Protests, violence likely to surge across Iran as US sanctions against Tehran take effect Aug. 7.
The nearly four decades of US-led sanctions against Iran has resulted in the nation’s geopolitical isolation, which has in turn fueled the citizenry’s list of grievances - high unemployment, rampant corruption, delayed salaries, and water and fuel shortages. The Aug. 7 sanctions, a key part of the US-led “diplomatic and financial pressure campaign” against Tehran, will likely exacerbate all these issues, but are unlikely to precipitate regime change. However, the recent wave of anti-government protests will likely worsen as the Aug. 7 sanctions take effect.
The sanctions will challenge the status quo in Iran. Restrictions on key exports and limits on currency exchanges will likely spur Iran’s ongoing financial crisis. The rial has been depreciating for years, a trend which will continue. With prices for basic goods and services climbing, more runs on banks are likely, which means Iran will likely face a major cash shortage come Aug. 7 and life for many lower-income Iranians will become more of a struggle. As the sanctions start to take hold, Tehran will manage the fallout by rationing resources in favor of the regime’s staunchest supporters.
To counter dissent, Tehran will resort to increasingly aggressive tactics, including deadly force, which will only fuel a progressively vicious cycle of violence, particularly in many of Iran’s outer provinces.
Clashes between protesters and security forces have already been reported in Tehran, Esfahan, Ahvaz, Shiraz, Mashhad, Karaj, and several other major metropolitan areas, but the violence will almost certainly intensify in the coming weeks. To counter dissent, Tehran will resort to increasingly aggressive tactics, including deadly force, which will only fuel a progressively vicious cycle of violence, particularly in many of Iran’s outer provinces. In November 2018, sanctions will also target oil exports, which is Iran’s primary revenue stream. Religious & ethnic minorities and other disenfranchised groups are likely to suffer the most from declining oil revenues, as competition for resources in Iran intensifies. As the situation grows increasingly desperate, even more Iranians will direct their anger towards the government, and Tehran’s oppression will become more draconian.
Anti-government Sentiment Grows
Beyond the civil turmoil, Iran struggles with several nascent insurgencies. As sanctions take effect, and anti-government sentiment grows, Iran’s insurgencies will rapidly gain momentum. Tehran is currently combatting militants in several of the country’s outer provinces; a coalition of Kurdish dissidents in the northwest border provinces; several Sunni Baluch militant organizations in Sistan va Baluchistan Province; and an array of Ahwazi Arab separatist groups in the oil-rich Khuzestan Province. A surge in violence between the state and anti-government activists will be a boon for insurgent groups throughout the country.
In the face of US sanctions and a bleak economy, officials in Tehran will remain resilient in the short term. The sanctions will expose and exacerbate rifts in Tehran’s political landscape, but the balance of power inside the country is unlikely to shift drastically in the coming months. However, caught in a cycle of violence, perpetuated by their own heavy-handed response to the unrest, the government will resort to increasingly repressive measures to attempt to quell dissent, which will energize and further radicalize the country’s insurgencies and marginalized communities.
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