What the Iranian regime learned from its revolution

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Abu Dhabi

The recent wave of protests in Iran is perhaps one of the longest-standing challenges the Islamic Republic has faced in recent years.

Over the past two months, the government has cracked down on protesters, resulting in at least 326 deaths, according to Iran Human Rights, a Norway-based NGO. More than 1,000 charges have been brought in connection with the protests. On Sunday, an Iranian court handed down the first death sentence to a protester convicted of “enmity against God” and “spreading corruption on earth” for allegedly setting a government building on fire.

So far, the system remains intact with no signs of cracking in its foundations.

Analysts say Iran’s security apparatus has not always been sophisticated in quelling uprisings. The Islamic Republic itself was the product of a revolution, which seems to be applying its lessons today.

During that revolution, in 1979, the security apparatus was “highly cohesive but extremely overburdened,” says Trita Parsi, vice president of the Quincy Institute in Washington, D.C.

Analysts say the former Iranian regime, which was ruled by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, mainly relied on its powerful army to contain the uprising that eventually led to his downfall. The military ultimately failed to contain the protests.

Afshon Ostovar, associate professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, said one of the main factors that led to the success of the 1979 revolution was the military’s declaration of neutrality. That was the final blow to the Shah’s prime minister.

On February 11, 1979, the Shah’s last prime minister, Shahpour Bakhtiar, resigned after the Iranian army refused to quell the protests, and called on its forces to return “to prevent further bloodshed and chaos,” the New York Times reported at the time. It was a revolutionary victory for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shiite cleric who led the new regime.

Analysts say it was an overreliance on a single security force that contributed to the overthrow of the Shah, and rulers in Tehran are worried about making the same mistake.

The establishment of the Revolutionary Guards as a security institution parallel to the national army was primarily intended to protect the revolutionary regime and its leaders, thus preventing the army from amassing too much power. Today, it is seen as a deep state that is a force more powerful than the military and has a vast trading empire that plays a vital role in the country’s economy.

“The [current Iranian] The regime knows that it was the declaration of neutrality by the army in 1979 that allowed the revolution to succeed,” Ostovar said. They also know that the deadly actions ignited the protests.

The violence in Iran today reminds us of the months before the 1979 revolution. Parsi says the uprising was not peaceful either.

“In the run up to the victory [1979] He said that the revolution and the funerals of those killed by the Shah’s forces – as well as the ceremonies of the fortieth day after their death – often turned into new demonstrations in which more people were killed. “This led to a downward spiral in which the Shah’s forces literally killed protesters.”

Today, a similar cycle is taking place in the streets of Iranian cities, but this time it is not the army but the police and their many specialized units that are cracking down on protesters. The numerous security units tasked with suppressing dissent are mitigating the potential impact of defecting from any one force.

The Law Enforcement Command is the umbrella police body whose head is directly appointed by the Supreme Leader. It has been “the main force behind government repression and has grown in importance since 2009,” when the country faced another major protest movement, Sanam Wakil, a senior research fellow in the Middle East and North Africa program at think-tank Chatham House in London. It was “restructured at the beginning of this year, possibly reflecting the government’s concerns about the possibility of protests,” she said.

Under it lies riot police, who, according to an agent, are not intended to use lethal force and are more involved in crowd dispersal.

“The police are doing the lion’s share of counter-protest operations,” Ostovar said. He added, “But we have seen officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on the ground as well, and it is possible that elements in civilian clothes will come from the Basij, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ intelligence, the Ministry of Intelligence, or the police.”

The Basij is an Iranian volunteer paramilitary group that reports to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It is deeply loyal to Iran’s hard-line leadership and is often used to quell protests. Its members often wear civilian clothes and tend to be violent, according to an agent.

With so many different security groups overseeing the campaign, it makes it difficult for any single organization to muster power and turn against the Islamic Republic. As in 1979, today’s crackdown is violent, but the security forces have yet to turn against the government.

We do not see the degree and type of defections required to jeopardize the survival of the regime. But that could change,” said Parsi. “Unfortunately, [the violence] It is likely to get worse. It is possible that the full capacity to suppress the system has not yet been seen.”

Turkey blames Kurdish militants for Istanbul bombing

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Monday that officials believed Kurdish separatists from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Syria-based Democratic Union Party (PYD) were most likely behind the deadly explosion that rocked Istanbul on Sunday. Soylu did not say how the investigators came to this conclusion.

  • backgroundSix Turkish citizens were killed in the attack. No group has claimed responsibility. The explosion occurred on Istiklal Street, a popular spot for shoppers and tourists, as the tram line runs along it. The area in the Beyoglu district of Turkey’s largest city was crowded as usual on the weekend.
  • why does it matter: Turkey’s conflict with Kurdish separatist groups spanned four decades and claimed tens of thousands of lives. The PKK has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, but the PYD has received support from some Western countries, which Turkey strongly condemned.

Bahrain praises the turnout in the elections and human rights groups criticize the “oppressive” climate

Bahrain said voter turnout exceeded 70% in Saturday’s general elections that rights groups criticized as taking place in a climate of “political repression” after the Gulf state dissolved major opposition groups and crushed dissent, Reuters reported.

  • backgroundBahrain, which crushed a 2011 largely Shiite-led anti-government uprising, accuses Iran of fomenting unrest in the kingdom where bomb attacks have targeted security forces. Tehran denies these allegations. Shiites have long complained of discrimination in the search for government jobs and services in the country, a charge the authorities reject.
  • why does it matter: Ahead of the elections, human rights group Amnesty International criticized “extremely restrictive measures” barring members of banned opposition groups and those who have served prison terms longer than six months. “Conducting these general elections will not remedy the atmosphere of oppression and deprivation of human rights that has prevailed in Bahrain for years,” she said in a statement.

Saudi minister says trade and security on agenda for Xi’s visit

Reuters quoted Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir as saying on Saturday that strengthening trade relations and regional security will be priorities in an upcoming visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping to Saudi Arabia.

  • background: Chinese officials have not commented on the timetable and no date has been announced yet. The Chinese president has made quite a few overseas trips since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • why does it matter: The visit comes at a time of strained relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States due to a dispute over oil supplies, and amid American concerns about the growing cooperation between the Arab Gulf states and China.

Mehran Karimi Nasseri, the Iranian man who lived inside Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport for years and inspired Steven Spielberg’s 2004 film “The Terminal,” died Saturday at the same airport, an airport spokesperson told CNN.

The airport medical team in Terminal 2F announced Nasseri’s death. According to the spokesman, he “has returned to live as a homeless person in the general area of ​​the airport since mid-September, after staying in a nursing home.”

The spokesman said Nasseri died of natural causes.

Nasseri, an Iranian refugee, was on his way to England via Belgium and France in 1988 when he lost his papers and was unable to board a plane or leave the airport until 2006.

While Tom Hanks memorialized Nasseri’s story inside the airport in the movie “Terminal”, an airport spokesperson noted that: “Spielberg’s movie indicates that he was stuck in a transit area in Paris by Charles de Gaulle. In fact, he spent several stays there, but always at The public area of ​​the airport, he was always free to move around.”

The spokesperson added that Nasseri was a “prominent figure” at the airport and that “the entire airport community was attached to him, and our staff took care of him as much as possible over many years, even if we would have preferred him to find real shelter.”

By Saskia Vandoorne and Maya Ellinger

An Iraqi woman takes a picture of herself holding a snake at the Baghdad Zoo on Friday during an event aimed at introducing people to snakes and other crawling animals.

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