The Next Iranian Revolution Has Been Stymied, but Not Stopped

Although the protests against the Islamic Republic which began with the death of Mahsa Amini last September have not abated, Reuel Marc Gerecht is not sanguine about their ability to overthrow the regime. At the same time, Gerecht contends that the ayatollahs’ popular support has collapsed, and that they are hanging on by brute force:

It’s crystal clear . . . to many in the Iranian religious and political elite, and it may well be clear to [Supreme Leader Ali] Khamenei, too, that for Iranians under forty (around 60 percent of the population), there is zero chance that they will re-embrace the Islamic Republic. Even for those older, it’s doubtful they have much affection for the theocracy left, especially given its conduct towards their children and grandchildren.

The regime obviously still has sufficient manpower to maintain its myriad security units, especially the all-critical Basij, who are the theocracy’s Brownshirts, and the Revolutionary Guards. In the demonstrations since September, which have been more alarming to the regime than the near-insurrection of 2019, the security forces, though strained, have shown no signs of cracking. Enough young men still appear willing to kill and torture enough women (and men) in the zan–zendegi–âzâdi (Women, Life, and Freedom) movement to keep the demonstrations from mushrooming into million-woman marches.

Perhaps more worrisome for the regime, senior clerics now openly express concern about politics degrading the faith. The regime understandably responds quickly to such criticism, either through solicitation or intimidation. Its sense of self, especially within the military and security services, revolves around Islam. . . .

The Islamic Republic’s ruling elite [isn’t composed of] cynics or run-of-the-mill Middle Eastern despots, who find legitimacy in the simple fact that they hold the reins of power or that they possess a historically significant, victorious bloodline; theocrats, and a sufficient number of their foot-soldiers, want to believe that they are doing God’s work. That sense of purpose is surely critical to the regime’s survival, and will be fundamentally challenged especially if the opposition can generate large protests, which might challenge the mores of young men called upon continuously to bring violence upon young women.

Read more at Caravan

More about: Iran

Hamas’s Hostage Diplomacy

Ron Ben-Yishai explains Hamas’s current calculations:

Strategically speaking, Hamas is hoping to add more and more days to the pause currently in effect, setting a new reality in stone, one which will convince the United States to get Israel to end the war. At the same time, they still have most of the hostages hidden in every underground crevice they could find, and hope to exchange those with as many Hamas and Islamic Jihad prisoners currently in Israeli prisons, planning on “revitalizing” their terrorist inclinations to even the odds against the seemingly unstoppable Israeli war machine.

Chances are that if pressured to do so by Qatar and Egypt, they will release men over 60 with the same “three-for-one” deal they’ve had in place so far, but when Israeli soldiers are all they have left to exchange, they are unlikely to extend the arrangement, instead insisting that for every IDF soldier released, thousands of their people would be set free.

In one of his last speeches prior to October 7, the Gaza-based Hamas chief Yahya Sinwar said, “remember the number one, one, one, one.” While he did not elaborate, it is believed he meant he wants 1,111 Hamas terrorists held in Israel released for every Israeli soldier, and those words came out of his mouth before he could even believe he would be able to abduct Israelis in the hundreds. This added leverage is likely to get him to aim for the release for all prisoners from Israeli facilities, not just some or even most.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security