Although a year has passed since the outbreak of popular demonstrations against the ayatollahs across the Islamic Republic, they have not yet been quelled. Alireza Nader argues that these demonstrations reflect a higher-than-ever degree of dissatisfaction with the regime, and urges Washington to take advantage of it:
Still entrenched and viciously clinging to life, the Islamic Republic is nevertheless more vulnerable than it has ever been since the 1979 revolution. Today, unpaid factory workers, teachers, farmers, and truck drivers are some of the most organized and motivated anti-regime forces. . . . Farmers in Isfahan, in central Iran, have turned their backs on regime clerics during Friday prayers and chanted: “Our back to the enemy, our faces to our nation.” Another favorite slogan: “They say our enemy is America, when the real enemy is right here”—meaning the mullahs. Meanwhile, many Iranian women have been shedding the compulsory hijab in public, a gesture that was unthinkable even two years ago.
The sources of popular anger vary, from water shortages to economic collapse to frustration with social restrictions. Most important, recent years disabused Iranians of the illusion of “reform” peddled by so-called moderates like President Hassan Rouhani. The people have learned that such rhetoric only masks the country’s environmental, economic, and social devastation under the mullahs’ rule. . . .
The U.S. should . . . focus on combating the regime’s propaganda machine by creating new Persian-language media that bypass the aging and ineffective Voice of America and Radio Farda, U.S.-taxpayer-funded outlets that too often broadcast the regime’s worldview to Iran. . . . Likewise, America should provide moral and material assistance to domestic forces combating the regime. Washington should pursue some of the same policies that proved successful in defeating Communism during the cold war, such as clandestine aid to the Solidarity movement in Poland.