At the moment, the German media doesn’t inform very much about the current status of the mass protests in Iran. On the one hand due to the increasing censorship of the Ayatollah regime. The Tehran Times prefers to report on civil war scenarios in the USA as a result of the midterm elections, mass protests in the UK, Germany, on the anniversary of the storming of the American embassy in Tehran, and the Revolutionary Guards demanding revenge for the assassination of their former leader Solemeini on the front page. On the other hand, apparently also due to the waning interest of German politicians and the public, who, despite all the rhetoric of solidarity, seem to prefer to hold back and wait and see. Today’s Jungle World describes this as follows and evaluates it as a kind of betrayal of the revolution by the appeasement West:
The protests in Germany against the Iranian regime Unlimited resistance
In Germany, some are worried about what will happen if the Iranian regime should fall. The opposition is often said to be disorganized and divided, and the threat is even worse than under the mullahs‘ regime.
By Danval Casar
Heavy confrontations between the regime and the insurgents have been going on in Iran for a month and a half now. Even the Foreign Office, which has so far sat out every crisis in the Islamic Republic, is now saying that „there can be no ‚business as usual'“. The days when the Islamofascist regime in Iran was solemnly told that it would become a „stabilizing factor in the region“ (Sigmar Gabriel) seem to be over for the time being. But the oath of „critical dialogue,“ which has been unbroken since the early 1980s, lives on these days in the warnings that the end of the Islamic Republic is threatened by an even more devastating catastrophe.
In the FAZ, Rainer Hermann predicted „an axis of failed or failing states“ if the regime were to fall. In doing so, he is not only ignoring the responsibility of the Islamic Republic for the Syrian catastrophe. Rather, with such murmurings, he mocks those Iraqi youth who, for years, have been resisting the Khomeinist infiltration of Iraq, the everyday constraints of virtue terrorists and the booty economy of the Shia militias under threat of death. „Unlike in 1979,“ Hermann can see „an organized opposition“ neither in Iran nor in the diaspora. It remains a mystery to him what could follow from the Khomeinist despotism other than „an implosion“ of Iran.
Charlotte Wiedemann can’t see any such opposition in the Taz „that could take responsibility in Tehran if the current system implodes.“ She was filled with anxiety, Iran was moving „towards either a military dictatorship or the collapse of the state.“ The rumors of an impending military dictatorship belie the fact that the „Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution,“ the Revolutionary Guard, has long been the central racket in this Islamofascist dummy republic. In the arid provinces of Iran, in Khuzestan for example, it is known as the „water mafia,“ elsewhere it is scornfully called, as in a popular revolutionary slogan, „our Islamic State.“ Above all, such whisperings deny and mock the efforts that Iran has been making for years to resist the state beast. Under enormous repression, the enemies of the regime managed again and again to associate and to take to the streets in various provinces of Iran under the same slogans and to oppose the regime head-on for days.
The uprisings, which had already had a revolutionary character in previous years, did not fail because of disorganization. They have been mercilessly crushed by the militarized repressive machinery, as in November 2019 when hundreds of insurgents were murdered. In those days, the ARD correspondent Karin Senz criticized the US government’s solidarity greetings in the „Tagesschau“ because they contributed to the escalation. Rather, she recommended leaving the regime’s enemies alone with their murderers, thinking of them and sympathizing with them, but persevering in silence. According to Senz, Europe must concentrate primarily on bringing to bear the regime’s blackmail, which is written down as a treaty, to reduce uranium enrichment against business. This requires “great diplomats”.
For years, protests in Iran have been organized via clandestine but widely ramified structures. Ruhollah Zam, for example, founded the Telegram channel Amad News from exile in France, which became a mass medium in Iran during the heavy street confrontations in December 2017 and January 2018. Later, on a trip to Iraq, Zam was taken by surprise by regime henchmen, taken to Iran and executed there. Recently, on the 40th anniversary of Jina Amini’s death, people in all Iranian provinces confronted the repressive machinery with barricades and the slogans „Woman, life, freedom“ and „Death to the dictator“. Anyone who cannot see an organized front here does not want to see it. Those German Iran experts who call for a state collapse apparently have more trust in a despotism that conjures up the annihilation of Israel as its most sacred purpose than in the insurgents, who do not want this. Their slogans are more concrete than all the clichés from German politics: »The regime says America is our enemy, but it lies, the regime itself is our enemy.« They shout »Death to Hezbollah« and refuse to fly the Israeli flag to trample, which the regime smears on the concrete in order to demonstratively triumph over the „Zionist entity“.
