

The Iranian Resistance grand gathering, Paris-June 30, 2018

Meanwhile, mass protests in Iraq in the struggle between pro-Iranian and national Iraqi forces, especially under Muktadar El Sadr, who has officially withdrawn but called for mass protests against the government. The revolutionaries in Iraq seem to be further ahead than in Iran. The protesters are already marching directly to the government seats, not only in the Green Zone of Baghdad, but also in the south. 560 dead in one day, already very violent. The role of Sadr in the future is still unclear. What does Grand Ayatollah Sistani actually say about this? The demands of the protesters are now no longer just aimed at a new government, but at a new political system that will replace the old ethnic, religious and tribal representation, which also exists in Lebanon and also leads to political and economic paralysis in Iraq. as well as exorbitant corruption. Although most of the protesters also see this as the influence of the pro-Iranian forces and the influence of Iran, which they want to eliminate – whether it is the national Islamist Muktadar El Sadr or the more secular forces up to the Communist Party of Iraq, which previously entered into an electoral alliance with Sadr. Perhaps it doesn’t take much more for a revolution or a new civil war, if this  isn’t it already in the beginning.

“Scores of Iraqis injured in anti-government protests in Baghdad

Teargas and stun grenades used by security forces as unrest over poverty and corruption flares up in the capital and other cities Reuters

Sat 1 Oct 2022 21.07 BSTLast modified on Sat 1 Oct 2022 21.26 BST 

Iraqi security forces have fired teargas and stun grenades to disperse stone-throwing protesters in clashes that wounded scores of people near Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, where hundreds marked the anniversary of anti-government unrest in 2019.

At least 86 people were wounded on Saturday, about half of them members of the security forces, and 38 protesters were hit by rubber bullets.

“Infiltrated elements” were attacking security forces with molotov cocktails and hunting rifles, Iraq’s military said.

Security personnel had deployed checkpoints across the city, closed bridges and squares, and erected walls across some of the bridges leading to the fortified Green Zone that houses government headquarters and foreign embassies.

Protesters in the square waved the Iraqi flag and chanted: “We want to overthrow the regime.”

“We took part in today’s peaceful protests because we want our demands to be met … we want security, jobs and our simple rights … we are not here to fight or shed blood,” said Laith, a young protester from Baghdad.

A few metres away, a Reuters reporter witnessed security forces firing teargas and stun grenades to disperse protesters who had tried to tear down a wall blocking the Republic Bridge leading across the Tigris to the Green Zone.

Protests also erupted in southern provinces. In the city of Nasiriya, hundreds gathered in the central Haboubi Square and many marched towards the provincial building and threw molotov cocktails.

In Diwaniya and Basra, protesters gathered in front of the provincial government building and burned tyres.

In 2019 protests erupted against then prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s government, with demonstrators demanding an overhaul of a political system they saw as profoundly corrupt and keeping most Iraqis in poverty.

More than 560 people, mostly unarmed demonstrators but also members of the security forces, were killed as Iraqi security forces and unidentified gunmen cracked down.

Mahdi quit under pressure from the protests, with the powerful Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr the biggest winner in an election last October.

In June Sadr withdrew all his lawmakers, nearly a quarter of parliament, and resorted to whipping up street protests after his movement failed to form a government, leading to some of the worst clashes the country has seen in years.

“Not this government and neither the previous one. We are against the political system in its entirety. We want drastic change. It is enough,” daily wage worker Yasser said.

Saturday’s gathering raised fears of more unrest and tension among power-hungry politicians that could further delay the formation of a government after Sadr quit politics at the end of August.

Four rockets landed in the Green Zone on Wednesday during a partial lockdown as parliament was convening, wounding seven security personnel, and another four rockets fired from eastern Baghdad landed around the zone on Thursday.“

Now that Lebanon is also at the verge to be a failed state because of the economic collapse, people’s anger could also be directed against the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, especially since the investigation of the explosion in the port of Beirut is boycotted and the Lebanese could see the Iranian mass protests as a model, Hezbollah- Secretary General Nasrallah tries to protray himself as the savior of the Lebanese fatherland. After threatening to attack Israeli gas plants in disputed sea territory, the US has now entered into negotiations with Lebanon over sea borders, which in turn Nasrallah is praisng and reducing his war rhetoric against Israel for the time being. He maybe hopes that the mass protests in Iran will vanish again, that the USA will agree to an Iran deal after a regime change has failed, that there is anger in Lebanon against Hezbollah if the pro-Iranian Islamists rejected a possible agreement on the sea borders, which will also pave the way for gas supplies to Lebanon. The Jerusalem Post also believes that Nasrallah would think twice before proceeding against Israel, since Israel has had quite successful operations in Gaza and could launch them at any time against Hezbollah.

