The Iranian regime is feeling the pressure, both at home and in the international community. For the mullahs, survival is about crushing any opposition, both at home and abroad. There have been ongoing protest rallies held across Iran, with nine being held on Sunday alone. These protests are not only about unpaid wages, but other issues, including the environment.
The most defining aspect of Iran during the past year has been the continuation of anti-government protests. These protests began at the end of 2017 and have only continued to expand throughout Iran over the intervening months. It has shaken the mullahs and the regime, as their suppression tactics no longer appear able to make the Iranian people cower.
The social base of the protests is growing and primarily consist of those whom the regime describe as “the army of the hungry and unemployed”. Figures suggest that unemployment is at least 30%, although there are concerns that the number could be even higher. Among young people in Iran, the unemployment rate is over 50%. The overwhelming number of Iranians are living in a state of poverty, and the Iranian middle class has virtually disappeared.
Members of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) opposition group have also played a part in these rallies. In response to the perceived threat by the opposition, the regime has done what it believes is the best defense, which is a campaign of misinformation against the PMOI/MEK, which is one of the opposition groups that makes up the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
In spite of their terrorist acts, particularly throughout Europe, the regime is unable to halt the increasing prominence of the democratic alternative provided by the NCRI and the PMOI/MEK. This international presence continues to increase as the PMOI members were relocated from Iraq to Albania, where the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) agents have been caught spying on them.
An investigation by Reuters revealed that last month alone a Tehran-based agency has quietly fed propaganda through at least 70 websites to countries throughout the world. The lies that they are spreading were fabricated by the former Supreme Leader Khomeini, but they are still being used by the regime today. Iran is the number one nation-state exporter of terrorism and also the number one exporter of propaganda.
The demonizing campaign involves the use of social media, dissemination of fake news, provision of grants for biased and slanderous reports, and even hiring reporters directly or through middlemen. All of these pieces depend on special sources, particularly individuals who claim to be “former members” of the PMOI/MEK. However, many of these individuals are in fact well-known agents of the regime.
The political messaging and policy implications are equally familiar. The message is that the PMOI/MEK is not a threat or serious challenge to the regime and that the West should revert to its failed policies of appeasement and accommodations to curry favor with the ayatollahs.
However, if the PMOI/MEK is not a threat to the regime, then why would they work so hard to discredit them? Why would they actively work to limit the influence of the opposition within Iran itself. Clearly, it is because the control and power of the regime is being weakened and no efforts of suppression are going to stop the demands of the Iranian people for regime change.
In a recent example of the regime efforts to discredit the PMOI/MEK and the NCRI, the German weekly Der Spiegel published a biased article regarding the democratic opposition on February 16, 2019. The article contained at least 60 lies and baseless accusations against the PMOI and its members currently living in Albania.
Individuals are raising concerns, not only about the contents of the article itself but also the standards and practices that were used to gather and vet the information that was used. What is particularly troubling is the fact that none of the human rights abuses that are occurring within Iran itself. The economy is failing, in large part due to the mismanagement and corruption of the regime, yet the Iranian leadership is choosing to focus their efforts on repression instead of addressing the concerns and needs of their people.
There are also all the attacks on political, environmental, and human rights activists. These groups are thrown in jail or suffer physical abuse and even torture. Despite these activities meant to suppress any attempts of an uprising, the Iranian people continue to protest, and those demonstrations and protests are only growing stronger. The regime has not been able to stop the demands for change, and so they have stepped up their efforts to discredit the opposition.
In addition to domestic repression, the regime has also increased its terror campaign, particularly in 2018. There have been multiple terror plots, misinformation, and demonizing of the opposition in the media and through social media campaigns. Accounts from social media platforms were deactivated after their ties to the regime were uncovered.
No matter how many resources Iran has, with the regime in charge, it is clear that the mullahs are determined to exploit their people instead of governing them effectively. The question is how long will their regime be able to stand against the will of the Iranian people?
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