A number of experts and researchers in the Iranian affairs underlined that the Iranian regime continues to favour the Revolution to the State and national interests. The regime insists on acting as a cause rather than as a nation state. It wants to export a “model” that has failed at home and that is not desired by its own people. They added that despite the US sanctions and the socio-economic implications of the corona crisis, the Iranian regime has not changed its domestic and foreign policies, neither does it have the capability to reform itself.

This came during a webinar organized by the Emirates Policy Center (EPC) on Wednesday, 3 June 2020, entitled “Post-Corona Iran: the Question of Model and Role”. Dr. Mehdi Khalaji, Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Alex Vatanka, Director of Iran Program at the Middle East Institute in Washington, and Dr. Javad Salehi Isfahani, Professor of Economics at Virginia Tech in the United States, took part in the webinar which was moderated by Dr. Ebtesam al-Ketbi, EPC President.

In her opening remarks, Dr. al-Ketbi said that Iran is considered one of the most affected nations in the region by the COVID-19 epidemic. Indeed, many observers think that the Iranian regime, through its mismanagement of the crisis and its ideological policies, has contributed to the spread of the pandemic in the country by holding the parliamentary elections despite the start of the virus spread, and externally by continuing to operate flights by Mahan Airlines that carries passengers infected with the disease without implementing any health precautions.

Dr. al-Ketbi: The corona crisis has aggravated the suffering of the Iranian people which had already been suffering from the consequences of the severe economic sanctions imposed by the US on Iran

Dr. al-Ketbi added that the corona crisis has aggravated the suffering of the Iranian people which had already been suffering from the consequences of the severe economic sanctions imposed by the US on Iran. This has driven some members of the Iranian elite, such as former President Mohammad Khatami to warn from the outbreak of violence in Iran in response to the desperation experienced by Iranians under the current regime.

Dr. Salehi Isfahani pointed out that Iran suffered from the spread of the epidemic due to the delay in response. Compared to Turkey, which has a similar population, the death rate in Iran was higher due to the poor Iranian health system. He underlined that the Iranian regime favoured preserving the economy to saving lives for fear of the outburst of internal protests because of the deteriorating economic conditions.

Salehi Isfahani: The Iranian regime favoured preserving the economy to saving lives for fear of the outburst of internal protests because of the deteriorating economic conditions

The economic expert indicated that the Iranian economy has been deteriorating due to the US sanctions, even before the recent decline in oil prices. In 2019, Iranian oil revenues fell to less than 10 billion dollars compared to 120 billion dollars in 2011.

Dr. Vatanka indicated that although the corona crisis accompanying the economic implications of the US sanctions worsened further the social conditions in the country, the Iranian regime, led by the governing duo, the Revolution’s Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guards, continues with its approach. Nearing 81 years of age, the Supreme Leader Khamenei would like to prepare the ground for his succession without any change. The Revolutionary Guards Corps extends its influence to all sectors of the state and society, including the health sector as was recently manifested by the corona crisis. On the other hand, President Rouhani does not have any real power and has failed to make a difference.

Vatanka underlined that the Iranian regime continues to favour the cause or the Revolution to the state and national interests and that this regime lacks the capability to reform itself.

Vatanka: Despite the corona crisis, the Iranian regime, led by the governing duo, the Revolution’s Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Guards, continues with its approach

Dr. Khalaji indicated that the Islamic Republic of Iran has experienced fundamental shifts under the rule of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It has shifted from a revolutionary regime to a security-military regime that governs in the name of religion. He explained that the regime controls all the joints of the state and has become increasingly invasive. This is evidenced by the results of the recent parliamentary elections and the choice of Mohammad Ghalibaf, who comes from a military and security background, as Speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, and the expectation that the hegemony of the Revolutionary Guards will be further enhanced after the death of Khamenei as his successor will not be as powerful as Khamenei.

Dr. Khalaji pointed out that while it is true that the US sanctions will not bring about a change in the Iranian regime, they have managed to put pressure on it. They have also managed to delay the nuclear programme and other military programmes. He underlined that the Iranian regime continues to follow the policy of problem deferral by betting on the results of the US elections in November 2020. It hopes that Joe Biden would win the US presidency which means that the winning Democratic administration would likely return once again to the nuclear deal and lift the sanctions imposed on it. Even in case President Trump wins a second term, Iranian leaders hope to strike a deal with the new Trump administration although they know that this will not be easy and that they will have to make significant concessions.

Khalaji: While the US sanctions will not bring about a change in the Iranian regime, they have managed to put pressure on it. They have also managed to delay the nuclear programme and other military programmes

However, Khalaji stated that even in case the sanctions on Iran are lifted, this does not mean that conditions inside Iran will get better and that the regime will tend to open up. In his view, the regime will continue to oppress the civil society and freedoms and restrict the private sector. The Revolutionary Guards will implement the same internal and external policies, even in light of the absence of any pressure from the US and the west.

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