Is the Iranian Regime Collapsing? (JCPA) JERUSALEM CENTER FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS) Menashe Amir Vol. 9, No. 20 02/25/10)
JCPA-Jerusalem Center Public Affairs
JCPA-Jerusalem Center Public Affairs Articles-Index-Top
-To grasp Iran’s ambitions and foreign policy it is necessary to
understand the Islamic Republic’s religious ideology which aspires to
establish global Islamic rule – under Shi’ite leadership. This belief
lies at the heart of Iran’s foreign policy, including its ambition to
acquire nuclear weapons.
-Ayatollah Khomeini ruled that a Muslim mustn’t touch infidels, deal
with them, or come into contact with them. Jews, in particular, are
considered unclean. Iranian leaders call for the annihilation of
Israel because these “unclean Jews” occupy the Muslim land of
Palestine and hold the keys to the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque.
-When Ahmadinejad declared that Israel ought to be wiped off the map,
he added that this was merely the first stage of the confrontation
with the West, which means Christianity. Indeed, part of the
animosity that Iranians express toward Judaism and Israel stems from
the fact that they consider Judaism to be a pillar of the Christian
-The Revolutionary Guards have taken over most of the economy, most
of the political positions, and have infiltrated the judiciary
system, though they continue to let Khamenei act as the face of their
regime. Unlike the religious leaders of Iran, the Revolutionary
Guards lack moral and religious values, with the exception of one
very deep religious belief: that they are the messengers of the
Mahdi, the vanguard of the messiah.
-In one possible scenario, the regime will collapse from the inside.
Changes to the system of subsidies can only add to Ahmadinejad’s
unpopularity. In this context, international pressure and sanctions
on Iran will very much influence the continuation of the struggle
against the regime.
To grasp Iran’s ambitions and foreign policy, one must first
understand the Islamic Republic’s religious ideology. The Iranian
regime believes that the right religion for humanity is Islam, and
the right sect of Islam is Shi’ism. An Iranian’s religious and
national duty is to restore Shi’ism to its rightful position of
To express his enduring respect for Judaism and Christianity,
Ayatollah Khomeini used to say, “Moses is my right eye and Jesus is
my left.” But in a meeting with Islamic ambassadors in Tehran, he
also aired the view that today, given how diluted those faiths have
become, there are no authentic Jews or Christians left.
Iran’s ultimate aim is to establish global Islamic rule, a new
Islamic empire, but this time under Shi’ite leadership. Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself endorses the Shi’ite belief
that once the Mahdi (“the Guided One”) makes his prophesied return,
the whole world will convert to Shi’ism. This belief, strange as it
may sound to Western ears, lies at the heart of Iran’s foreign
policy, including its ambition to acquire nuclear weapons. It is for
this reason that this ambition presents a grave problem not merely
for Israel, but for Arab countries, Europe, and the whole world.
Ahmadinejad once visited a painting exhibition in Tehran and remarked
that there are two main arts in life: jihad and shahadah (“religious
war” and “martyrdom”). That’s the essence of his ideology. During the
Iran-Iraq war, the regime was criticized for engaging in a futile
conflict that took the lives of half a million Iranians. The reply
was that during the eight years of war, some seven million Iranians
were born, so why cry over half a million killed “for the sake of
In his book Towzihol-Masael (The Explanation of Problems), Khomeini
contended that Jews, Christians, Bahais, and Zoroastrians are
considered infidels insofar as they refuse to accept Mohammad as a
prophet, as are Sunnis, insofar as they don’t accept the twelve Imams
of the Shi’ites. Khomeini then ruled that a Muslim mustn’t touch
infidels, deal with them, or come into contact with them. Jews, in
particular, are considered unclean. In his 1970 book Velayat-e faqih
(Islamic Government), he portrayed the Jews as crooks, liars, and
enemies of Islam.
Iranian leaders call for the annihilation of Israel because
these “unclean Jews” occupy the Muslim land of Palestine and hold the
keys to the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque and other Islamic holy places. For
tactical reasons, the Iranians take up the banner of the Palestinian
cause in order to show the Arab countries that while they are making
peace with the Jewish enemy, the Iranians are the only Muslims who
uncompromisingly fight on behalf of the Palestinians.
Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust for tactical considerations, too. By
denying the Holocaust, the Iranians deny the legitimacy of the State
of Israel and thereby gain respect in the Islamic world.
