Time is Not on the Mullahs’ Side

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 January 3, 2018|
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Iran has been racked for almost a week by nationwide protests and rioting over the rule of the mullahs—unrest that shows no sign of abating any time soon. What began as a protest against rising prices and an otherwise torpid economy has quickly turned into a full-blown national movement challenging the very legitimacy of the Islamic Republic itself.

We’ve been down this path before, of course. The short-lived “Green Revolution” of 2009 was the last time a popular uprising threatened the hardline theocratic government. Given the opportunity to back the protesters, President Obama chose to lead from behind and do nothing. Although President Trump has tweeted his support for the demonstrators this time, it remains to be seen what exactly the United States can do and how effective these protests will be in forcing political reform.

One thing is certain: the Islamic Republic’s days are numbered. This is a protest of the young from across the country versus the old elite in Tehran. Whether change happens now or in another decade, the rising generation of Persians largely reject the fundamentalist Shia Islam that has governed their country since the late 1970s.

Today, Iran’s city-dwelling youth are largely Westernized and well-educated. While many may still pray toward Mecca and believe in the Koranic teachings of their elders, they have created a natural separation between the secular world and the religious one (not unlike the sort of separation that exists in most liberal Western democracies today).

It’s true, as Michael Ledeen pointed out, that rural Iran remains more religious and traditional than their urban countrymen. But most of the unrest, in fact, has been in the poorer, rural, and more religious parts of the country. Rioters even burned a seminary in Qom, which is the center of Shia Islam. As one observer noted, “That’s comparable to anti-Catholic riots in Vatican City.”

But it isn’t just a cultural shift that signals the regime’s eventual demise. Fact is, Iran has a fertility crisis. At 1.68 children per 1,000 women (as of 2015), Iran is in the doldrums of an ongoing baby bust. David P. Goldman has argued that Iran’s demographic decline will lead to severe political instability. Iran’s “baby bust” coincides roughly with the life of the current regime—and it shows no sign of abating. In the face of declining economic opportunity and political repression, instability is likely to increase. Once it reaches a critical mass, Iran’s totalitarian theocracy will change.

The current regime led by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei represents a past that has little relevance to the lives of most young Iranians. This repressive regime of close-minded, totalitarian septuagenarians has made a sport of terrorizing and killing young people and oppressing women since 1979.

Persian women have abandoned any pretense of comporting themselves along with traditional Islamic expectations and simply opted out of having children. Goldman supposes this is a response to the repressive nature of the regime, coupled with the increase in education for Iranian women. Studies have shown that higher levels of education among women lead to them having fewer children.

The religious totalitarians who run the government may be fanatics, but they aren’t stupid. They understand that their time is nearly up. At some point, the next generation—which simply has more time on its side—will demand change. Understanding that demographics is destiny helps explain why the mullahs have made such bold foreign policy moves in the last decade: they can either seek to establish their Islamic utopia on Earth now or never.

This is a pattern that we’ve seen play throughout not only the Middle East over the last decade (with the Arab Spring), but also in China during the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In each case, economic stagnation led to a complete collapse of the social order, which eventually crushed the political regime. Only the Chinese Communist Party survived its brush with being overthrown—and that was because the government used overwhelming military force to crush the democratic protests, followed by years of economic reforms that brought prosperity to the country as never before.

The mullahs may very well use any and all force necessary to preserve their regime, as China’s Communists did. But that’s where the comparison ends. The conditions in Iran today are closer to those that led to the fall of the Soviet Union—and even the misery that led to the ouster of the Shah and the rise of the ayatollahs in 1979.

Like the Soviet system, the Islamic Republic is closed; it is totalitarian; it dominates the national economy; it is grossly corrupt; and it has wasted the country’s time, money, and prestige in needlessly aggressive foreign policy misadventures, that have only further isolated the country and devastated the economy. The Iranian people are fed up.

President Trump on Wednesday said the Iranian protesters would see “great support from the United States at the appropriate time!” A tweet is not a plan, however. The United States was unprepared for the collapse of the Soviet Union 30 years ago and we were unprepared for the fall of Hosni Mubarak’s government in Egypt in 2011. Mismanaging the end of the Cold War and “leading from behind” during the Arab Spring hurt U.S. interests in the long run.

In any event, the fact that the current regime’s days are numbered lead the ayatollahs and their minions to take greater risks on the international stage, in a make-or-break effort to achieve their irredentist goals in the Mideast and beyond. A dying predator that’s cornered can often be the most dangerous kind of animal. This White House has a chance to help change the dynamic in the Mideast in America’s favor—a direction we haven’t seen in quite some time. That calls for greater attention, not less.

