Wanna start a revolution? Look no further than the Iranians use of social media as a blueprint for overthrowing the “axis of evil” Ayatollah before its 40th birthday. Using the modern weapon of war, social media, Iranians have almost made guns passé and used millions of people to exert their will and hopefully remove the oppressive regime in the coming months.
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Receiving little notice by the world press is the fact that millions of Iranians are protesting in the streets and posting acts of torture on social media believing it will exert enough world pressure to end the current regime. In an effort to stand with the “people” of Iran and not its Islamic rulers, the Trump administration recently designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) a terrorist organization, using Tweets, Mr. Trump made clear he supports the people NOT the government of Iran. “Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!.” Twitter, Jan 3, 2018.
The incredible impact that social media has made inside Iran is undeniable. Proof of this comes from the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) that revealed new details of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and the Ministry of Information and Security’s (MOIS), efforts to use cyber warfare against its people to quash the uprisings.
Using insiders, the People’s Mujahidin Organization of Iran (MEK/PMOI), and the NCRI has proven that the Islamic State of Iran has turned its focus on mass surveillance of the people by using malicious software embedded in many communication apps used by the IRGC. The mobile apps employ malware that is designed to actively monitor and disrupt any communication between protesters and dissidents.
Reports have also highlighted that many of the apps, like Mobogram, are available through the Apple Store and those apps could purportedly infect cell phones worldwide.
However, Iran’s efforts to cut off the Internet or government spying have failed as Iran’s young and educated population has used technology to work around the government’s attempt to clobber the ongoing peaceful protests.
So far more than 140 cities have reported massive protests, something that has rightly worried the regime leaders.
In January, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that “the regime might suffer the same fate as the Shah’s regime, should it fail to listen to the voice of the people,” according to Struan Stevenson, Middle East expert on Iran and Member of the European Parliament from Scotland. He also said the popular uprisings are concerning to the mullahs in Iran. “Do not think that the risk of overthrow is over. No, the enemies will not give up thinking about the overthrow even for a moment. We must be alert…. You saw the rioters attack some seminaries; this was worse than the Shah regime’s attack on the ‘Faydiyyah’ seminary,” Senior Mullah and Vice Chairman of the Assembly of Experts Ahmad Khatami said.
In 2009 the Green Movement sparked worldwide attention when millions took to the streets and protested its anger about the latest rigged electoral process. Those protestors hoped US President Obama would hear their calls, he didn’t and the Nobel Peace-Prize winning president crafted a deal with the repressive Iranian regime.
In return for Obama’s naivety, the regime promised to stop building nuclear weapons, of course, but the Ayatollah reportedly didn’t stop production, and he did get a sweet deal and the US forked over approximately $150 billion in previously frozen accounts.
Unlike the 2009 Green Movement, the 2018 movement has morphed from a random political cause into a united opposition that seeks the removal of the Ayatollah and his henchmen. The Iranian resistance is demanding freedom, equality, and an end to military adventurism throughout the Middle East. The opposition demands the overthrow of the entire cleric regime and rebuilding the country in an effort to rejoin the modern world.
However, the protestors are constantly confronted with huge hurdles in the form of the government’s effective use of propaganda, indoctrination, and terror.
While Iran spends about $30 billion per year to maintain its military and security apparatus, the massive government operation also serves as the chief breeding ground for its indoctrination program. The result leaves many impoverished Iranians selling their kidneys for about $2k to pay the bills and feed their families.
Over the years there have been many false starts, so will this movement finally be the one that removes the Ayatollah and the Islamic clerics?
Heshmat Alavi, a Forbes contributor journalist thinks so. “What I’ve seen from them throughout the years is that they are willing to pay the ultimate price for their cause. They (MEK protestors under President Maryam Rajavi) have a specified plan for the future, which others who claim to be Iranian opposition groups, unfortunately, don’t…Their history has shown me that they have endured the pressures imposed upon them by the Iranian regime, and surpassed all the hardships brought about in the region by factors not in their control, including the first & second Persian Gulf Wars that removed all the attention from the main state sponsor of terrorism, being Tehran’s mullahs.”
For far too long the American government has allowed Iran’s regime to run roughshod over the people of Iran in order to appease the Mullahs and keep Israel’s main enemy engaged in other Middle East entanglements.
“The West has a chance to stand on the right side of history. And unlike countries of the Middle East that experienced the Arab Spring, Iran enjoys an experienced opposition coalition, seen in the MEK & NCRI. In their words, they have provided the blueprint for a free Iran of tomorrow, and I believe they will bow to the people’s demands and the ballot box,” Alavi explained.
Typically in the Middle East, including Iran, shifts in the balance of power result in the elimination of the opposition to exert power and ensure everyone falls in line.
However, the Internet becomes the honest broker of political change by providing real-time images of events on the ground that are irrefutable and exposing governmental retribution. The MEK says as a provisional government it will not blindly arrest and kill the regime. In fact, it intends to abolish the death penalty.
Ali Safavi of the NCRI said he has been in exile for more than forty years, he has lost a brother to the Islamic regime, but he believes Ms. Rajavi’s promise to eliminate the death penalty and seek outside assistance from the World Court when they arrest the Ayatollah and his regime provocateurs.