When Ahmadinejad declared that Israel ought to be wiped off the map,
he added that this was merely the first stage of the confrontation
with the West, which, for all intents and purposes, means
Christianity. Indeed, part of the animosity that Iranians express
toward Judaism and Israel stems from the fact that they consider
Judaism to be a pillar of the Christian faith.
A Five-Point Plan to Foster Regime Change
Ahmadinejad contends repeatedly that: “Nuclear development is the
inalienable right of the Iranian people.” He has attempted to make
Iran’s nuclear policy into a matter of national pride. So is the
prevention of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons a lost cause?
At a meeting with the heads of the Canadian Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, I presented a five-point plan for eliminating the Iranian
nuclear threat which, despite all the risks in its implementation,
appears to me to be the sole way to eliminate the danger.
1. Create a very real military threat by concentrating naval forces
in the Persian Gulf and voicing threats of war at the Iranian regime.
2. Widen international sanctions that will paralyze the Iranian
economy in the same manner as Gaddafi’s Libya.
3. Encourage ethnic minorities in Iran to launch guerrilla warfare
against the regime. The Baluchis in the southeast, Turkmen in the
northeast, Azaris in the northwest, Kurds in the west, and Arabic-
speaking tribes in the southwest are each discriminated against and
each has a history of guerrilla actions.
4. Transfer funds to opposition bodies inside Iran to finance
strikes, demonstrations, and other resistance activities.
5. Rally three million Iranian exiles to lobby leaders in the
countries where they now reside to join the international effort to
effect regime change in Iran.
In the Wake of the June 2009 Elections
Since the elections, some figures from inside the regime, such as Mir
Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, have turned against the regime’s
leaders, with the result that the leadership is divided. Mousavi and
Karroubi did not want to overthrow the regime, they just want to make
some reforms. But the Green movement, which began as a protest
against the fraudulent election results, today chants “death to the
dictator,” which amounts to a call for regime change and not merely
the cancellation of the elections. Whereas Khomeini had always tried
to balance the radicals and the so-called reformists, Khamenei today
has put all his eggs in the basket of Ahmadinejad and the
At the same time, the fear of voicing opposition to the regime has
evaporated. Seven months after the elections, we still see widespread
demonstrations. As someone who closely follows Iranian political
affairs, I would say that at least 60 percent of Iranians are very
much against the regime. (Others say the figure is 70-80 percent.)
Two groups still support the regime: deeply religious people in poor,
rural areas, and those who depend on the salary, pension, and other
economic advantages the regime affords them. The big question is
whether the regime will succeed in stifling the protest movement
through suppression and arrests.
Possible Future Scenarios
In effect, two possibilities now confront Iran. In the first
scenario, the regime will collapse from the inside, buckling under
the pressure of the protest movement, much as the Shah’s regime
collapsed 31 years ago. Changes to the system of subsidies will yield
much higher prices for consumer goods such as fuel, rice, and bread,
which can only add to Ahmadinejad’s unpopularity. In this context,
international pressure and sanctions on Iran will very much influence
the continuation of the struggle against the regime.
The second possible scenario would see the Revolutionary Guards take
over the leadership of Iran more and more. In fact, they have already
begun to do so by shunting aside most of the prominent ayatollahs.
The Revolutionary Guards have taken over most of the economy, most of
the political positions, and have infiltrated the judiciary system,
though they continue to let Khamenei act as the face of their regime.
Unlike the religious leaders of Iran, the Revolutionary Guards lack
moral and religious values, with the exception of one very deep
religious belief: that they are the messengers of the Mahdi, the
vanguard of the messiah. Indeed, most of the commanders of the
Revolutionary Guards are uneducated. Most have never visited a
Either way, in the end this regime will collapse. Whether it will
happen next year or in two years or five years or even ten years,
nobody can know. But I believe that the Iranians will eventually
achieve a kind of democratic regime which will be more friendly
toward its neighbors. I come from Iran, I am an Iranian, and I
believe that the Iranians are like most other people. They seek the
good life and they want democracy. That’s what gives me hope that
they will manage to create a free society.
Menashe Amir, one of Israel’s leading experts on Iran, is the chief
editor of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Persian-language website
and former head of the Israel Broadcasting Authority’s Persian-
language division. Since 1960 he has been a senior member of Israel
Radio’s internationally acclaimed Persian-language service that
reaches millions of Iranian listeners, and for many years was one of
the Iranian people’s only outlets to the free world. He has also
served as Iranian Affairs advisor for ABC News. This Jerusalem Issue
Brief is based on his presentation at the Institute for Contemporary
Affairs in Jerusalem on January 21, 2010. (Copyright © 2010 JCPA.
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