How Wobbly Is the Iranian Regime?

anti-riotarmoredvehicleAs the old year ended the Iranian regime found itself being challenged on the streets as it had been last summer. Ray Tayekh of the Council on Foreign Relations sees it this way:

Recent events are eerily reminiscent of the revolution that displaced the monarchy in 1979: A fragmented, illegitimate state led by cruel yet indecisive men is suddenly confronting an opposition movement that it cannot fully apprehend. It is premature to proclaim the immediate demise of the theocratic regime. Iran may well be entering a prolonged period of chaos and violence. In the aftermath of recent disturbances, however, it is obvious that the lifespan of the Islamic Republic has been considerably shortened.

In his view the present regime is in much the same state that the Shah was in 30 years ago: unwilling to broaden his political base and not decisive enough to take action against those who opposed him.

If this report is correct and the regime has purchased anti-riot armored vehicles (pictured above) from China, deliveries of which having now begun after a four month wait, it would seem to indicate that the regime is not so indecisive after all and is preparing itself to oppose the protesters more effectively.

That would be consistent with my view: that the Iranian regime has the cashflow and the will to avoid being removed by a velvet revolution. Without an organized opposition and a visible leader to serve as a rallying point and with the means and international support to maintain its hold on power, any notion that we may be seeing the last of the reprehensible Iranian regime may be so much wishful thinking.

If the report is true, it would also seem to cast some doubt on any ideas that the Chinese are prepared to support anything that would resemble effective sanctions against the regime. Contrariwise, the Chinese authorities seem to be doubling down.

And, as a veto-wielding permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China must support any measures for them to be put in place.

FILED UNDER: General, , ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. I’ve believed from the start that it would come down to the regular army in Iran. They’ve been subverted by the Revolutionary Guard, but if the generals, and the common soldier (and one supposes Rafsanjani) decide they’ve seen enough the balance will tip decisively. Then it won’t matter how many riot control vehicles the Mullahs have. This thing could turn on a single captain ordering his men to defend protesters against Baseej.

  2. ulyssesunbound says:

    Dave (or any commentator),

    Would you recommend a book or a source of materials on the internal politics of present day Iran? I get snippets from news sources and blogs like this, but I am very ignorant as to how the Revolutionary Guard has become a political power, how the old facets of the last revolution are affecting these protests, who the prime players are besides Moussavi, Ahmedinijad, etcetera.

    Any help would be very appreciated.

  3. anjin-san says:

    Hopefully the Iranian people will start 2011 with a more representative form of government. It won’t be done without bloodshed, but sadly, that is often the price of liberty.

    Michael is correct, it may well come down to the army, and some average people deciding that they have had enough. The Shah was very well armed, and it did not help him much in the end.

    I maintain that the enmity between the U.S. and Iran is a mistake of historic proportions for both countries. With enough courage and wisdom on both sides, it will end up on the scrap heap of history, along with the current despotic Iranian regime. I hope people in Iran know millions of Americans are behind them in their struggle for a better life.

  4. Danian says:

    This Rand Corporation study might help give you the info on the Revolutionary Guard

    href=”http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2008/RAND_MG821.pdf”>

  5. ulyssesunbound says:

    Thanks Danian!

  6. mannning says:

    I maintain that the enmity between the U.S. and Iran is a mistake of historic proportions for both countries.

    Enmity is quite often begun as a one-sided thing, with an obvious reaction by the other side. Here, Iran has triple-downed the enmity towards the US, fully backed up with nuclear weapons developments, despite receiving naive but well-meant olive branches from our current President. That is their mistake, not ours.

    Negotiating with the world of Islam, or any of its parts (such as Iran), from a position of weakness is truly an exercise in futility. This lesson has not yet penetrated well-enough into the higher echelons of the Obama administration, nor will it, I believe.

