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Changes to come in Iran
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 02 - 08 - 2018

With less than a week to go before 6 August and the re-imposition of sanctions on the Iranian economy, the market has been showing signs of jitters and the Iranian rial has hit a record low against the US dollar.
There were 70 rials to the dollar in 1979, and there are 111,500 to the dollar today. Public opinion in Iran is one of anger and frustration, and many people feel the regime is no longer capable of running the economy. However, no one knows what could be an alternative to the current regime, or whether change would mean another round of elections or all-out regime change.
The collapse of the currency illustrates the failure of the Islamic Republic when what on paper is a wealthy country is unable to create enough jobs for its people or to develop the country's infrastructure. Neither the Iranian regime's friends in Hizbullah in Lebanon nor the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, countries in which a great deal of Iranian money has been spent, is able to defend the system or the ruling clerics when they need it most.
Even the regime's friends in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen are watching the domestic crisis in Iran develop without being able to act to assist it, feeling that their own fates are tied to those of the Iranian regime.
US President Donald Trump has said he is interested in meeting directly with the government of Iran, but there is little interest in following this up among Iran's leaders as they know what Trump wants to say to them at the negotiating table.
Giving up their regional ambitions and the support they give for proxy wars across the Middle East is what Trump is likely to demand of the Iranian leadership, and this is exactly what the regime will not accept. Doing so would mean sacrificing the Islamic Republic's fundamental beliefs and making radical changes to the ruling system.
Rather than engaging in talks with the US, the regime has promised to take revenge on the Americans for their cancellation of the Iran nuclear agreement and on those regional countries that are helping the US to put pressure on Iran.
However, the regime is increasingly isolated in the region, and even its regional ally Qatar is supposed to be part of the US-led coalition against Tehran.
Trump has invited the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) plus Egypt and Jordan to visit Washington on 12 October to form a regional alliance against Iran and to strengthen the Arab countries against the Iranian threat.
The establishment of missile-defence shields backed by the US is part of the plan to protect US allies against possible strikes from Tehran and complements the US emphasis on shrinking the amount of money Iran is able to spend on the Revolutionary Guards Corps, its main military force in the region.
Iran is now at a turning point, and the regime faces difficult choices regarding either talking to Trump or facing down its own angry people who are keen to make fundamental changes to a system that has brought them a declining economy and international isolation.
However, the international community is also at a loss to know how to deal with Iran since the government is powerless when it comes to international and regional policy, and it is the country's supreme leader and the Revolutionary Guards who make all such decisions.
Officials in Tehran have said they will accept Trump's demand for face-to-face negotiations if the US respects the nuclear agreement. This would be impossible for Trump as he wants to renegotiate the deal with Iran and address other important issues.

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