As Michael Rubin noted yesterday, the unrest in Iran yesterday shows that the people of that country are not so foolish as to believe their troubles are the result of anything but the Islamist regime’s economic mismanagement. The turmoil in Tehran reinforces their dissatisfaction with Iran’s plight under the rule of the mullahs and front men like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But the latest clashes in Tehran as security forces sought to break up black market moneychangers must also not be interpreted as a sign that the fall of the regime is imminent.
Sanctions have caused a good deal of pain for the Iranian people, but as was demonstrated clearly in 2009, the Islamist government has no compunction about the use of force to protect their survival. This is a lesson that those who have been predicting the collapse of the government in Syria haven’t learned despite the demonstrated resiliency of that Iranian ally over the last year and a half. But while it is principally the Syrian people who have suffered because of the false Western belief that Bashar Assad would quickly fall without any help from the outside world, Western complacency about the future of Iran will have terrible consequences for the entire region as well as the security of the rest of the world.
The Iranian rial has crashed. Over the past 36 hours, it has lost almost 30 percent of its value. The value of the dollar against the rial is now up around 300 percent from what it was just a couple years ago. After long denying that the sanctions have had any effect on Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad now blames outside “enemies” for the country’s economic trials. As the price of foodstuffs climbs for ordinary Iranians, the Iranian leadership hopes that it can blame economic hardship on the West and on sanctions. They will be fooling themselves. While Iranians would rally around the flag in the event of military confrontation or should any foreign power partner with the terroristic and cult-like Mujahedin al-Khalq against the regime, at no point have ordinary Iranians accepted their leaders’ attempts to blame the West for Iran’s financial predicament. Iranians are not fools: they recognize the result of the regime’s gross economic mismanagement.
While some in the Obama administration may breathe a sigh of relief on the logic that biting sanctions may bring the regime to the table and buy time against a potential Israeli strike, they should remain wary. A regime dominated by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) alumni does not much care about the economic hardship ordinary Iranians face. After all, much more so even than the grandpa who marched uphill both ways barefoot in the snow, IRGC veterans will dismiss the complaints of anyone who did not suffer the deprivations of the Iran-Iraq war front.