Amal Abdulaziz Al–Hazani
Al Arabiya, 11 January 2018 - Is the regime of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist in Iran feeling the popular pressure, and will it respond to the demands by seizing support to foreign operations in the Arab region by dedicating the country’s wealth to the welfare of the citizens?
Most likely, it will not. Iran will keep funding Hezbollah, continue hiring Afghans, Pakistanis and Arabs mercenaries in battles, keep giving missiles and weapons to the Houthi militias, and carry on smuggling laundered money to Bahrain's armed opposition.
The popular protests cannot turn the clock back to pre-Khomeini Iran, or reverse its doctrines based on geographical and cultural hegemony and a highly parochial and divisive understanding of Shiism.
Why these protests stand out
Unlike previous instances of unrest, there is no particular social strata from which the protests have emerged this time. There has been no student uprising calling for media freedoms, nor a political revolt in favor of political symbols. These protests are the result of accumulated anger based on very genuine, objective reasons, some of which I have listed below.
The whole world is certain that Iran’s activities outside its borders come at the expense of the state budget, which is supposed to be strong because the country possesses vast natural and human resources. Still Iranians suffer poverty due to the drain of their wealth to external fronts and the activities of its regime that runs counter to international laws that have resulted in economic sanctions.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s arguments in the Friday sermon no longer convince or resonate in the streets
Amal Abdul Aziz Al-Hazani
The ordinary Iranian who seeks to live a dignified life doesn’t care about any of the policies of the government. For the average Iranian, there is no real enemy of his country which might justify the massive arms race for building qualitative missile silos as well as research and development in defense, especially after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Even Israel poses no threat to the regime, and the United States is only reacting to the actions of the Tehran government against international peace. Saudi Arabia, which is seen as a protector of Sunni Islam, is not engaged in interfering with any other country.
It is the last country in the world that would choose a military clash with any country, no matter how important it may be unless it threatens internal security, as in the case of Yemen. Iran has no real enemies, and this is why the Iranian citizen refuses to be a victim of the need for defending the land
After decades of the rule of the clergy, the average Iranian finds himself facing the bitter reality that he is the victim of the regime’s dream to dominate and expand its borders.
These protests have expressed popular views that insult their religious and political leaders, calling them dictators and seek their fall. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s arguments in the Friday sermon no longer convince or resonate in the streets. He claimed that his country is in danger of being threatened by Israel and the United States.
In fact, these two countries do not pose a threat to Iran since Khomeini’s revolution of 1979. His popular power over the past decades was derived from fear, which is now replaced on the streets by humiliating slogans and bold rejection.
Saudi example inspires protestors
The other thing is that the Iranian people are watching changes in the countries around it, the most important of which is Saudi Arabia - a country they were told had closed itself socially and culturally due to religious reasons and was totally dependent on oil revenues.
Iranians claimed that Saudi Arabia is backward and its leadership is not worthy of leading from the two Holy Mosques.
These are the simple dreams of the Iranian citizen; that his government will turn to social justice and purge it from the corrupt, develop a sound economic system and work in the best interest of the Iranians. As we watch popular protests break out in Iran, we understand their causes and justifications. They are purely internal and not part of an external conspiracy, as President Hassan Rouhani has claimed.
Even the position of US President Donald Trump and his statement to stand with the demonstrators will not affect their will because the reason of their anger is not political or derived from America’s position, which the regime calls the Great Satan. Actually, Trump said that autocratic regimes do not last. This is true, and history is witness to this fact.
No one can predict the impact of these protests on the regime but it is certain that December 28, 2017 will be known as a turning point in Iran. The entire world has witnessed extreme public anger pervading all the regions of Iran.
The demands for a civic state instead of a religious one, calling for the death of Khamenei and other slogans will always haunt the ruling authority, because these slogans have touched those sanctities that no one had ever dared to violate earlier.
Amal Abdulaziz Al–Hazani is a professor at King Saudi University and a writer for al-Sharq al-Awsat.