by Matthew Petti
Wednesday, 5
October 2022
Analysis
16:15

The US does not want regime change in Iran

America prefers domestic unrest to an overthrow of government
by Matthew Petti
A female protester cuts her hair with scissors as an act of solidarity with women in Iran

The death of Kurdish woman Jîna Mahsa Amini in the custody of the Tehran morality police has become a symbol of Irans deep social malaise. It has sparked an all-out jacquerie, with youths taking control of the street and beating up police officers. Celebrities and labour unions have shown support for the uprising, while women have begun to openly flaunt the country’s mandatory dress code.

Inevitably, the regime change activists have come out in full force, declaring it the beginning of the end for the Iranian state, with demands that the US government beginorganising plots against the regime to bring down the Islamic Republic.” Meanwhile, conspiracy theorists — including Bolivian state-affiliated media — have decided that Iran is already the victim of a US-led coup, with the protesters as bait. This interpretation has been endorsed by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, who has accused the US of collaborating with Israel to engineer the protests.


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Both sides misread Washingtons intentions towards Iran. Although US pressure has deeply impacted Iranian politics, it is not leading to regime change.” Instead, US policy is structured to inflame Irans social contradictions. And that policy has borne fruit, trapping Iran in a cycle of polarisation.

US pressure is designed to exacerbate the tensions between the aspirations of Irans educated middle class and the values of the Islamic Republic. It achieves this by shrinking the economic pie for everyone, primarily through sanctions. By targeting certain imports over others — forcing a tradeoff between bare necessities and luxuries — the sanctions have led to intensified income inequality and inflation,” former sanctions architect Richard Nephew claimed.

At the same time, US power has targeted elite Iranian factions who could drive change. Many Iranians had pinned their hopes on the Reformists, a loyal opposition movement that united old guard revolutionaries with young liberals. But the most intense US pressure on Iran took place after the Reformists took power. President Donald Trump reversed US diplomatic outreach to Iran, and placed the country under severe economic sanctions and military threats. Violent unrest broke out across the country in November 2019, ensuring that the legacy of Reformism was not only humiliation abroad, but also blood-soaked repression at home.

With a military coup d’etat unlikely, the United States offered alternatives that seemed almost designed to fail. The Obama administration helped reconstitute the Mojahedin-e Khalq, an Islamic socialist faction that was purged from the Iranian revolution and later earned a reputation as Saddam Husseins muscle squad. Under the Trump administration, US government funding and private donations flowed into an Iranian-American activist scene plagued by petty toxic politics.

The Iranian deep state is confident that it has defeated the attempts to overthrow it. That is why it pushed through Ebraham Raisi, a bureaucratic yes-man lacking charisma, in the tightly-controlled 2021 presidential election. And that is why it intensified the morality police patrols, a hated symbol of state authority which had begun to disappear under the last Reformist administration.

The Islamic Republic has fallen into the trap laid for it, viewing its own population as a vanquished enemy rather than pursuing national reconciliation, and placing responsibility for the protests firmly with the Americans. The Biden administration will continue to apply pressure, and quietly sit back as sparks fly. Last month, social media providers took down a network of fake accounts likely run by the US military. The disinformation front not only spread anti-Islamic Republic propaganda, but also promoted hardline pro-Islamic Republic talking points, suggesting that Washington wants to encourage political chaos above all else.

The next Republican administration will continue in this vein, and will probably do so more brazenly. Activists will hold solidarity rallies and shout over each other about what the Iranian people want. None of it will be designed to go anywhere.

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Steve Murray
Steve Murray
2 months ago

“…while women have begun to openly flaunt the country’s mandatory dress code.”
I think the author means “flout” not “flaunt”.
If it were flaunt, Iranian women would be parading around the streets in full Islamic garb, trying to attract attention!

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Yes, I hope that was just a typo

melody rod
melody rod
1 month ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

The Mafia Islamic Regime is under any circumstances could not comparison with Shah, they are fascist as worse than Adolf Hitler or your name it They genocide any opposition last 40 decades they bribe any one or every one to stay in power. They highjack the country and kidnaps the ppl and enforcement any sort of fascist way to stay in power. We are in revolution, you American proved historically not in side of our nation please just don’t sabotage.

John Dellingby
John Dellingby
2 months ago

I guess Iran of all places serves as an example of being careful what you wish for in regards regime change. On account of not being born at the time, I’m guessing many viewed it as a corrupt autocracy during the reign of the Shah but what replaced it was arguably worse in every measurable way. I’m struggling to see how regime change might make things worse in Iran, but one never knows in this day and age.