    The Iranians do not believe that Obama is willing to use his big sticks any more(he has neutered himself!), and that will indeed lead to an historic conflict with Iran, one way or another. He has or had several big sticks: economics, military power in the region, control of the seas, support of major nations, and a majority of the US citizenry behind him, especially in the case of Iran and its volatile and aggressive President and the Mullahs behind him.

    It is too bad that he is drawing down our forces in Iraq, and has begun the disassembly or gifting of the logistics bases we had there. Those bases in the ME will be needed in a little while, but the strategic position we have had until recently in Iraq will be most difficult to regain. A pity and a costly mistake!

  7. DL says:

    And the regime has the added luxury of knowing that Obama wont interfere for justice’s sake.

  8. Douglas says:

    Without an organized opposition and a visible leader to serve as a rallying point and with the means and international support to maintain its hold on power, any notion that we may be seeing the last of the reprehensible Iranian regime may be so much wishful thinking.

    Yeahp, I don’t know about a single leader, but a singular ideology is absolutely necessary. We are no longer a world of strong leaders, but rather a world where idea’s are given strength separate from those who give them voice.

    I see nothing but “you guys are punks” right now, if only there was some external assistance, that might stoke the fire, and allow a strong leader to become emboldened to stand up and take the risks that come with putting yourself to the forefront.

    But A freedom loving leader supporting freedom loving citizens in the face of brutal oppression? THAT’S JUST CRAZY TALK!

    Other than Ike, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagen, Clinton Bush, but those are the exceptions to the rule.

  9. I notice Mr. Bush didn’t use his “big stick.” In fact Mr. Bush cleverly removed Iran’s single most dangerous foe.

    Iran needs us as an enemy; we could actually use them as an ally. The obstruction is the current Iranian regime. But again, for those who are slow to grasp the obvious: the Mullah regime has a fundamentally different goal: they want, need, rely upon the specter of the Great Satan.

    Not quite sure why it would be helpful for us to deliberately play into that by acting the Great Satan role in new and louder ways.

    Logically we should do what we can to remove the regime since they are the problem. But bombing would help them and broad sanctions may help them as well because, again, they need us for an enemy.

    Which leaves us with deterrence and containment and whatever no-fingerprints assistance we can offer protesters. (Communications mostly.)

    A wise leadership might do what it could to minimize our role as Great Satan. Perhaps an open-handed approach and a nice speech which made it harder to portray us as intractable foes. Such a wise leadership might carefully avoid tainting a protest movement that now calls for Khamenei’s head. Then, since there’s not a single damn thing we can do anyway, a wise leader might watch and wait.

    Or we could talk about how big our sticks are.

  10. Douglas:

    You know what would really help? If Obama went on TV and said we support the protesters and hope they overthrow the Iranian regime. And that we’re going to support them with money and if need be weapons.

    Because that would totally render the protesters credible and show that they were true patriots and good Muslims.

    Yes. That would work so well.

  11. tom p says:

    Yes. That would work so well.

    Yes, that has worked so well in the past!

    Other than Ike, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagen, Clinton Bush, but those are the exceptions to the rule.

    And Douglas, other than, Ike, Kennedy, Nixon, Reagen, and Clinton (assuming you mean the first Bush), I am hard pressed to find an exception to your rule! 😉

  12. Mithras says:

    Iran’s one of the few countries in the region that has a coherent national identity, an educated population, and institutions that could evolve into a real Islamic democracy. As the country that helped overthrow their last democratically-elected leader and shot down one of their civilian airliners, maybe the U.S. shouldn’t charge into an area where we’re not going to do any good. Iran’s behavior toward its neighbors is one thing; how Iranians treat each other is something they’re going to have to work out themselves, I hope not at gunpoint.

  13. Tom:

    Ike: Iran, Hungary, Cuba
    Kennedy: Cuba again, Vietnam, Laos
    Nixon: Czechoslovakia, more Vietnam, Cambodia
    Reagan: Afghanistan, Lebanon
    Clinton: Somalia
    Bush 1: Southern Iraq, Kurdistan.

    Yep. Intervention in the affairs of other nations almost always works out great.

