The Islamic republic registered a formal protest after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sensibly stressed that the United States should “work towards support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government.” The United States has previously assisted those seeking democratic change.
“Given that Iran is ruled by an aging Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the United States should be prepared for a transition of power there that may yet precipitate the collapse of the entire system,” writes Ray Takeyh, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in his article for the Washington Post.
Taketh further asserts that Iran not stable. The history of the Islamic republic is turbulent, a constant struggle between an authoritarian regime and restive population seeking democratic empowerment. Upon assuming power, the clerical oligarchs waged street fights to repress the revolutionary coalition who did not desire a theocratic dictatorship. A reform movement arose in the 1990s that spoke about reconsidering Khamenei’s absolutist pretensions and expanding civil society and critical media. The regime eviscerated the movement. The Green Revolt in summer 2009 delegitimized the system and severed the bonds between state and society, according to Taketh.
Another protest movement will surely rise at some point in the future that seeks to displace the regime.
“Today, the Islamic republic lumbers on as the Soviet Union did during its last years. It professes an ideology that convinces no one. It commands security services that proved unreliable in the 2009 rebellion, causing the regime to deploy the Basij militias because many commanders of the Revolutionary Guards refused to shoot the protesters,” writes Takeyh.
Iran just elected Hassan Rouhani to a second term as their president, leaving the Islamic republic unable to decide to manage a succession to the post of the supreme leader as its factions continue to struggle, and its public is too disaffected.
The regime does have its nuclear agreement with the international community, which is officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. The legitimacy and longevity of the regime will not be questioned by those whose foremost priority is sustaining an arms-control accord says Takeyh, who adds, “And it was this sentiment that Tillerson challenged when he called for making common cause with those struggling for freedom inside Iran. The amorality of arms control has little room for such lofty and idealistic ambitions.”
The U.S. government must plan for the probable outbreak of another protest movement or the sudden passing of Khamenei, either of which may destabilize the system to the point of collapse. Plans for this should be made today, once the crisis breaks out, it will be too late.