Maurice Austin
Maurice Austin
2 months ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

What replaced the Shah was not “arguably” worse. Unarguably, it was much, much worse.

melody rod
melody rod
1 month ago
Reply to  Maurice Austin

43 years what this fascist Mulla did on nation of Iran, country, economy, nature, culture and every aspect and layers of society is unmeasurable, corruption, money laundry, genocide, removed all political or social oppositions, crack down a few important protests including green movement and the 2019. Kept us in isolation which it thanks to democrat and signed out so many dirty agreements re: Oil and gas, with USA, Europe, China, Russia, caused 6 millions ppl leave the country, knock down air plain, hired for militias from terrorist country to crack down protests and killed youth in Iran, more than 10000 ppl in jails, support terrorist group in regions, Mafia Revolutionary guard under Khamenei basically control the country, use all capital money for their regime establishments and their own off springs that mainly live in Europe, USA Beverly hills and Canada and kill youth in nations, control completely society from bones. Selective president, control medias, internets, worse than north Korea. We as Iranian never forgive Democrat how they ruined my country since the smell of OIL is stronger than smell of blood. The Rajaji Party has not any credential inside Iran due to their past. Democrat party if they want for the first time step in the right direction without any sabotage or scapegoating and for the having peace in the region help Iranian nation over throw this fascist regime of Iran since without foreigner support it is going to be very hard for Iranian ppl since they don’t want modification they want the regime completely will gone to the hell.

Wim de Vriend
Wim de Vriend
2 months ago
Reply to  John Dellingby

Making things worse was unquestionably the case with the French and Russian revolutions. You could say the same about almost all African “anti-colonial” revolutions; and it explains why for a long time the Dutch have had a political party whose mission was “anti-revolutionary.”
But I wonder if the writer doesn’t give America far too much credit, and reality may be better described by Toynbee’s big, friendly dog wagging its tail in a small room – and knocking over a chair every time.

Last edited 2 months ago by Wim de Vriend
Nicholas Dorras
Nicholas Dorras
2 months ago

In 1953 Irans’ democracy was overthrown by the CIA and installed the Shah on the throne this was organised by the grandson of Teddy Roosevelt, Kermit Roosevelt and all the papers were released in 2013. Regime change always goes wrong eventually and it is time the USA learned the lesson and realised they are useless at foreign affairs.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
2 months ago

Nice to see that somebody in Washington understands how power works and how to undermine a sovereign state short of warfare and without a lot of moralizing about freedom and democracy. Then again, maybe this is a case of the blind squirrel, since stoking social divisions and driving political polarization sounds a lot like how Washington handles domestic politics these days. Maybe that’s all they know how to do, and it just happened to work this time.

Chauncey Gardiner
Chauncey Gardiner
2 months ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

Or, maybe Washington is, and has always been, incompetent, just like everyone else.
I submit that the conceit that Washington or any party can manage complex, chaotic processes is just that: a conceit.

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
2 months ago

You may be right. How much collective human activity at a macro level is well thought out strategy, and how much is throwing various kinds of crap at a metaphorical wall and taking credit when it actually sticks.

David Kingsworthy
David Kingsworthy
2 months ago

US policy is structured to inflame Iran’s social contradictions.
So it might be true to say that we do to Iran what the Chinese are doing to us?

melody rod
melody rod
1 month ago

You American don’t know any thing about Iran and what this Molla did to country last 40 years, how many oppositions genocides, exile, executed under tortures, corruptions, money laundry, drug smuggling, created IRGC and feed all terrorist in regime when destroy middle class and take all capital money for themselves and their off springs that have lavish life style in Beverly hills, Canada, Europa’s when Iranian youth abounded from any basic life. Iran is in revolution we don’t need your support USA since you proved us as Iranian nation which side you standing due to Smell of OIL stronger than Smell of blood, just don’t sabotage our revolutions. on 16 Sep, 2022 after death of Mahsa Amini over half millions anti regime Iranian globally in over 150 cities including 20000 just in states marching and rising the voice that we want Regime go, world saw US, but none of main stream media in USA, no CNN, FOX, MBSN or et.c cover this news, it was much more stronger than gorge fluid.

Gordon Arta
Gordon Arta
2 months ago

The author is one of those academics who earn a fat living, and get lots of publicity, for blaming everything that happens in the world on ‘Washington’ or ‘US meddling’. There was, apparently, no history of conflict within Iran – or Syria, or Iraq, or Palestine, or…- until the US came along.

Jeff Andrews
Jeff Andrews
2 months ago

So what do the Americans want out of Iran? They don’t want it to succeed or anything really, just exist in a void.
A well researched article but missing something. Maybe you could research the physche of the American political class, analyse what makes them tick.
They don’t ‘sound a full shilling’ to me if you know what I mean,

polidori redux
polidori redux
2 months ago

As a young undergraduate I would give weight to these attempts to analyse who was doing what to whom and why. But it was a British comedy show that gave me the explanation for most things. In a word: “omnishambles”

sos oso
sos oso
23 days ago

The article wasn’t really an over view, it was only your opinion and I respect that. But to know if Iranians can achieve their own victory is not easy to answer! Because you don’t know their mentality, lifestyle and beliefs to their own home!
As we know every apartheid regime has got an expired date! Based on how much people can trust them. none can stop that no matter how much other countries want them to stay.
Therefore is up to people,

D Walsh
D Walsh
2 months ago

The state department is controlled by the neocons, and yes they do want regime change in Iran
What does the average Yank want, meh who cares