Iran recently observed the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, but few Iranians beyond the regime’s elites celebrated it. The reason for this lack of enthusiasm among ordinary Iranians is no mystery. By any reasonable measure, the revolution has failed to deliver the just and prosperous society that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and other revolutionary leaders promised the Iranian people in 1979.
These days, Iran’s ruling theocracy is best known for oppression, corruption and mismanagement at home, and ghastly sectarian warfare abroad. Through its Shiite militias, the clerical regime has fueled violence and death in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, and well beyond. Iran’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas has enabled deadly cross-border attacks into Israel.
This proxy network has allowed Iran to project power well beyond its borders. But a combination of the regime’s own financial mismanagement and strong American sanctions is clearly straining Iran’s allies. On Monday, in an effort to further raise the pressures on Iran's regime from outside, we designated its Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization.
Within Iran’s own borders, the ’79 revolution is largely a spent force. Mosque attendance has collapsed, with the Revolutionary Guards reporting that even during holy days the faithful stay away. Those seeking to become clerics are few in number, an astonishing condemnation by the religious working class, who traditionally have supplied most of the clerical students and been the backbone of the regime. The country’s brain drain and capital flight is constant.
Today, the revolution belongs primarily to the regime’s hypocritical elite. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s Setad hedge fund, worth tens of billions of dollars, was supposed to be a charity, but it now seizes property from Iranians to sustain the regime. The Revolutionary Guards have become a state within a state, developing a stranglehold on many parts of the economy. Iran’s foreign minister speaks to the world on his Twitter account while his regime outlaws Twitter.
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