Also, the coalition’s elected NCRI leader Maryam Rajavi is on record stating the coalition is not fighting to permanently gain power. “Their sacrifice was to enable the people of Iran (to) have the opportunity to choose freely. If this group was interested in a power grab, Khomeini would have laid everything before their feet,” Alavi said. “Considering the fact that they remained true to their principles, the first of which being freedom, in 1981 Khomeini unleashed a reign of terror upon them, resulting in tens of thousands of their members and sympathizers being executed.”
Hoping history won’t be repeated the NCRI said: “Our goal is to establish a free and democratic republic based on the separation of church and state, gender equality and with emphasis on women’s equal participation in political leadership. We want a non-nuclear Iran. Our platform could be summed up in three words: Freedom, Equality and the supremacy of the people’s vote. This has been our ideal from the outset. We are not fighting and making sacrifices to be able to grab onto power. We have not even set our sights on sharing power and the ability to govern. Our biggest mission is the establishment of the people’s sovereignty and democracy… We would be content to remain in opposition and feel honored to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of giving the Iranian people the ability to choose freely.”
Nevertheless, whatever group seizes power, they will have to dispose of the Qods Revolutionary Guard’s commander, Major General Qasem Suleimani. Despite US sanctions banning Suleimani from traveling outside Iran, the US government has confirmed the elusive General has been photographed in Syria, Iraq and Russia.
But just how much power does the Mullah’s favorite military man really have? “Suleimani is a pawn of Khamenei’s chess game against the international community. Through his crimes Khamenei is attempting to save face in the region, knowing with increasing international pressure, such as the nuclear program, he will have to forgo his influence across the Middle East. As a result, Khamenei is increasing the price to obtain as many incentives for himself and his regime. Suleimani is only another tool for a larger objective: to buy more time push back the inevitable, the end of the Iranian regime,” Alavi explained.
If the end game is near what exactly needs to evolve to usher in a new moderate or secular Iranian government?
First, the Islamic Republic is weaker than ever, with the population putting aside its political party differences, unity in numbers will intimidate the regime and those conditions should set up the international community to impose tougher economic banking sanctions.
Second, the majority of Iranian’s are unwilling to accept a more moderate version of the current regime; it’s been around for forty years – that’s older than the average age of 31 in Iran. And it’s those young people who are driving the protests by mobilizing women who encourage daily protests despite the harsh treatment the regime imposes when they are arrested. This group has become particularly adept at skirting the regime’s hardline rules by using technology to its favor and to organize mass protests quickly.
Third, the people already support a new democratic alternative with the NCRI/PMOI. The collective organizations have put an apparatus in place for an interim government that would recognize freedom for all people and put measures in place that ensures some form of democracy takes root.
It’s imperative that the message from the Resistance Coalition articulates that there is a big difference between the current Islamic fundamentalist government and the people of Iran, who wish to abandon nuclear weapons in favor of rejoining the West.
According to the NCRI and Safavi, the interim government will seek support from the United Nations Security Council to impose punitive measures against the Regime for its role in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners.
Another action important to expedite peaceful regime change is the international communities’ continued pressure on the Regime to release thousands of protesters the Ayatollah and the secret security police have arrested during the past few months. Safavi argues. America must lead the way and ensure the Regime does not torture or execute any of those prisoners, he claims.
Multiple experts agree that there are many options for America to hasten change in Iran. One, they can demand the Regime restore full access to the Internet; and, allow international Internet entities provide service the Regime cannot shut down.
“The USA and EU, particularly France and Britain, must take necessary practical steps to expel the IRGC and its affiliated militias in Syria and Iraq. This will be a major step for securing regional peace, weakening the regime and speeding its downfall by the people and the democratic opposition,” Stevenson explained. “The West must express solidarity with the Iranian people and their resistance in their bid for democratic change.”
In conclusion, it’s obvious the Middle East region knows change is afoot. Curiously, the timing of Saudi Arabia’s whirlwind change in power and augmenting women’s rights must provide diplomats with a prime opportunity to enhance diplomatic channels with groups offering change. As Mayor Giuliani said, “Can it get any worse? No, of course not we must stand with the NCRI.”
The Sunni-driven Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s ailing King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud is abdicating his throne in favor of his 32-year-old son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (aka MbS), who has made headlines with his disastrous war in Yemen, but more notably the arrest of 11 other princes to consolidate power, and his loosening of the Kingdom’s grip on some women’s rights. KSA’s enhanced anti-terrorist activities now point the finger directly at Iranian Islamic leaders and allege they are meddling in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen. The Iranian Resistance coalition can use this a leverage to bring the US State Department to the negotiating table.
The “wall of fear” is finally beginning to crack inside Iran, the massive and widespread demonstrations illustrate that the Iranian regime has no future. The repression from the security forces is waning and the leaders of the NCRI coalition have opened “centers of rebellion” to provide more continuity within the population and begin the final push towards Iranian democracy. It’s been four decades of repression, terrorism, economically adverse conditions, maybe, just maybe, the Iranian youth will use social media to end the authoritarianism and perhaps highlight that they are prepared to employ their version of “Putting on the Ritz.” (Watch the clip here). If the Russian people can, there is hope Iran can join the ranks of the modern world as well…