The regime also pursues its enemies in Europe. In 1989, Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, the chairman of the Kurdistan-Iran Democratic Party, denounced by Khomeini as the “party of the devil”, was murdered in Vienna; 1992 in Berlin his successor Sadegh Sharafkandi and the party comrades Fattah Abdoli and Homayoun Ardalan. The organizer of these so-called Mykonos murders, Kazem Darabi, previously controlled a relevant mosque in Berlin for years; under the eyes of German authorities, he could threaten exiled Iranians with impunity. For a long time, the federal government at the time pursued a strategy of silence in order to cover up the chain of command of the assassination order, which began with Ali Khamenei, and not to endanger German business with Iran. During the trial, witnesses also testified that Darabi had come to the Islamic Center Hamburg (IZH) for talks.
In Hamburg, exiled Iranians have been protesting against the IZH for years – some have accused them of an „anti-Muslim“ campaign for this reason. A few years ago, the protest meetings were dominated by those Iranians in exile who were born before 1979. There are now many young people who fled Iran just a few years ago. One of them is Saeid Karkhane, who has helped organize many of the protests in Hamburg in recent weeks. According to the 28-year-old Karkhane, it was calculated that on some days different, partly parallel meetings were called. Some want to be in front of the Iranian consulate general, others in front of the IZH. Karkhane and his friends protest almost every day in downtown Hamburg, where the number of passers-by is much higher. They have agreed that flags are tolerated, but personality cults are forbidden. Only occasionally have there been scuffles with some monarchists who, contrary to the agreement, provoked the portrait of the Shah, who fled Iran in 1979. Incidentally, the former national flag with lion and sun is not only seen as the national flag of Iran by monarchists, many republicans also recognize it as such. Karkhane and his friends modified the national flag, without the lion and sun, but with the stylized inscription „Woman, Life, Freedom“. Kurds are also very present at the protests in Hamburg, many of them with the Ala Rengîn, the flag of Kurdistan. The slogan „Woman, life, freedom“ is originally Kurdish, „Jin, jiyan, azadî“. The confrontations with the regime are most intense in the Kurdish part of the country. The Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran, for example, is in favor of an autonomous Kurdistan within a federal Iran.
According to Karkhane, some conflicts among the Iranians in exile are „rather personal“ and tire him a lot: „In exile we have the option of being separated, but not in Iran.“ Of course, there are different opinions about the form of government in a liberated Iran. There is agreement that everyone wants a secular community and equality between women and men. According to Karkhane, the central slogan „Woman, life, freedom“ shook the regime and sharpened its own consciousness. German flirtation with the uncertainty of what will follow Khomeinist despotism is unsettling to Karkhane. The Islamic Republic has pursued the expansion of its terrorist machine since 1979. The fall of the regime would be a promise of freedom far beyond Iran’s borders. An end to the regime could help the Lebanese and Iraqi youth in their efforts to free themselves from the tyranny of the local militias. It would also force the Palestinian parties to choose a path other than militant frenzy.
Karkhane is an anarchist, he began reading Albert Camus, George Orwell and Emma Goldman while still in Iran, and is interested in the ideas of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria. But he insists strenuously on the difference between bourgeois states and the „cannibalistic regimes,“ as he calls the Islamic Republic and also Russia: „If we don’t recognize this difference, our further efforts will no longer make sense.“ The regime’s ideological zeal to massify the population into a »single party of Allah« (Khomeini) has failed. From childhood it teaches them about „Satan great and small“ and that the most sacred intention is the destruction of Israel, „but through satellite dishes and VPN we see every day that the people there live much more freely than we do“. In the meantime, even younger people have accumulated an even more violent contempt for the virtue-terrorist regime than in his own generation.
The tenor of the article is correct, but as always there is no brief analysis of the most important parties and groups in the Iranian opposition to answer the question of organization or to make the argument for it. Although one cannot reveal all supposed clandestine channels, one can name the most important official representatives, their number of members, their political positions and also the question of the extent to which the supposed spark of revolution has now been massively organized and passed over to the working class and the bazaar traders and business circles of the middle class or not as this will be crucial. As far as the role of the working class is concerned, one does not seem particularly optimistic in the USA, at least in Foreign Policy:
“Why Won’t the Workers of Iran Unite?
