As the streets of Iran continue to fill with angry Iranians calling for “Death to the Dictators”, the Iranian government is becoming more fragile every day. The growing demonstrations, in more than 275 cities all around the country, are telling the real story about how Iranians feel about their government. 

The so-called “million man” turnout for Soleimani’s funeral was as phony as the Mullahs’ protestations that the Ukrainian airplane crashed last week was because of engine failure. They lied about that, and they lied about the millions of people coming out to ‘mourn’ Soleimani. Most of the people came out because they were threatened by the IRGC. So they ‘mourned’ under duress. 

But now they are showing how they really feel. Soleimani was not revered and respected. He was hated for the cruel, sadistic monster that he was. 

For the first time, the Iranian people are not only demonstrating in the streets; they are fighting back! They are clashing with police, with the IRGC, and with the Basij militia. They are calling for “Death to Dictators” and they are burning large pictures of Qassem Soleimani.

In the past, they have been “encouraged” to trample large flags of the U.S. and Israel that are painted in the street. But in the current demonstrations, they are giving them wide berth. “America is not our enemy,” they are saying. “Israel is not our enemy”. And they walk around the flags so that they will not step on them. 

Videos are starting to come out showing men in the streets carrying guns, police in riot gear beating demonstrators, and bleeding demonstrators along the sidewalks. But the reality is that the demonstrators greatly outnumber the police and IRGC fighters. They are refusing to back down, and the police and IRGC fighters are alarmed. 

A new report reveals that the families of the elite Iranian leadership are already being sent out of the country for their safety. Even as Iran’s leaders are threatening new attacks against American targets, they are preparing a back door through which to escape. Another report says that IRGC soldiers have begun defecting and that the number of defections is expected to grow. This does not bode well for the continued tyranny of the Mullahs. The IRGC is what is supposed to protect them from the masses of people whom they suppress. 

American sanctions against the oil industry, that reduced the revenues for Iran by more than 90%, have now been supplemented by sanctions on Iran’s metals, construction, and travel industries. As badly as the Iranian government was hurting before, these new sanctions will affect Iran’s economy even more severely.

And yet, Iran is still lobbing rockets at Iraqi military bases that house American service men and women. And they are still threatening other attacks against Americans and U.S. assets. 

According to the Iranian propaganda machine, when an Iranian missile operator shot down a commercial airliner taking off from Tehran Airport early on the morning of January 8, the plane didn’t stand a chance. From the beginning, Iran’s government spokesperson denied the country is responsible for the crash. He said that the reports that an Iranian missile hit the Ukrainian plane is a “psychological warfare” against Tehran.

So the stories that provided other explanations came tumbling over each other. It was engine failure. It was a technical problem. It was pilot error. That is what the Iranian government said. And at first they refused to turn over the black box that could reveal what really happened. 

But it didn’t take long for the real truth to come out. Flight PS752, destined for Kiev, with 180 people on board, including 76 Canadians, 82 Iranians, and 11 Ukrainians, was shot down by an Iranian anti-aircraft missile. And all the people aboard died immediately in a huge ball of fire.

So what really happened? The story is complicated, but it’s clear. Several hours before that Iranian missile shot Flight PS752 out of the sky, the U.S. declared a no-fly zone over Iran. This was to keep the air clear, in case a U.S. air attack should be called. And this was all happening at the same time as the Iranians were firing missiles at two military bases in Iraq. This was their ‘retaliation’ for the U.S. killing of Soleimani. 

Then several things happened: U.S. war planes were deployed for a possible air attack against Iran’s missile launchers and nuclear sites. Iran surely saw them coming, as they approached the Iranian border, because instead of intensifying their barrage against the bases in Iraq, as promised, Iran suddenly announced that their “retaliation” was over. And the missiles stopped. The U.S. planes were recalled to their bases in Turkey and Diego Garcia. 

But it wasn’t just one poor guy operating the missile launcher in the dead of night who brought down the plane. Flight PS752 was downed by an IRGC air defense battery. From here on, it is intelligence analysis. Someone in the battery thought a U.S. attack might still be imminent, at least that is what the Iranians reported. So when they saw the Ukrainian plane low in the sky, perhaps they thought they were looking at an American B-52 on the radar. The radar signatures are similar. So they fired their missile. 

For several days, the Iranians denied that they had had anything to do with it, although, at first, they refused to turn over the “black box” to Boeing. And they never explained why, with missiles flying and a possible U.S. air raid expected, they never closed the commercial airport and grounded the planes there. They were setting themselves up for disaster. 

Several days passed before they finally admitted that one of their own anti-aircraft batteries shot the plane down, but they still blamed it on one poor operator. They reported that he thought it was a cruise missile, but that is hardly believable since the radar signature of a cruise missile is quite different from that of a B-52, and Iran’s missiles were not designed to bring down another missile. Nevertheless, as could be expected, it didn’t take long before the men involved, and probably some who weren’t, were all reported to be under arrest.

The Iranian leadership has begun behaving bizarrely. They arrested the British Ambassador to Iran Rob Macaire, as he stepped out for a haircut, after attending a vigil for the victims of the air crash. The British called the arrest a “flagrant violation of international law”, and he was, in fact, released soon afterwards.

The incident may show the level of panic that is growing among Iran’s leaders. 

People rally in support of Iranian anti-government protests, Reuters

The situation in Iran today is a tinderbox that could explode at any time. The people of Iran are hungry for freedom, and they are no longer willing to submit to the ideological tyranny of the Mullahs. They are rising up in all thirty-one provinces, in more than 275 cities throughout the countries. They are 80 million strong, and they are fighting back. In forty years, since the revolution in 1979, Iran has not seen such widespread or such violent demonstrations. And, interestingly, the regular army has been ordered to stay in barracks and not get involved in suppressing the demonstrations. Already, over 1,500 demonstrators have died, and over 10,000 have been arrested since the demonstrations began. 

Iran’s leaders have an itchy finger on the button that could trigger a major international conflict. Its leaders are still threatening attacks on America, even as their economy implodes, and the people are rising up against the government. The regime is in a state of disarray, because they have not only lost control of the people, but of the media as well. The situation is dangerous and the threat is far from over. 

On the other hand, Iran’s leaders could decide to turn tail and run away, joining their families in exile and leaving Iran to its own devices. Which will give them the opportunity to rebuild itself into a democratic state based on the concepts of freedom and independence. If that happens, the women will throw off their repressive black veils and be free to dress as they like, to study what they want, and to work as they choose. And all Iranians will have the opportunity to live in freedom. 

The Mullahs have overreached. They over-estimated their own power and dominance. And they underestimated their enemy. Donald Trump is not Barack Obama. And the United States will not buckle under the hubris of Iranian zealots.

So the possibility that Iran – as it has been for the last forty years – will fail in the near future – is real.  

When will it happen? Well, it’s too early to declare a victory over the tyranny of religious zealots, but the wheels of change have been set in motion and a major victory over their bitter oppression may, in fact, be just around the corner. I’m hopeful.

Image at top of post: Protests were reported late Saturday in several parts of the Iranian capital Tehran over the shooting down of the Ukrainian passenger plane by the Iranian military. Photo: Xinhua