    And in a Muslim country like Iran nothing could be better for a protest movement than the embrace of a Christian superpower that is also Israel’s closest friend.

  14. Mithras says:

    The important thing for conservatives is to feel righteous and talk about how big their stick is.

  15. Joe says:

    What an awesome way to start the new year and decade, don’t you think? And, no, I don’t think Obama publicly supporting Iranian protesters would help. It would pretty much be war with Iran after that.

  16. anjin-san says:

    And the regime has the added luxury of knowing that Obama wont interfere for justice’s sake.

    Well, are you ready to go and give your life for justice in Iran? Or are you just ready to see other guys do the dying so you can feel righteous?

  17. Stan says:

    “And the regime has the added luxury of knowing that Obama wont interfere for justice’s sake.”

    I can’t think of anything that would help the regime more than interference in their affairs by the United States.

  18. mannning says:

    Or we could talk about how big our sticks are.

    Big sticks are meant to be used, if only softly talked about to coerce, convince, or deter a fractuous country from creating more trouble. When soft talk fails, and it usually does, big sticks come into their own in a number of dimensions, including: blockades, strikes, and all out war.

    It is up to the President and our Congress to ensure that we maintain our big sticks in good shape, and project willingness to use them if necessary. This I believe we have not done in this weak, almost obsequious administration and progressive (read pacifist)-dominated congress. The result is virtually no real foreign achievements that work to protect the nation, and I don’t expect any for the next 3 to 7 years..

  19. Mannning:

    Name a single, concrete way in which our military power has been weakened by Mr. Obama.

  20. steve says:

    Try this. The CIa has released its report, but I cant find it right now.

    http://www.nytimes.com/library/world/mideast/041600iran-cia-index.html

    Steve

  21. anjin-san says:

    It is up to the President and our Congress to ensure that we maintain our big sticks in good shap

    True. And its a shame that Bush & co. overextended our military so badly and unnecessarily in Iraq. Of course we need to also keep in mind that the economy damn near went down the drain on Bush’s watch, and that is. after all. what pays for the ol’ stickaroo.

    But, if it makes you feel better, blame it all on Obama. Since when has reality been important to the American conservative?

  22. mannning says:

    MR:

    Sure, cancellation of the F-22 will do, justified fiscally or not. It weakens us militarily. Cancellation or major downsizing of the FCS program is also weakening our ability to fight or contain both the current and next major wars, cold or hot! Now tell me that there won’t be another major war, Mr. Chamberlain. Peace in our time! Sure.

    The Obama administration has elected to reshape the military largely in the image of the current insurgency wars, and to seriously downplay the Two Wars, heavy armor capability of prior years, apparently in order to throw money at inane, pet progressive projects and earmarks such as bridges to nowhere, with few jobs for the masses. A peace dividend for them, not all of us. We get a dollar that is declining rapidly in value.

    I do not want to hear about what Bush did or didn’t do, that really does not matter now. What matters is this spendthrift and power hungry, czarist-riddled Administration and Congress and our future from here on, which is looking rather dim, and it is entirely in their slippery, misdirecting hands now, wars, debts and all. They own the show! That is, unless we vote their sorry, lemming asses out of office, and fix the problems they have created, starting this Fall!

    In real terms, not the total fiction that the Administration fosters off on us, what do you think the national debt will be in 2020 as a result of Obama’s legislative programs: 30 trillion, 40 trillion or more? I say more, and it will become virtually unpayable. That is the main issue now, along with their socialistic gaining of control of much of the economy. I look for that to increase this year also. May God help us!

    Vote them out!

  23. mannning says:

    Why do you always seem to pick the wrong end of the stick, angin san? Obama & Co. now owns the whole show, and has put any other spender in the shade. He isn’t through yet, and our debt is soaring. Pick THAT end, will you?

  24. Mithras says:

    Sure, cancellation of the F-22 will do, justified fiscally or not. It weakens us militarily. Cancellation or major downsizing of the FCS program is also weakening our ability to fight or contain both the current and next major wars, cold or hot!

