Iran continues to face nationwide protests, interestingly led by women, merchants, workers, and many who have not previously participated, raising risks of social upheaval. But 2023 is the year to watch.
First, these protests are social in nature, representing a broad swatch of the population – half of whom are under 35. They are fundamentally discontent. In a country where protestors are often killed, 300 dead in recent months, revulsion is growing with their treatment and murder, especially of women.
The Iranian “morality police” first killed a young woman for improper headscarf, then denied it and have since continued to target women for arrest. Contrary to the expectation, this appears to have triggered wider disaffection with the regime, which has in turn triggered formal execution.
The odd part about nationwide protests based on revulsion with this kind of inhumanity is that they are less likely to end with economic appeasement, a foreign distraction, or blunt crackdowns. Revulsion with inhumanity only grows with more revolting acts of inhumanity.
Second, Iran’s economy – which was subject to “maximum pressure” by Trump-era sanctions – has continued to slow. In the Trump years, Iran suffered year-over-year negative growth. This reversed Obama-era appeasement, put new pressure on the government, and squeezed Iran’s power to sell oil, oppress its own people, satisfy the military, and push international terror.
Where “planeloads of cash” were delivered by Obama-Biden to Iran’s leaders in exchange for unverifiable (and transparently false) promises of a suspended nuclear program, sanctions bit.
US foreign policy began integrating the Middle East with bilateral peace accords between Arab nations and Israel while Iran remained the outlier. Biden’s team initially restarted failed nuclear talks, imagining ink on paper with Iran meant something, but as protests grew, they stepped back.
With Trump-era sanctions still in place, the Iranian economy is slowing at a faster rate than many thought possible. Thus, while Biden’s first two years offered hope to Iran’s repressive government, the last two offer no hope.
Iran’s economy reflects this reality. Iran’s economy has continued to crater, early high estimates of eight percent growth falling back to a 2.2 percent and falling for 2023. Meantime, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) puts Iran’s estimated inflation in 2023 at 40 percent – and rising.
The combination is likely to be a pincer, squeezing Iran’s government on everything from nuclear weapons development and military salaries to terror finance and employment.
Iran’s people are smart, remarkably pro-Western in many ways, not interested in continued religious, social – or economic persecution. They are aware that sanctions are intended to pressure the government, and many are for the effort.
What is most remarkable is the potential confluence – like two rivers coming together – of current trends. Revulsion with the Iran’s radical Islamic theocracy crackdown, punishing women and protestors with death, may combine with a sudden jump in unemployment, inflation, and hard times.
Iran’s leadership is aging fast, demographic data not promising, and indicia of social unrest growing. What this means – since none of us can predict the future – is rising uncertainty. Just as things changed suddenly in the late 1970s, things could change suddenly now.
What we do know is that Iran is reeling under the sudden, oddly bipartisan – since Biden has no choice – reality of US sanctions staying in place, no fresh US money, and growing solidarity among its adversaries.
Iran still counts Russia and China as allies, if peripherally, with reservations, and simply for the self-interest of these two. But even as Russia flies Iranian drones against Ukraine, and China looks for oil in the Middle East, Iran is in retrograde.
These protests are an important mark in time – a potential turning point. If combined in 2023 with a sudden shift away from faith in an ignoble, inhumane, evil government – one that has long oppressed its people, tormented the region, and terrorized the world – we could see some unpredicted change.
Totalitarian governments are hard to shift, reform, and – in the extreme – overturn. But movements “of the people, for the people, and by the people,” can also be powerful, sometimes hard to put down. Iran is in the midst of social, economic, and geopolitical change, and 2023 is the year light could replace darkness. We will see – but watch Iran in 2023.
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My experience with the people of Iran is that they are capable of restoring their country to viability and that there is a strong desire to be part of the Western culture.
China and Russian people are right there with the wicked leadership they have. And America is in the same boat!!!
This should be a wake up call to every American (Especially the younger folks) not to take the Bill of Rights for granted. Our Founding Fathers were very forward thinking especially framing the first two amendments. Freedom of speech, press, peaceful assembly and religious freedom (but not allowing any religion to wield political power). I think everyone and their dog knows what the 2nd Amendment is for with no further explanation needed.
It’s only a matter of time before Iran gets a “nuke”. What makes that extremely dangerous is the ruling mullahs there don’t think like most of the world. The “religious” extremists there think it’s their duty to cleanse the world of “infidels”
I would bet my next paycheck that most of the Iranian people just want to live their lives in peace, work their jobs, raise their families without persecution from their own government and be left the hell alone.
Glass parking lot created by their own stupidity. It would be a great visitor site.
Rerun 1979 minus hostages
Hey AMAC, nothing I wrote should have been censored. Is asking a question of the author now considered a reason to be “awaiting for approval”?
I see by a few recent reports that Iran now has sufficient enriched uranium to construct a nuclear bomb. They have opened a second secured facility to speed up the process of generating more enriched uranium to construct a second nuclear bomb. Their long range missile program continues to advance nicely, thanks to all the technical assistance for the CCP have been providing for quite a while. All while the Biden administration, populated with Obama era holdovers, is frantically trying to get Iran to sign onto a new Iran Nuclear Deal that would shower the Iranian regime with hundreds of billions of dollars to bankroll Iran’s government and their international terrorists ambitions. Obama obviously wants his one “foreign policy win”, if you can define a “win” as enabling a highly dangerous regime to obtain nuclear weapons a “win”, restored no matter what. For Obama, I think its an ego thing. Otherwise, he has no real accomplishments for 8 years in office other than wrecking the American healthcare system and crippling our banking and finance industries. So what am I missing here?
While the people of Iran have wanted to end the rule of the Mullahs for quite some time, the people are defenseless. I get you are trying to create a comparison between our Founding Fathers and their desire to be free of British oppression and trying to create an analogy to the current protests by the Iranian people against their oppressive regime. However, the Iranian people can’t actually fight back against a very well armed Iranian military. They can hold protests and maybe throw rocks and such , but that is about it. Besides, our current WH administration is doing everything in its power to prop up the very regime that the Iranian people want gone. What kind of message does that send to the people of Iran? The Iranian military is ruthless and will continue beat or kill as many civilians as they deem necessary to maintain control of the country. So I have to ask what specifically do you see happening in 2023 that would change the dynamics in Iran in favor of the people being able to achieve their objectives? What I see right now is essentially a repeat of 2012 Iranain protests, with the WH once again giving some meek lip service from the podium, while the Iranian military does its thing.
yes, expecting unarmed people to offer themselves as martyrs isn’t realistic. Its also not realistic to expect our leftist government to support the protesters. Why? Because the iranian leadership hates america as much as the dems do. Even so, i admire these protesters for doing what we’re unwilling to do
Iran has one foot in the 21 century,the other is stuck in 8th It needs to be amputated and it’s a very dangerous operation