Be Careful What You Wish For: A ‘Persian Spring’ Would Be a Disaster

    Gawdat Bahgat

    Security, Middle East

    A woman standing next to her husband holds a candle during a religious ceremony to mark Ashura at a shrine in the north of Tehran October 24, 2015. Ashura, which falls on the 10th day of the Islamic month of Muharram, commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of Prophet Mohammad, who was killed in the 7th century battle of Kerbala. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi/TIMA

    The experiments with regime change in the Middle East are not encouraging.

    After a week of violent demonstrations in several large cities and small towns, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), announced that the “sedition” has been defeated. It will take some time to accurately understand the roots of this violence and how it will impact Tehran’s domestic and foreign policies.

    Still, the excitement expressed by some officials, media outlets, and think tanks in the United States, Israel, and some Persian Gulf states raise two important and interrelated questions: Is a regime change in Tehran desirable? And what is the “right” approach to deal with Iran?

    A close examination of Iranian policy suggests that the government has a long way to go to meet the aspirations of the socioeconomic and political needs of its large and young population. These include unemployment, gender equality, transparency, corruption and pollution, among others. The “right” way to address these challenges is a gradual reform of the system, not regime change. The experiments with regime change in the broad Middle East are not encouraging. Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen are cases-in-point. The process of regime change by definition is destabilizing. An unstable Iran would threaten key global interests:

    – Rhetoric aside, the Islamic Republic, particularly the Quds force and its leader Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, has been playing a major role in the global war on terrorism. The Sunni extremist groups including Al Qaeda and ISIS perceive Shias as one of their main enemies. In June 2017 ISIS claimed responsibility for two major terrorist attacks in Tehran one on the parliament building and the other on the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. Twelve people were killed and forty-six were wounded in these attacks. ISIS would welcome a regime change in Tehran.

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