From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much.
Mains level : Paper 2- Events in the Middle East, especially involving Iran and its implications for India.
In the aftermath of recent events, Iran needs a new compact to deal with the domestic crisis and also a framework to deal with the US.
The threat of “regime change” in Iran
- The US policy-The temptation for a policy of “regime change” in Iran has never disappeared from the US policy towards Iran.
- The policy is based on the hope that mounting external pressure and deepening internal dissent will combine to produce a “regime collapse” in Tehran.
- US President has often insisted that he is not seeking to overthrow the clerical regime in Tehran led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
- The Us demands were an end to the nuclear and missile programmes, stop supporting terror in the region and end the interference in the internal affairs of its Arab neighbours.
- Iran’s success in fending off these threats: Iran has been successful so far in fending off these external and internal challenges.
- Iran has put down repeated mass uprisings and neutered attempts from within the elite to reform the system.
De-escalation of the tension after the war-like situation
- Fear of escalation: The widespread assessment after the killing of Soleimani was that Iran would inevitably escalate the confrontation.
- Tehran set up a token retaliation for domestic political consumption and quickly called for de-escalation.
- The message of peace from the US: Trump also told the Iranian leaders that America “is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it”.
The shooting of a passenger jet and the aftermath
- The shooting of the jet:
- The Ukrainian passenger jet was shot-down near Tehran killing all 176 passengers and crew on-board.
- It included 82 Iranian nationals and many Canadian citizens of Iranian origin
- After initial denial, Tehran was forced to accept responsibility for shooting down the plane.
- The aftermath of the shooting of the plane
- Protests: Soon after the confession, protests broke out against the government.
- Demand for accountability: Iranians are angry at the attempt of the government to cover up initially and are demanding full accountability.
The general discontent of the people against the government
- The latest round of protests must be seen as a continuation of those that have raged since the end of 2017.
- Reasons for the discontent: Economic grievances, frustration with widespread corruption, demands for liberalising the restrictions on women and political opposition to the regime are the reasons.
- Discontent against external adventures: There was also strong criticism of the government’s costly external adventures in the Middle East amidst the deteriorating economic conditions.
- There is little love for the Revolutionary Guards, the principal face of state oppression.
- External pressure: As the regime cracks down on the protests against the airliner shooting, the external pressures against Iran are only likely to mount.
Available option and their dangers
- As sanctions squeeze the Iranian economy, the costs of regional overreach become apparent, and internal protests become persistent, Khamenei has few good options.
- The option of the new political compact: Offering a new political compact to the people of Iran or a new framework to deal with the Arab neighbours and the US would seem reasonable goals.
- But they involve considerable risk for the regime.
- The option of pragmatism: All revolutionary regimes come to a point when they need to replace ideological fervour with pragmatism.
- But the change from ideological fervour to pragmatism is also the time of the greatest vulnerability for the regime.
India as a friend of Iran will surely begin to debate if privately, the implications of the deepening regime crisis in Iran.