“Hezbollah’s Nasrallah: US border demarcation offer ‚very important step‘

The US mediator to Lebanon on Saturday sent a maritime border demarcation proposal to President Michel Aoun and the caretaker government.


Published: OCTOBER 1, 2022 17:57

Updated: OCTOBER 1, 2022 19:46

 A LARGE poster depicting Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is on display in the town of Yaroun, southern Lebanon, this past week. After the just-completed Israeli operation in Gaza, Nasrallah may think twice before starting hostilities, says the writer. (photo credit: AZIZ TAHER/REUTERS)

A LARGE poster depicting Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is on display in the town of Yaroun, southern Lebanon, this past week. After the just-completed Israeli operation in Gaza, Nasrallah may think twice before starting hostilities, says the writer.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech on Saturday in which he responded to the Lebanese government negotiating a maritime demarcation line with Israel.

He refrained from making threats toward Israel in his speech, a departure from previous addresses the Hezbollah leader has made. This means that Hezbollah appears to be toning down the rhetoric. Hezbollah’s allies in Iran are currently facing an unprecedented wave of protest.

Nasrallah said that the “maritime border demarcation file has reached a decisive stage in light of the mediator’s letter.” He said that „Hezbollah supports the Lebanese state regarding the talks with the US mediator….Maritime victory is the fruit of the national solidarity and will help Lebanon cope with an economic crisis.”

„Hezbollah supports the Lebanese state regarding the talks with the US mediator….Maritime victory is the fruit of the national solidarity and will help Lebanon cope with an economic crisis.”

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah

The US mediator to Lebanon on Saturday sent a maritime border demarcation proposal to President Michel Aoun and the caretaker government. The US has been trying to help with a maritime demarcation deal for more than a year. 

Amos Hochstein, a senior adviser for energy security at the US State Department has been working on this issue and has made trips to Lebanon and met with Lebanese officials.

However, Hezbollah has accused Hochstein of being biased and Hezbollah has threatened gas rigs and energy fields off the coast of Israel.  

During his speech, Nasrallah took a more judicious view of the maritime border talks than he had in the past, saying that they appear to be reaching a “positive outcome thanks to dialogue” between the US and Lebanon, although he did not make any mention of Israel’s role in the negotiations.

Nasrallah indicates that the full picture will become clear in the coming days. He also mentioned Lebanon’s continued failure to form a government.

Pro-Iranian elements

Lebanon, like Iraq, has a strong pro-Iranian element and neither country now has a functioning government. Iran is also facing protests; meaning that several states where Iran has a role are all on the verge of chaos.  

Nasrallah said that „the last parliament session proved that whoever wants to elect a president of the republic must move away from the logic of defiance in favor of consultation,“ adding that „time is running out with regard to forming a government.“

Nasrallah also condemned people migrating from Lebanon to Cyprus, referring to a recent case where migrants died. “Migrating in death boats is like a crime,“ he said, calling for „a serious judicial investigation into death boats.“ 

He then went on to accuse the US of creating ISIS. „ISIS was made by America, and the one who is still protecting it and facilitating its financing and the transfer of additional numbers to it is the American intelligence services.”

He weaved together a conspiracy in which he mentioned ISIS and other elements that have sought to undermine Iran’s regime.

He also referenced recent “rumors” about Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It was not clear if he was referring to rumors that the leader is in ill health or that some clergy in Iran are displeased with the leadership. Hezbollah needs support from Iran and he is concerned about the protests.

He claims that people in the region are “inciting” against Iran, blaming the US and Gulf states for stirring up protests in Iran. 

Nasrallah explained that „the Islamic Republic does not want anything from the countries of the region and does not have any ambitions in Iraq’s oil,“ wondering „how can the Iraqis forget Iran’s stance and open its weapons and money stores to defend Iraq against ISIS?“

This was an apparent reference to current tensions in Baghdad where people are angry at pro-Iran parties stealing Iraq’s wealth. „If there was no Islamic Republic, where would Iraq and Lebanon be today; and what dark and bleak era would we have entered in our region,” he said.

He also mentioned the Russian invasion of Ukraine and increased tensions between Russia and the US. He predicted the US did not want to fight Russia.

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