Debunking the “rally around the flag” argument about Iran

By Peymaneh Shafi

As tensions continue to rise in the Middle East between the United States and Iran, various voices are heard warning about the possibility of a new war ravaging the region. Along this line, a slate of Iranian regime apologists and lobbyists go as far as basing their claims about the mullahs relying on the “rally around the flag” theory of the Iranian people defending their regime. Anyone making such claims is either blindly pushing Tehran’s talking points or just utterly naïve.
A look back to the early days of the mullahs’ rule in Iran provides an understanding of the abovementioned arguments. During the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, Khomeini’s regime tapped on the Iranian nation’s Islamic beliefs in their manipulative practices to encourage, especially the youth, into the war. Tens of thousands of Iranian men were literally used as cannon-fodders in the mullahs’ devastating methods. Even small children were sent to the battlefields, all with “keys to heaven” around their necks, to clear minefields for the regime’s ground forces.

While apologists and lobbyists – such as Assal Rad of the National American Iranian Council in a recent National Interest piece – are pushing the mullahs’ narratives, they refuse to mention this as the Iranian regime’s version of “rally around the flag.” Sending school children into battlefields…
The war also provided the regime means to crackdown all domestic dissent, securing for the mullahs’ suppression throughout the Iranian society. The 1980s in Iran are known as the decade of tens of thousands of executions. This especially includes the summer 1988 massacre, during which more than 30,000 political prisoners were sent to the gallows. Most of these victims were members and supporters of the Iranian opposition group People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).

Today, after 40 years of hypocrisy and economic corruption, the Iranian people have become all too familiar with the mullahs’ charades. In many protests rallies during the past two years, especially the December 2017 / January 2018 uprising, people were heard chanting, “They use Islam to rise in power, leaving the people in utter misery.”
Even senior regime officials are voicing grave concerns these days over escalating public discontent spreading across the country.
“We must be very alert about mistrust in our society,” said Ahmad Tavakoli, a member of Iran’s Expediency Council, a leading decision-making body in the mullahs’ hierarchy. “[The people] are witnessing the status quo and they understand that we are not being truthful. They are saying we took advantage of the revolution and Islam for ourselves. A large percentage of the population have reached this conclusion that officials are using us as their shields in order to reach their own objectives. This rift in general trust did not materialize overnight, or even a year or two years. This is the result of continuous mismanagement during the past 40 years among the country’s senior officials,” he added.”
Hashemzadeh Harisi, representative of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in the city of Tabriz, northwest Iran, expressed the people’s utter hatred of the mullahs’ regime in crystal clear terms.
“The people hate us… not only our words, everything about us has to change,” said this member of the regime’s Assembly of Experts, a body charged with selecting the mullahs’ next Supreme Leader. “Even Khomeini (the regime’s founder) was afraid of the people and popular discontent,” he added.
Add this public hatred of the mullahs’ regime to skyrocketing prices making life more difficult than ever before. Reports indicate over 80 percent of the Iranian people are living in poverty as we speak.
“According to polls, 78 percent of the people believe most of their problems are economic related issues…,” a report in the state-run Fars News Agency reads. “When people compare their livelihoods with those of government officials, they reach this conclusion that no one cares about their miseries. People who are facing rising prices on a daily basis and government officials are continuously providing hollow promises to merely calm the society for a few more days.” It is worth noting that the Fars News Agency is affiliated to the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) and reflects concerns among senior regime officials.
While the vast majority of the Iranian people are desperate to merely make ends meet, those in power and considered regime insiders are living in absolute luxury. A district of northern Tehran is even named “Basti Hills” after Beverly Hills in California.
“Why all these high prices and this rent corruption? With each passing day we are hearing of new embarrassing reports [about officials involved in corruption and embezzlement],” said Jafar Rahimi, Khamenei’s representative in the city of Abhar, northwest Iran.
As a result, while Iranian regime apologists and lobbyists live their comfortable lives in the West and brew hypothetical theories such as rally around the flag, the reality on the ground in Iran is far from their fantasy world. Even the regime’s own officials know better than to make such preposterous claims about the Iranian people, with all their hatred of the mullahs, rushing to their support.
The tunnel for Iran’s regime has no end in sight. While the days of this regime are numbered as domestic and international crises continue to escalate, rest assured Iranian regime apologists and lobbyists will continue their fairy tale stories. After all, that is what they’re being paid for.

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