One of the ironies of the stand off between the Mullahs in Tehran and Trump’s administration is that the more Trump sanctions and threatens Iran, the more secure the Mullahs get (and the tighter their grip on Iran).
This maybe hard for Trump’s naïve administration to appreciate, but its true.
To understand this, you must go back a little in history to look at how Iranians respond to pressure. Very few people in his administration were around, and deeply entrenched in Iranian politics back in the 1980s. But in September 1980, the Mullahs were ‘newcomers’ to elective office in Iran. The revolution was not even 1 year old. The Mullahs got into a ‘confrontation’ with Carter’s administration but still did not have full scale support or control of Iran. There were multiple groups vying for power. When Carter pushed Saddam Hussein to invade Iran, this was supposed to ‘take advantage’ of instability in Tehran and it was always presumed by Saddam’s backers that the attack would result in a short, maybe 3-day, war and a quick victory for Saddam.
But, as much as Iranians had grown to despise the newly installed Mullahs in power, they all united against a ‘foreign’ invader; and began what eventually became a multi-year campaign to oust Saddam from Iran. Iranians rallied around the regime. The Mullahs consolidated their power. ‘Marg bar Saddam’ (Death to Saddam) was the rallying cry. And much to the credit of the Mullahs, they quickly developed a strategy of creating parallel military forces (the Islamic Republic Guards [IRGC], and Basij Militias) to thwart any potential for military coups; and to supplement Iran’s weakened regular defense forces. In doing so, they put in place all the key elements of ‘total’ control of Iran, and the battlefront with Iraq.
This strategy by the way, became an extremely successful model that was later applied to enable Iranian proxy control of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon (to name a few neighboring countries). Its precisely what it took, to oust ISIS from Northern Iraq and Syria.
Since the 1980’s the cry of “Death to America!” has rung out in Tehran every Friday. As the ‘Economist magazine’ states everyone knows the ritual is hollow. The mullahs know they have failed Iranians. And, today, Iranians are much poorer than they should be; promises of justice have been drowned in the blood of enemies and supposed sinners; and theocracy has made Iranians less pious. Protests occur often, even among the poor who make up the regime’s base. Indeed, during the Iran-Iraq war, there were vast food and fuel shortages, and most Iranian working-class families had lost at least one, and in many cases many more children to war with Iraq. The situation was much worse. Yet the mullahs remain in charge, despite war, sanctions and decades of enmity with the West.
In fact, Saddam Hussein, and the U.S. (and its allies – especially Israel) have provided convenient excuses for the regime’s mismanagement and belligerence. This has not changed. And, this ‘war cry’ or ‘rhetoric’ is being used to now also dominate the Arab street. Iran has spread its influence, helping save the odious regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and ensuring that the Saudis remain bogged down in Yemen. Its Lebanese client, Hizbullah, poses a grave threat to Israel.
In Iran, and in the region, it is the anti-Western, anti-Israeli rallying cry that in fact secures loyalty to the regime. The Mullahs simply blame everything on these ‘enemies’ – and have persuaded the masses that if they have lost loved ones in wars, if they are poorly fed and without social services – it is all because of the West and Israel. It’s a very effective strategy for winning the loyalty of the masses and deflecting blame for their mismanagements.
And the Trump administration (along with Israel and Saudi Arabia/UAE) are playing right into their hands. By constantly threatening ‘War’ and choking Iran with sanctions (despite the regime’s attempts at so-called appeasement), they make the regime appear ‘reasonable’ and ‘justified’ to push back and blame every ill their economy faces on outside forces.
Its 1980 all over again. Trump’s policies and rhetoric reinforces the regime it doesn’t weaken it.
One last point, there is one other thing the Trump administration is doing that is also reinforcing the regime in Tehran: It is supporting the MEK cult political organization as the heir’s apparent or the opposition force that will take over in Tehran (if the US invades Iran). The MEK are hated by virtually every single political group inside and outside Iran. If there is ONE thing that unites ALL Iranians – it is their hatred for the MEK. By having Bolton, Giuliani, Gingrich, etc. regularly meet and speak at MEK rallies, the Trump administration is sending a bad signal to the people of Iran. (Let’s not forget the MEK fought on Saddam Hussein’s side during the Iran-Iraq War).
Far from weakening the regime in Tehran, the Trump administration keeps handing them gifts! War talk, Sanctions, Supporting the MEK, recognizing the Golan Heights, Supporting ISIS, US travel ban on Muslims (and Iranians), etc. etc. ALL reinforce the Mullahs in Tehran and advances their narrative. Nothing could be better for the Mullahs.
Its simply idiotic.