Panic grips Iran

Amir Taheri:
For the past few months, Iran’s rulers have shown growing signs of panic.

Transformed into pulpits, the state-owned media showcase one mullah after another in a campaign of “stiffening Islamic resistance.” The regime’s various military arms are organizing rival exercises with the claim that the Islamic Republic is “ready for all eventualities.”

Meanwhile, people are selling whatever they can, and emptying their savings, to dump the rial, the national currency, and buy dollars and/or gold.

For his part, “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei has broken his tradition of remaining in seclusion to embark on tours of several provinces. Yet his message of “don’t panic” sounds hollower each time.

Observers agree that the Tehran rulers haven’t manifested such panic since 2003, when they believed that the American “Great Satan,” having deposed the despot Saddam Hussein, would turn on them next.

This time, no one fears a US invasion. If anything, the mullahs hope to save themselves by leading the Obama administration down the garden path.

The somber mood in Tehran is prompted by several factors.

The first is deepening divisions within the regime as it prepares for another tricky presidential election in June. Though every such election is stage-managed, none has passed smoothly. The 2009 election provoked uprisings that were crushed with massive brutality.

This time, the regime faces a split: One faction, led by outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is trying to retain power by fielding a candidate and “arranging” a victory. Its candidate is Esfandiar Rahim Masha’i, a homespun philosopher believed to be Ahmadinejad’s guru. Khamenei loyalists fear that Masha’i plans to push the mullahs out of politics in the name of Iranian nationalism.

The second source of panic is the economic crisis prompted by continued drop in the value of the rial. This has led to mass unemployment and flight of capital on an unprecedented scale.

The regional political landscape is also changing against the regime. The Arab Spring has led to the emergence of new Arab regimes dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood — a Sunni Muslim movement hostile to Shiism, the majority faith in Iran.

Tehran is also near the point of losing its chief Arab ally, Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad, as rebels pursue their thrust into Damascus. And loss of Syria could also mean the end of the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah — and thus the loss to Tehran of an instrument of terror against Israel and the United States.

The Iranian regime is also contemplating the erosion of its influence with Hamas, the group controlling Gaza. In recent weeks, a coalition of Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia has persuaded Hamas’ leaders to distance themselves from Tehran.
Obama maybe the only one to save them.  He seems to never miss a chance to do the wrong thing when it comes to dealing with despotic regimes.  He helps overthrow the ones that help us and prop up the ones that hate us.  The right thing to do is seize the opportunity to further weaken the grasp of the religious bigots who control Iran.


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