Iran is experiencing a new wave of protests, some violent. The protests are centered in the oil-rich Khuzestan province in the southwest, along the border with Iraq.
In this tweet by Entifadh Qanbar, you can watch Iranian demonstrators attack a seminary said to be in the city of Khorramabad, located in Lorestan province, also near Iraq.
According to the Washington Post, the protests “have rattled the government.” It “has been accused of responding with a heavy hand as it looks to prevent the demonstrations from spreading to other parts of the country.” Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (remember him?) has criticized the state’s harsh response to the protests.
The protests relate to a severe water shortage and the government’s ineffective response thereto. However, as the Post points out, there are “overlapping crises” in Iran — not just the water shortage but also “an unrelenting coronavirus outbreak, economic woes compounded by U.S. sanctions and widespread power outages that have set off other protests.” In addition, there have been “waves of labor unrest, including strikes by oil workers.”
I’m not sure how much we should make of these protests. We’ve seen waves of them before. The government always seems to survive them. On the other hand, authoritarian regimes always survive protests until they don’t.
The question is whether the U.S. should help the America-hating mullahs cope with their overlapping crises. That is, should we lift our sanctions and otherwise enrich the regime in order to reenter a nuclear deal?
This is the Biden administration’s intent. If the Iranians weren’t driving a hard bargain, Biden would already have lifted sanctions.
I’m not saying that doing so would throw a lifeline to the regime. The mullahs probably don’t need a lifeline — not yet, anyway.
But there are only two plausible scenarios under which Iran doesn’t become a hostile nuclear power. One scenario is military action by the U.S. and/or Israel to prevent this outcome. The other is regime change.
No one knows whether regime change is likely. I suspect that it’s not. But the fact that protests continue to spring up suggests that it plausibly could occur at some point in the not too distant future.
Thus, the U.S. should do what it can to promote a regime change scenario. That means, at a minimum, keeping our sanctions in place and finding additional ways to tighten the screws.
Unfortunately, the Biden administration is determined — indeed, desperate — to move in the opposite direction.