    Wow, this could be Exhibit A in showing how conservatives misunderstand that what’s best for U.S. security is not exactly the same thing as what’s best for U.S. defense contractors. Spending more money on things that don’t work or don’t address a realistic threat weakens us militarily.

    But why stop with the F-22 or FCS or the second F-35 engine? Why aren’t we preparing for a future extraterrestrial invasion by investing a trillion dollars in manned fighters that can shoot down flying saucers?

  25. Stan says:

    I’m trying to remember who said deficits don’t matter. One was president during the eighties, the other was vice-president more recently. Maybe manning could help me with their names.

  26. sam says:

    The Obama administration has elected to reshape the military largely in the image of the current insurgency wars, and to seriously downplay the Two Wars, heavy armor capability of prior years, apparently in order to throw money at inane, pet progressive projects and earmarks such as bridges to nowhere

    Of that doesn’t make you laugh, you suffer from severe SOHDD.

  27. sam says:

    The Obama administration has elected to reshape the military largely in the image of the current insurgency wars, and to seriously downplay the Two Wars, heavy armor capability of prior years, apparently in order to throw money at inane, pet progressive projects and earmarks such as bridges to nowhere

    If that doesn’t make you laugh, you suffer from severe SOHDD.

  28. sam says:

    if, of whatever…

  29. Manning:

    It does not weaken the military to cancel a useless plane. It would have had to be maintained, hangars and men allocated that could have been used elsewhere. In other words, not canceling it would have weakened the military.

    Your answer is pure bluster. The shorter answer: Obama has done nothing to weaken the military. You are operating on partisan assumptions and no data. And on the basis of nothing but assumption you’re making wild statements which are demonstrably false.

  30. Mithras:

    We can only hope the aliens use tanks. We would be so ready.

  31. anjin-san says:

    I do not want to hear about what Bush did

    I’m sure you don’t. And considering his record, it’s understandable. But the rest of us remember how Bush trashed the country while Republicans cheered at the top of their lungs.

    Are deficits a concern? You bet. But let us remember that Mr. Bush inherited a SURPLUS and quickly had us into record deficits. (tax cuts for billionaires, very important stuff) When Obama took office he inherited an economy that was imploding, and he had no good options. The economy is starting to firm up, we need to continue that process in 2010 and attack the deficit problem aggressively as soon as we have some actual economic strength to work with.

    Really Manning, can you name one strong card that Bush left for Obama to play?

  32. Anjin:

    Republicans spend 8 years smashing up the china shop with a baseball bat and then demand to know why we have no teacups. But they’d like their answer without references to baseball bats or Republicans.

    Because they are the party of prudence and responsibility, dontcha know.

  33. anjin-san says:

    manning has gone dark…

  34. Duracomm says:

    Michael Reynolds said,

    Name a single, concrete way in which our military power has been weakened by Mr. Obama.

    Damage is on the way

    Budget Priorities
    Elections have consequences, and so you had to suspect that this was coming:

    Word on Capitol Hill is that the Quadrennial Defense Review should result in the demise of two Navy car­rier groups and the Marines’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle. On top of that, the Joint Strike Fighter pro­gram is likely to lose a so-​​far uncer­tain num­ber of planes and the Air Force looks to lose two air wings.

    Although, as best as I can tell, we’re still hewing to the same old schedule — every combatant commander wants a carrier strike group just like all the other four stars have. No gaps permitted.

    So, we could just extend the deployment cycles for ships on station to ten or eleven months. See just how long it takes to break the force.

    (The) solution to the retention challenge is not to keep our people at sea 85 percent of the time. We cannot always expect young people to stay at sea that long and to turn [them] around that quickly.

    They will not stay—they will vote with their feet. We are very much on the edge, but I do not believe that we have a hollow force. But if our people walk, we will have a hollow force.

