As Tehran’s Crackdowns Fail, Regime Change in Iran Appears Increasingly Inevitable

Iran’s nationwide uprising is now entering its fourth month. It shows no signs of abating despite the Iranian regime repeatedly accelerating its efforts to crack down on dissent, ever since the first demonstrations erupted after Mahsa Amini was arrested and fatally beaten by morality police in mid-September for allegedly violating the country’s Islamic dress code.

The regime’s latest escalation took place earlier this month when Mohsen Shekari became the first protester to be executed, followed shortly by Majidreza Rahnavard who was hanged from a crane in public as a warning to others. That warning was reinforced by state media, which published the names of around two dozen others for whom death sentences were either pending or already handed down.

The charges in question are vague in virtually every case. Shekari and Rahnavard were each accused of “enmity against God,” a capital crime in the Islamic Republic. The underlying case against Shekari alleged only that he had wounded a security guard, and although Rahnavard was accused of killing two members of the Basij militia, there is no indication that either man’s conviction was based on anything other than forced confessions, likely elicited by torture.

Among the pending executions the authorities have acknowledged, several stem from protesters simply blocking roadways. This is among the most prevalent acts of defiance in the ongoing uprising, and its newfound association with the death penalty is clearly intended to terrorize the public. Yet, far from shrinking away from this association, protesters appear to be confronting it head-on.

In recent days, photographs and video have gone viral on Iranian social media which show a woman carrying out a mock hanging of herself in Mashhad, the same city where Rahnavard was executed the prior Monday. The gender of that protester recalls attention to the female leadership that has been evident in this uprising since its beginning and has set it apart from a number of other uprisings that have broken out in recent years.

The role of women is made all the more remarkable by the fact that it includes teenage girls refusing to wear their hijabs in school, repelling government authorities who invaded campuses to plead for compliance, and destroying images of the clerical regime’s founder and its current supreme leader, the display of which is mandated in classrooms.

Naturally, university campuses have also been hotbeds of protest over the past three months, with every institution becoming involved at one time or another, and some being subjected to brutal government crackdowns and mass arrests. Similar crackdowns have taken place much more out in the open in the streets of major cities, while the breadth of student participation reflects the overall diversity of the uprising as a whole.

According to information gathered by the leading pro-democracy opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), residents of nearly 300 cities and towns have become active in the protest movement, spanning all 31 Iranian provinces. Every major ethnic and religious group has been unified behind slogans like “death to the dictator” which convey the public’s demand for the ouster of the entire ruling system. That unity also spans social classes and includes three distinct generations, including the 2010s generation, which corresponds to a time when illicit access to unfiltered internet and foreign media was becoming prevalent throughout the Islamic Republic.

Young Iranians have grown up with a strong awareness of what life can be like under a democratic system with ingrained civic freedoms.

 This has naturally amplified the contempt for religious dictatorship which has been evident among the public since the immediate aftermath of the 1979 revolution. Over the course of four decades, the divide between the people and the ruling elite has become so wide that it can no longer be bridged. The current uprising is the clearest proof of that.

Nevertheless, the mullahs seem to be living in a different world and cannot come to grips with the fact that the overwhelming majority of Iranians want them overthrown. This is strange, since a prior uprising in January 2018 prompted no less an authority than Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to acknowledge that Iranian citizens were increasingly lining up behind the People’s Mojahedin in order to challenge the theocratic system.

Khamenei was correct about the MEK’s role in that uprising, and its role in the push for regime change has only strengthened since then. The current uprising’s slogans and the people’s organized defiance of violent repression reflect the growing influence of that organization’s “Resistance Units,” which began taking shape in 2014 and grew their membership by a factor of five between the summer of 2021 and this year.

Just as there is no reason to suppose that the uprising will recede, there is no reason to suppose that the organized Resistance movement will not continue to grow, both at home and abroad. Dozens of Western lawmakers and former senior officials, in the U.S.Canadathe United KingdomBelgiumItaly, and Ireland among others, have expressed support for that movement, identifying National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) as the most viable alternative to Iran’s theocratic dictatorship.

That dictatorship is clearly on its way out. The Iranian people will see to it. But the international community can help to hasten that outcome by going beyond mere condemnation of the clerical regime and taking concrete steps to isolate and weaken it at the outset of a fourth month of domestic unrest.

‘Credible’ Iranian death threats against individuals in Canada being investigated: Canadian intelligence

RIYADH: The Canadian intelligence service said on Friday that it is investigating death threats from Iran against individuals inside Canada, according to the agency.

“CSIS is actively investigating several threats to life emanating from the Islamic Republic of Iran based on credible intelligence,” said Eric Balsam, spokesman for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

“Ultimately, these hostile activities and foreign interference undermine the security of Canada and Canadians, as well as our democratic values and sovereignty.”

It is the first time the service has confirmed that multiple investigations described as “lethal threats to Canadians and people located in Canada” were coming from Iran, CBC News reported.

On Wednesday, Canada sanctioned Iran for the fifth time this year, targeting individuals responsible for human rights abuses and entities supporting the supply of drones to Russia for its war in Ukraine. The sanctioned company, Shahed Aviation, produces drones that have been used against civilians and infrastructure in Ukraine, said Canada’s foreign ministry. The US also imposed sanctions on the company on Tuesday.

UK intelligence said this week that there had been at least ten threats by Iran to harm or kidnap British or UK-based individuals since the start of the year.

Ken McCallum, director general of MI5, the UK’s domestic security agency, said that Iran’s “aggressive intelligence services” were projecting a threat to the UK.

“The current wave of protests in Iran is asking fundamental questions of the totalitarian regime,” McCallum said. “This could signal profound change, but the trajectory is uncertain.”

The British foreign secretary, James Cleverly, summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires last week after journalists working in the UK “were subject to immediate threats to life from Iran.”

The regime in Iran has been cracking down violently against citizens after protests erupted in the country following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini at the hands of religious police in September. At least 360 people have died, including more than 50 children, as a result of demonstrations against the country’s rulers.

During a Mid East trip this weekend, Cleverly is expected to highlight Iran’s danger to the region and beyond.

“Iranian-supplied weapons threaten the entire region. Today Iran’s nuclear program is more advanced than ever before, and the regime has resorted to selling Russia the armed drones that are killing civilians in Ukraine,” he is expected to say at a security conference in Bahrain on Saturday.

Iran has plotted high-profile assassinations, but without success. The US revealed in August that John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, both senior officials under the Donald Trump administration, had been targets of the regime.

Saudi State Minister Adel Al-Jubeir was also in the crosshairs of Iranian spies, who planned to kill him at a Washington DC restaurant while he was serving as the Kingdom’s ambassador to the US. Iran’s $1.5 million contract to kill him was traced by US authorities, and Iranian US dual national Mansour Arbabsiar was arrested.

US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley told CBC, in an interview to be aired on Sunday: “We know there’s been active plotting against Americans, former and current officials. And that’s something that we have been absolutely resolute in saying, that regardless of any differences that we may have among Americans, one thing where we stand together is in defending any American — official, non-official, in uniform, out of uniform.”

(With input from AFP)