The author of this post is a PhD holder from Tehran's Sharif University of Technology with an interest in politics, literature and political sciences. This article, on abnormal governance in Iran and how the West might respond to it, is published under a pseudonym.
For weeks now, deadly floods in Iran have been wiping signs of life off the face of the earth, taking lives and pulling down historical monuments. At the same time, Iraqi protesters have flooded Baghdad’s parliament and Green Zone in a demonstration of rejection of Iran-backed Shiite groups. Though accidental, the coincidence is meaningful.
According to many religions and ideologies, notably those of the Shias, humans can be subject to divine punishment, including natural disasters, for their sins. In fact, if they heard the Iraqi protesters shouting “Iran! Get out”, and heard the same slogans in Lebanon, and – sooner or later – in Yemen, Syria, and even Venezuela, believers in such superstitions might be convinced that this deadly flood was part of some revenge enacted on them by God.
Incidentally, the Islamic Republic of Iran exploits the same idea, but in its own way, and based on a completely different notion of sin: namely weak faith in Allah and in the Islamic Republic as His “representative” on earth.
Women disavowing forced hijab is a demonstration of this “weakness” that particularly concerns the Islamic Republic. The latest glorious achievement in this regard, by the intelligence services and the Revolutionary Guards, was to torture a young woman into confessing in front of TV cameras, and expressing her remorse for not wearing hijab in public. To them, meddling in other people’s lives and in other countries’ affairs is no sin, but a divine mission placed on their shoulders.
Reality, however, takes precedence over superstition. The reality is that the same activity has caused the present devastation, difficulty and waste of life in Iran. The most critical factor in the floods was human intervention in the natural environment.
Though water-related tensions, climate change and long-lasting droughts are not unique to Iran and have even blighted other countries in the Middle East, Iran has ranked worst in the region and among the worst in the world for environmental destruction, dwindling water resources and soil erosion. The situation is aggravated by the ravages of cartels like the IRGC and the Basij, almost all of them under the control of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
On top of all this, and of the capital frequently earning the accolade of “Tehran, the World’s Most Polluted City”, the Islamic Republic has succeeded in breaking plenty of other records. Like the rate of executions per capita, the use of amputation as a criminal punishment, the level of systematic gender, ethnic and religious discrimination, levels of censorship, the scale of state embezzlements, judicial corruption and state capture, point-to-point inflation, emigration and the "brain drain", unemployment, the decline in the birth rate, worker suicides, and others besides.
As a matter of fact, ruining lives and wrecking land is the only expertise the Islamic Republic can claim to have. It doesn’t have the structure of a state. It is not a democracy, but not a dictatorship or even a conventional theocracy either. Suffering from such fluidity of character, the Islamic Republic is an amorphous, insipid entity, a military-clerical mafia, just a gang of Mullahs and Sepahs.
The Islamic Republic does not rule Iran, but it does consume Iran. It has not held only a few score dual nationals and Americans hostage, but 80 million lives, and a resource-rich land. There is no room for questions of competency, because the Islamic Republic actually feeds on crisis and catastrophe, be it natural or self-made, war, earthquakes, floods, sanctions, hostilities, a pandemic, or an uncanny urge to have an atomic bomb. Just as an unhealthy body is more suitable to a feeding leech, so it never dwells on a solution but rushes to take advantage of the mess.
Scorched-earth tactics are the only ones the Islamic Republic can and does pursue in Iran, just like its master, Putin, is doing in Ukraine. In fact, Putin has had a substantial stake, even leadership, in the project of the Islamic Republic without disgracing himself in the eyes of the world as he has done in Ukraine. It is Iran, the country, and its people who pay. The Islamic Republic has impoverished both, stolen their wealth before their eyes, wasted some on the oligarchs, some of the propaganda machine, some on suppression, and the rest on helping other dictators.
And the agony of these other dictators’ nations shouting “Iran! Get out”, and the world's abject lack of sympathy with Iran during catastrophes like the recent floods, are devastating in equal measure. This is the double cost Iranians pay. That the Islamic Republic hides itself behind Iran and the nation, and that global politicians only ever speak of "Iran’s" support for terrorism, "Iran’s" proxy forces, "Iran’s" nuclear program, "Iran’s" hostage policy, "Iran’s" support for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The nation is a human shield for regime security. The cowards tried to secure their own power by taking 176 such innocent lives, most of them their own people, hitting a passenger plane by two missiles.
The West must be clear about this. Iranians are inevitably responsible, and are paying for, the Islamic Republic’s criminal exploits outside Iran’s borders. So the West must be responsible for and react to crimes and violations within Iran’s borders. Short-term profit-seeking, endlessly compromising with the regime, and turning a blind eye to Iran’s and the Iranian people’s torment under the Islamic Republic, is the same as directly contributing to the crimes being committed against them.
This aside, to bargain with the Islamic Republic regime is futile. The West will not achieve its goals of peace and security, not in the Middle East nor even in Europe, in this way. Aggravation, crisis and instability are existentially necessary to the Islamic Republic. They are in its DNA.
Evidently one of the West’s other motivations to agree on the JCPOA, and reduce the economic pressure on the Islamic Republic, is to deter it from getting even closer to Russia. But make no mistake: the regime and the Supreme Leader have already long accepted the role of Putin's servant. Like Bashar al-Assad, they require the aid of another dictator. But while the Islamic Republic needs a strong Russia for its survival, Putin needs a weak Iran to advance his goals. This coexistence has been established for a long time, and the regime won’t betray this for a few planeloads of cash.
Besides, the Islamic Republic wouldn't spend even a trifling amount on Iran and Iranians even if it could. This is due to the backward and reactionary nature of the mullahs. They believe that in any political or economic state, a single step towards change for the better will encourage people to demand more, and that their survival lies in endless regression. Giving the Islamic Republic access to its blocked funds will only ever fund fuel crisis, proxy forces, and realizing the regime’s dream of becoming an Islamic North Korea.
To recap, every sign of indifference to human rights in Iran, every compromise with the Devil, is another nail in the coffin for Iran’s hope: hope for better conditions, for freedom, for an existence free from tyranny, for a democratic transition. The cost of this loss will undoubtedly be felt beyond Iran’s borders too.