    Extended deployment schedules will require us to extend maintenance availabilities, since higher deployed usage rates generate greater work package volumes, and combat systems upgrades tend to accumulate. But maintenance availabilities are very expensive, so that probably wouldn’t save the requisite dollars. So we could skimp on those, which would help us shorten inter-deployment cycle times and increase usage rates. See how that works.

    Or we could ask the National Command Authority what legacy missions no longer need to be serviced.

    Which oceans surrounding our island home need no longer be patrolled. Which allies no longer need to be supported, which enemies no longer need to be deterred.

  35. Duracomm says:

    Michael Reynolds said,

    You know what would really help? If Obama went on TV and said we support the protesters and hope they overthrow the Iranian regime. And that we’re going to support them with money and if need be weapons.

    Because that would totally render the protesters credible and show that they were true patriots and good Muslims.

    Yes. That would work so well.

    and anjin-san said,

    Well, are you ready to go and give your life for justice in Iran? Or are you just ready to see other guys do the dying so you can feel righteous?

    I don’t think it is an unreasonable for obama to speak out against the horrifically oppressive actions the Iranian regime has undertaken since the last election in that country.

    The point is not to bolster the credibility of the iranian dissidents. The point is to clearly illustrate the illegitimacy of the iranian ruling regime.

    This would also provide much needed moral support to the courageous iranian dissidents.

    US presidents speaking out on the oppressive nature of a government has been helpful to dissidents in the past.

    The prisoners’ conscience

    In 1983, I was confined to an eight-by-ten-foot prison cell on the border of Siberia. My Soviet jailers gave me the privilege of reading the latest copy of Pravda. Splashed across the front page was a condemnation of President Ronald Reagan for having the temerity to call the Soviet Union an “evil empire.”

    Tapping on walls and talking through toilets, word of Reagan’s “provocation” quickly spread throughout the prison.

    We dissidents were ecstatic. Finally, the leader of the free world had spoken the truth – a truth that burned inside the heart of each and every one of us.

  36. anjin-san says:

    I don’t think it is an unreasonable for obama to speak out against the horrifically oppressive actions the Iranian regime has undertaken since the last election in that country.

    Guess they did not show this on Glenn Beck’s show:

    http://vodpod.com/watch/1800773-the-white-house-blog-post-the-presidents-opening-remarks-on-iran-with-persian-translation

  37. Duracomm says:

    anjin-san,

    Nice to see obama following reagan’s example when it comes to speaking to oppressive regimes.

  38. anjin-san says:

    Nice to see obama following reagan’s example when it comes to speaking to oppressive regimes.

    Reagan was a good President, a fine example for his successors on a number of levels.

    So why are you talking as if Obama had not already done so?

    This would also provide much needed moral support to the courageous iranian dissidents.

  39. Duracomm says:

    Anjin-san,

    I was not aware of the speech.

    It apparently did not generate either much coverage, much follow through on obama’s part, or perhaps it got drowned out by ongoing events.

    Whatever the cause I missed it.

  40. Have a nice G.A. says:

    Duracomm, If Obama is thinking about doing something it’s good enough for the likes of Harry and Anjin-san, heck if they just think he is thinking about doing something or not doing something they love him even more.
    Sort of like with the way they felt about Bush but you have to replace thinking with not thinking and love with hate.

    Oh and Harry is what Michael Reynolds prefers to be called.

  41. Duracomm says:

    Michael Reynolds said,

    Republicans spend 8 years smashing up the china shop with a baseball bat and then demand to know why we have no teacups. But they’d like their answer without references to baseball bats or Republicans.

    We are fortunate that healthcare was not under government control.

    The way things are going we will not be so lucky the next time an administration Michael does not like is elected.

    Because that future administration will be in charge of healthcare.

  42. mannning says:

    Well, yes, I went dark because it was a holiday period.

    Again, the Left is trying to blame Bush for everything, and not to take responsibility for today and tomorrow as they should. Focus! It is 2010.