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About the Author:

Brandon J. Weichert
Brandon J. Weichert is a contributing editor to American Greatness. A former Republican congressional staffer and national security expert, he also runs "The Weichert Report" (www.theweichertreport.com), an online journal of geopolitics. He holds master's degree in statecraft and national security from the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C. He is also an associate member of New College at Oxford University and holds a B.A. in political science from DePaul University. He is currently completing a book on national security space policy due out next year.
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28 Comments

  1. tz1 January 3, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    So will the upcoming pussy hat march calling for the overthrow of the Trump Theocracy have the same effect here?

    Where are the Pussy Hajibs?

    I don’t think you know enough about the various factions and situations in Iran.

    It seems like you are saying that if we depose Saddam, they will be there with boquets of flowers to welcome us. Or whatever parallel for overthrowing Quadaffi (how is Europe doing after the flood of rapefugees?).

    While I am for Liberty, Iran has to earn it by itself, we cannot make it take hold there, and there are many non-Shia but anti-liberty factions. Superman in the Quest for Peace realize peace was not his to give. Liberty is not ours to give, only to show.

    Meanwhile we are turning into a tyrannical panopticon regulated society which Trump has only made a fair dent in. We should worry more about fixing the USA. Bake that Gay Wedding cake or go to jail! Vaccinate your kids with 30 injections tomorrow or else! Turn in your guns! Your Prescription is not DEA approved!

    Irony.

  2. BCML January 3, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    America should stay completely out of the Iranian situation and let the Iranians resolve their own issues. Most of them – young, old, religious, secular – are anti-US and will reject any role by our outside interference. The last time we seriously messed in Iran we caused 40 years of chaos.

    • Eelo Fudpucker January 4, 2018 at 6:07 pm

      Obama more or less flipped them the bird when they looked for him for support when they were protesting in 2009, this set the stage for him to give the radical Mullahs a direct path to a nuclear weapon.
      The Iranian leadership took his ignoring the protesters as a nod for them to kill and imprison those protesting.against them.
      The 1.7 billion in cash he sent them in the dead of night has helped them financed their nuclear program and terrorism around the world.
      No telling how many people were killed because of Obama’s actions.
      We should do everything we can other than military force in support of these protesters..
      Until Khomeni took over the country Iran was a close friend and ally to the United States.

      • BCML January 4, 2018 at 7:07 pm

        Stay out. We only screw things up – like last time. We have no business or right to get involved.

        • jamcar January 5, 2018 at 6:51 pm

          that I agree with

      • BCML January 4, 2018 at 8:29 pm

        Sorry little fella. Not true. The gross travesty of the Shah was our idea. It flopped big time.

        • jamcar January 4, 2018 at 8:56 pm

          2500 years of continuous rule – that was our idea?

          • BCML January 4, 2018 at 9:18 pm

            You clearly know little/nothing about Persian/Achaemadian/ Parthian/Sassanian/ Safavid/Iranian Empire. You are, basically, a windbag and a bull$hitter. Problem is, jamcar, you’ve run into someone who can spot it.

          • jamcar January 5, 2018 at 6:36 am

            disagree – read your comment and look into a mirror

    • jamcar January 4, 2018 at 8:03 pm

      Most of them are actually pro-US. There is more disparity between the people of Iran and the Iranian government than most countries. The demonstrations that you see, with people chanting “death to America”, are mostly propaganda pieces. The last 40 years of chaos are not because of our messing there, it is because we (Jimmy Carter) left the Shah twisting in the breeze. The islamists took advantage of the vacuum that was created by Carter’s inaction. The students that demonstrated and drove the Shah out were unprepared for their victory, and did not have their collective s#!t together to form a government. I agree with your assessment that this conflict needs to be resolved internally, but your talking points are far afield.

      • BCML January 4, 2018 at 8:28 pm

        The ouster of Mossadegh by British/American covert ops was a f***ing fiasco that led to ALL the trouble that ensued. The Shah was hated; he was going to fall. Inevitable. People hate puppet regimes – they always crumble. We were stupid, arrogant, and deserved the chaos that ensued. You think there are pro-American elements – you’re dreaming. Unfortunately I know this situation intimately and you are wrong on important points. We should stay the hell out.

        • jamcar January 4, 2018 at 8:36 pm

          I was in Tehran 5 months ago – you?

          • BCML January 4, 2018 at 9:08 pm

            Several years ago. Mossadegh was democratically elected, something we claim to stand for until we don’t. Of course he nationalized the oil business – after the oil companies turned down buy out offers. But, it was on their land and they do have sovereignty. Never forget, we play by the host country rules. Don’t confuse a pro-Western attitude for a pro-US one. Most Iranians realize that we are a greedy self-serving country that screwed them in the past and will screw any nation for a buck. We’ve proven that over centuries. They like Canadians, most Europeans, and Scandinavians. Americans..not so much. When you were there, just because they didn’t shoot you doesn’t mean they really liked you. You seem obtuse and don’t read subtleties.