Unlike in 1979, much of the Iranian working class is precariously employed—and they have more to lose than their chains by joining the protests.
Instead, as a star witness at Jungle World, an anarchist, a lot of mentioning minority and Kurdish resistance , including some Rojava romance of northern Syria and that was it. Quod est demonstrandum? Not even anything about the National Council of Resistance of Iran, People’s Muddjahedeen and other important groups. The Iranian opposition movement claims that these are not just mass protests with reformist demands as before, but that a revolution is imminent and that people are well organized. But not only notorious (German) Iran understanders, but even the Israeli Jerusalem Post doubts that and only believes in a revolution the next time – after the death of Khameini. The main reasons are seen in the disorganization of the movement and the Biden-USA hope for an Iran deal, as well as the unanswered question of how to prevent a massacre and a Chinese style crackdown by the Revolutionary Guards. In its latest article, US Foreign Policy points out that the Revolutionary Guards will not simply give up and that this will be a central question should the mass movement reach a tipping point and become organized. There is ambivalence when assessing the movement’s chances of success:
“Change in Iran? Expert convinced: Revolutionary Guards will never give up
(…) The IRGC is a powerful military force and the bedrock of internal order in the Islamic Republic. She oversees the regime’s security and is the most influential voice in the country’s strategic decisions alongside Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This role has made them the main mechanism for the system of oppression in the country. In previous political unrest, such as the 1999 student protests and the mass demonstrations following the 2009 presidential election, the IRGC and its volunteer militia, the Basij, used brute force, arrests and torture against protesters. In the protests between late 2018 and into 2020, the IRGC resumed that role, but its tactics escalated in some locations to a fully militarized response, using edged weapons and armored vehicles to kill protesters on a much larger scale than previous crackdowns. In the southwestern city of Mahshahr alone, the IRGC killed an estimated 180 mostly young protesters over four days in November 2019, with many of the victims being indiscriminately fired upon by troops armed with automatic rifles as they sought refuge in a nearby swampy area. Similar operations took place across the country to prevent the widespread protest movement from escalating into an outright rebellion.
The deadly effectiveness of these tactics was deliberate and a direct response to the threat the protests posed to the regime. In contrast to the pro-reform demonstrations of 1999 and 2009, the protests since 2018, including the current one, have been clearly anti-regime. The protesters use slogans and carry out actions openly rejecting the Islamic Revolution and all that it stands for. With actions such as the removal of headscarves, crowds chanting „Death to the Dictator“ and the torching of placards bearing the image of Qassem Suleimani (the late IRGC field commander who led the regime’s support forces for foreign terrorist groups), protesters fired veritable arrows aimed directly at the central identity of the Islamic Republic.
Protests in Iran: Revolutionary Guard fully identifies with ideology of Islamic regime
This attack is tantamount to an attack on the IRGC, because the Revolutionary Guards closely identify with the ideology of the Islamic regime. The 1979 military was above all a national military, more committed to Iran as a sovereign country than to the Crown. The Islamic Republic has cultivated a very different type of security architecture. At the top is the IRGC, which, as the name „Revolutionary Guard“ suggests, was created to protect the Islamic Revolution, not Iran. For the IRGC, revolution is synonymous with Iran’s theocratic system, headed by the Supreme Leader. In addition, there is a network of foreign militant groups allied with the Supreme Leader, the so-called „Resistance Front,“ which Iran is using to expand its political influence throughout the Middle East. Although the IRGC has at times attempted to give its foreign operations an air of patriotism, the organization is not involved in regional conflicts for the sake of Iran’s national interests, but rather to spread the Islamic revolution and export its particular brand of political ideology .
The loyalty of the IRGC is not tied to Iran or geographical borders. The political entity it serves is country agnostic and is primarily defined by position of the supreme leader. For this reason, the IRGC considers the current protests and previous protests of recent years, which expressed clearly anti-theocratic demands, to be far more dangerous than previous riots. By challenging the Islamic system, the protesters are challenging the IRGC’s raison d’être. The IRGC cannot exist under a form of government that is no longer defined by the Islamic Revolution. If the current order is lifted, there will be no place for the IRGC. As with the other Iranian armed forces, the top commanders of the IRGC are handpicked by the Supreme Leader based on their loyalty to him. She and the other senior military and police commanders owe the Supreme Leader their place in society and all they have gained from the regime’s rampant corruption. Should the Supreme Leader fall, all will fall with him.
