How Will This Iranian Uprising End?
Three Possibilities — Take Your Pick
Mahsa Amini’s arrest and subsequent tragic death in police custody about six weeks ago unleashed an uprising that continues to today.
How will this uprising end?
Many experts have opined that this is the most serious threat to the theocratic regime in Tehran in 42 years. They claim that the uprising, led by women, is different from others in the past because it is national and includes all minorities in the country of 85 million inhabitants, it is urban and rural, it has captured Iranians of every age group and women from across the religious spectrum — those who want to wear the most traditional hijab to those who shun the hijab altogether. And most importantly, while the arrest of Mahsa Amini was allegedly attributed to a hijab violation, the face of the uprising has gone far beyond her arrest and the hijab. The protestors are asking for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic — to usher more freedom, better economic management and control of pervasive corruption.
So where will Iran go from here?
One outcome could be a repeat of the past — regime crackdown followed by diminished protests and back to the old status quo. Many commentators don’t foresee this outcome because of the diverse and widespread nature of these protests and their persistence with no sign of simmering down.
A second possible outcome is a violent overthrow of the regime. This is unlikely as the regime seems to still enjoy the support of the military, especially the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and the intelligence services. The military have the guns and in the past they have not been shy to put down protests with force.
There is a third possible outcome, especially if the protests continue for a few more weeks. The IRGC takes over the government with the acquiescence of the clerics and private assurance to protect them; and announces an end to the Islamic Republic, establishing a military government with the justification that the combination of domestic chaos and constant threats from some Persian Gulf countries, Israel and a number of Western powers, especially the United States, pose dangers that are reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s 1979 horrific invasion supported by Western powers. The IRGC would announce: All personal freedoms will be restored. No hijab requirements but modesty encouraged on the part of men and women. And a firm commitment for an open constitutional convention within two years to determine the nation’s future form of government and institutions.
The clerics want to save themselves and their wealth, they have no guns of their own and will do what the IRGC dictates. The IRGC is a big force in the economy, controlling 15–20 percent of the national economy and its leaders want to save themselves and their wealth.
The motivation is there for the clerics and the military, especially the IRGC, to come together.