          • jamcar January 5, 2018 at 2:25 pm

            Mossadegh was the ultimate Manchurian candidate. You can take your revisionist history and your wiki-facts and pack sand with them.

          • BCML January 5, 2018 at 2:32 pm

            Go read an=bout Kermit Roosevelt and Operation Ajax. You will be alleviated of some of your arrogance and ignorance.

          • jamcar January 5, 2018 at 3:20 pm

            Your myopic, revisionist history just does not stand up. You need to stop it with the rose colored glasses. Iran was one of the poorest countries on the planet before BP developed their oil fields. It was the Russians attempt to displace the British, with the “democratic” installation of Mossadegh, that changed the trajectory of the country, unfortunately for the last 70 years.

          • BCML January 5, 2018 at 3:29 pm

            Blah blah blah. You understand so very little. Typical American arrogant a$$hole. You are the kind who give us a bad reputation and make us detested around the world.

          • jamcar January 5, 2018 at 5:11 pm

            wrong, in so many ways.

  3. Dave January 3, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    The online CIA World Factbook gives a higher fertility rate for Iran and a lower one for Saudi Arabia than the chart used in this article. Which data is more trustworthy?

    • jamcar January 4, 2018 at 8:58 pm

      anecdotally, I would say this article has the Iranian figure closer to correct. I couldn’t hazard a guess at the Saudi figure.

  4. McSwag January 4, 2018 at 4:03 am

    Well whatever comes after, it won’t be America/Israel arse licking, that is for sure.

  5. Marathon-Youth January 4, 2018 at 8:45 am

    One nightmare that could emerge is a nuclear armed Iran whose government has fallen and the Arab world has no idea who will lead her. If a more belligerent leader steps into power the Arab world will demand to go nuclear.
    Keeping in mind that it was Pakistan’s nuclear father Dr. Khan who sold Pakistan’s nuclear secrets to Iran, North Korea, and Libya, it is very possible that the ongoing tension between Pyongyang and DC could lead to North Korea quickly supplying the Arab world the needed nuclear and missile technology the moment Iran collapses
    We end up losing on two fronts. The Arab world goes nuclear due to our support to topple Iran and our sanctions against North Korea.

    • jamcar January 4, 2018 at 8:23 pm

      I was skeptical as to how organic this spate of demonstrations were initially, but if it is genuinely grass roots, nuclear fears can be largely set aside. These people want to be invited to the table, they want to be on par with the rest of the world. They don’t want to be the 16th century any longer. This is predicated on the idea that some substantial leadership appears soon.

      • Marathon-Youth January 4, 2018 at 9:41 pm

        “They don’t want to be the 16th century any longer”
        That is an odd phrase. 16th century Iran under the Safavid Empire was one of the 3 “Gunpowder Empires” and the beginning of the modern age of Iran. Iran’s history is one of the great chapters in human history. It spans to the West against ancient Greece and spans to the East to include the Mughal Empire in South Asia, which along with the Ottoman Empire makes the 3 “gunpowder Empires”
        The Ottoman use of gunpowder and massive cannons brought down the Theodosian walls of Constantinople.
        The 21st century, unlike the 20th century is going to be defined by Asia and her challenge to the Western world. The 20th was mainly defined by the 2 great wars and the cold war, all of which were within the Western world.

  6. BanBait January 4, 2018 at 10:10 am

    I’s like to see us flooding the country with AK’s and possibly setting up some sort of satellite-based internet service that could be used by cell phones.

  7. HistoryMatters January 4, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    Money. If President Trump’s economic rollback of economy killing regulation continues to give the US economy a boost – that money will create opportunity to deal. It is economic strength that will move adversaries like China and Russia to seek trade and not war. Same with Iran. They have always been a cosmopolitan people and used to be allies. I am not a fan of the Iran Deal, because Obama got played – but he had the kernel of a good idea. I have always said that a few McDonald’s franchises and Netflix will bring down the Mullahs faster than a whole decade of economic sanctions.

    • jamcar January 4, 2018 at 8:17 pm

      yes-the young people in Iran are well educated, and starving. Not only for affordable food, but for culture and security of a future. Birth rates that low reflect a distrust in the future more than anything.

  8. Bad Wolf January 4, 2018 at 3:24 pm

    Iran’s fate should be left to the Iranians. Ditto every country in the world. It is not our job to roam the world exhausting our military and treasury seeking monsters to detroy. It is our job to cheer on the forces of liberty around the world but to let them fight for and earn their own liberty as we did. It is our job to be the model of what a free countrycan be. We can do so by building our own economy, shrinking our bureaucracy to lift the heavy boot of DC bureaucrats off our capitalists and workers, installing Constitutionalists in the courts to restore the rule of law, and show the world what rule of law, liberty and the unleashing of human initiative that capitalism leads to can accomplish as a model for them to consider in their own nations – as Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Chile, South Korea and other countries have done.

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