It is therefore not to be expected that the Revolutionary Guard will give in to the demonstrators or even side with them. The IRGC’s loyalty is to the Islamic Republic and it will oppose any opponents of that system at any cost, even if the Iranian people suffer as a result. Should it be deemed necessary, and should the Supreme Leader request it, the IRGC will not hesitate to order its troops to use as much force as necessary to eliminate the threat posed by the demonstrations. Violent military counter-protests are already taking place in parts of Iran, most notably in Sanandaj, Mahsa Amini’s hometown, and are likely to increase as the protests continue. Despite this willingness and determination on the part of the IRGC, the current protests pose an unprecedented challenge for the regime cheered on young women whose most revolutionary act was simply to bar their hair. Iranian security forces have beaten and killed scores of women protesters to force people to return to their homes, but it hasn’t worked. The level of violence needed to contain this wave of fearless youth is likely to be greater than the regime is currently willing to risk. Iran protests: In order to win, the regime must wage a war against young women and girls
Two things are at stake for the regime, both domestic and foreign. On the international front, Iran’s leaders need to consider the impact and possible consequences of crushing a popular movement for gender equality. The greater concern, however, is the deepening of the crisis at home. As more people are killed by the regime’s forces, anti-regime sentiment hardens and the young generation becomes more radicalized. The more violence is demanded of low-ranking soldiers against their fellow citizens, the more likely it is that those soldiers‘ resolve will falter. The top management of the Iranian security forces has benefited from the current system, but not the rank and file. Their risk calculations are entirely different from those of their commanders, and their loyalty to the system is all the more vulnerable and tested the more they are asked to murder and maim in the supreme leader’s name. The Islamic Republic has no qualms about killing its own people, as evidenced by its long history of oppression. But when the enemy is one’s own daughter, niece, sister or cousin, no one can escape the reality of the situation. To win, the regime must wage a war against young women and teenage girls. This is a war that can hardly be won. And the regime probably knows that, too. (Ajshon Ostovar)
Afshon Ostovar is Associate Professor of National Security Studies at the Naval Postgraduate School and author of Vanguard of the Imam: Religion, Politics, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Twitter: @AOstovar This article first appeared in English in ForeignPolicy.com magazine on October 18, 2022 https://www.fr.de/politik/iran-proteste-mahsa-amini-revolution-frauen-kopftuch-regime-Sicherheitskraefte-revolutionsgarde-zr-91889510.html
While Biden has now issued a short statement on Iran’s liberation, the US and G7 remain reluctant to implement truly drastic economic and political sanctions on Iran, which could be the tipping point. Instead, a few more symbolic frozen accounts and European shopping bans for morality police and the intended removal of Iran from the UN Women’s Rights Council, which won´t impress Chameini very much. Arming the opposition beyond the construction of Molotov cocktails does not appear to be planned either. It is correct to point out that Iran is an instability factor that is fueling and contributing to the civil wars in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. It is interesting anyway that the American and German sides see Saudi Arabia as a disruptive factor rather than Iran (not just Gabriel) At first glance, it also seems logical that if the Iranian regime were to collapse, the balance of power in Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen and Syria would also change, as could the question of Iran becoming a nuclear power. Conversely, however, this is also no guarantee against the collapse of a state, since there could then be a kind of showdown with an uncertain outcome, perhaps a long civil war and waves of refugees, and the beacon of democracy that had already been hoped for during the Iraq war, as already invoked, could develop into a source of new darkness that could not only further destabilize the Middle East, but could also destabilize the already shaky West and Europe by means of waves of refugees and energy prices. In addition, apart from Iran, there are other Islamists in the Middle East who are supported by Saudi Arabia, Erdogan and Qatar, although not in Iran. After the neocon liberation war in Iraq in 2003 and its disastrous consequences, at least in Germany, and even partly in the USA the decision makers don´t seem to take any risks and maybe perceive the Islamic Republ as the minor instability factor than a potential failed state. In addition, China has also recently become an option for Iran, see also new membership in the SCO. Nevertheless, the only thing left for the current revolutionary mass movement is to flee forward and rely on the uncertain hope of Western support. As former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once said, „There are known knowns, unknowns knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns“. In any case, the Iranian revolutionaries do not have the luxury of theoretical academic analyzes behind their desks, but only the hope that every mass movement and revolution also has an exponential mass dynamic and its own dynamics, which can quickly change the balance of power to one side or the other.