    There were many sins during the Bush administration that I recognized and critricized at the time, but that has now passed on into history. It is up to the current administration to identify, address and set forth correctives for any such sins that remain, and not to exacerbate them, as they are doing! Take out a fresh piece of paper and start! Do the job you were elected to do.

    What I see is a rather disguised acceptance of many of the policies of the prior administration, which argues that many of the Bush policies were quite proper and currect. They just had to be understood better in the real world of governing instead of campaigning and then tweaked to make them read better for Leftist ears. Now there is a legacy!

    We have a 1 year old administration now, and it is acting like it! The fact is that ANY sins we as a nation have perpetrated are only correctable from here on by this administration,the Obama Administration, however under-age and naive it is and acts. We have been seeing, however, a cast of characters manning the management posts(O-Leader, and his czars, Reid and Pelosi!)that shed great doubt that there will be any real successes for America, as opposed to the Left.

  43. anjin-san says:

    I was not aware of the speech.

    So you just rushed in and attacked Obama without being aware of the actual facts. Ok.

  44. anjin-san says:

    shed great doubt that there will be any real successes for America, as opposed to the Left.

    Well, we have a recovery (admittedly a fragile one) from the economic train wreck that Obama inherited. That is a pretty good place to start if we are discussing successes for all Americans.

    If you are so big on taking responsibility, how about also giving credit?

  45. Duracomm says:

    anjin-san,

    If obama had done an effective job communicating I probably would have been aware of the speech.

    The fact that Michael Reynolds (blockquoted below) was apparently unaware of the speech indicates it was not a theme that obama hit very often.

    You know what would really help? If Obama went on TV and said we support the protesters and hope they overthrow the Iranian regime. And that we’re going to support them with money and if need be weapons.

    Because that would totally render the protesters credible and show that they were true patriots and good Muslims.

    Another indication that obama’s speech did not make an impact was the fact that left blogs were arguing that it would be bad for obama to speak out on the protests and right blogs were arguing it would be good for him to speak out on the protests.

    Apparently the fact that he did make a 3 minute statement on the protests got drowned out in the background noise.

  46. anjin-san says:

    Really Manning, can you name one strong card that Bush left for Obama to play?

    Still waiting on this.

  47. mannning says:

    angin san:

    Bush left many policies which Obama has perforce had to accept and keep in place, sometimes with cosmetic changes or verbal caveats to satisfy the rabid left. That is a rich cluster of things Bush left for Obama. I suggest you read my last post more carefully.

    You have not taken my suggestion to focus on now, but insist on debating Obama versus Bush ad nauseam. This is a waste of time and effort.

    Get with 2010.

  48. Have a nice G.A. says:

    Well, we have a recovery (admittedly a fragile one)

    Trillions wasted for votes, billions wasted for bribes,millions wasted for security because of the skittish mindsets of the Muslim fellow travelers, 7 million some jobs lost, ignoring the war on terror, and strait forwardly dismissing the will of the majority of the American people.

    We got a fragile something but it sure ain’t a recovery, I think Administration is the word you might be looking for.

  49. anjin-san says:

    but insist on debating Obama versus Bush ad nauseam

    I am not ” debating Obama versus Bush”, I am just not going with the current right wing meme that 2009 (and beyond) exists in a vacuum, and that Obama is somehow to blame for the multiple disasters that Mr. Bush bequeathed to him.

    Also not buying into BS such as the assertation that Obama’s recent response to the failed airline bombing is a disaster of historic proportions, yet the fact that Mr. Bush had a nearly identical response to the “shoe bombing” is somehow not relevant.

    So fine, lets talk about 2010. But the right can’t pretend that Bush never happened, or revise history to excuse his many, and I do mean many, failures.

  50. mannning says:

    No, his rsponse was not THAT much of a disaster, but good enough to be logged onto my Obama Failure List. A list that has totally outgrown my tracking energy, so it is much, much easier to keep my current record and simply declare him an unmitigated…disaster! I will let others compile the rest of the OFL hereafter, since he has already crossed my threshold. Once dead, always dead.