Experts: U.S. Exit from JCPOA Could ‘Result in More Protests Against the Regime’

Iranian Arab Minority Protests in Ahvaz, Iran, March 29, 2018
Courtesy Dr. Khalaf Al Kaabi Head of the Foreign Committee of the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz (ASMLA)

WASHINGTON, DC – A series of new protests could occur throughout Iran if millions of citizens feel empowered by President Donald Trump’s decision to walk out of the Iran nuclear deal, according to Mideast experts.

“I think it will result in more protests against the regime, which is the objective,” Barak Seener, the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia, told Breitbart News.

However, he added, “It makes no difference,” if these protests take place “because it’s the regime that’s squeezing the people because millions of dollars that were released to the regime never went to the people. The economy developed dramatically when money was available. But the regime had other priorities, which were not in the favor its people.”

“Instead,” he concluded, “they chose to foster their proxies and bolster their military.”

The protests that took place throughout over 100 cities in Iran on December 28 resulted in the arrest of thousands of civilians and dozens of deaths. The uprising began in protest against inflation and lack of work opportunities but quickly turned into calls from a disgruntled population for the regime to end its funding of foreign proxy wars abroad at the expense of its civilian population.

“Half the population is in support of us pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal because they know the Iranian regime squandered the $150 billion they received,” Michael Pregent, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, told Breitbart News. “And as you look at targeted sanctions against the regime, the goal is to try to shield the Iranian people as much as possible.”

Pregent said the sanctions will focus on the supreme leader’s assets, and specifically the shell company Setad holdings, which the supreme leader controls, and the Central Bank of Iran, which funds the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC): “We delisted it under the Iran deal and it allowed Europe to benefit from it. The Iranian people aren’t benefiting from it anyway.”

Pregent noted that “the sanctions are focused on targeting the regime and not the people. The sanctions relief never went to the people so putting sanctions back on the regime wouldn’t affect the people anymore because they are still suffering.”

During his landmark Tuesday speech, President Trump delivered a message “to the long-suffering people of Iran,” saying, “The people of America stand with you.” Trump continued:

It has now been almost 40 years since this dictatorship seized power and took a proud nation hostage. Most of Iran’s 80 million citizens have sadly never known an Iran that prospered in peace with its neighbors and commanded the admiration of the world. But the future of Iran belongs to its people. They are the rightful heirs to a rich culture and an ancient land, and they deserve a nation that does justice to their dreams, honor to their history and glory to God.

Pregent noted that “there might be some provisions that are put into place that might protect the Iranian people like for commerce and food.” He also pointed out that the Iranian currency, the toman, went from 7,000 tomans to 1 USD and increased to 8,000 tomans to 1 USD. “So it went up. It was about 3,000 Tomans to one USD in 2015,” he said.

Pregent, among other experts, believes support for America’s withdrawal from the JCPOA is supported by about half of Iranians: “the educated Iranians,” as Pregent put it. “And the masses who are with the regime are against it,” he said. “The regime has to now focus on offsetting the impacts of this and the protests. The protesters are ripe for increasing their criticism for the regime.”

Jamil Jaffer, Founder of the National Security Institute and former Chief Counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Breitbart News that while the potential fall of this regime is possible, particularly in the aftermath of Washington’s withdrawal from the JCPOA, “the reality is that the Iranian regime still has a very strong hold on power in the country, and while that hold is weakening because the Iranian people are seeing the corrupt nature of the regime and their continued repression, there’s still a long way to go, I think, until we see the Iranian people get their wish for more freedom and an inclusive regime.

He noted that “the regime has used its nuclear program as a propaganda tool for nationalism including to motivate those who otherwise support us. The truth about the withdrawal is, everyone knew it was coming. This wasn’t a surprise.” Jaffer added that Trump said on the campaign trail and for over a year and a half as president that he would “scrap the deal.” He added, “This was long and coming. The only real surprise is that it’s taken this long.”

Jaffer said that the regime has only itself to blame for its current position with respect to the United States: “It is the regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons that has caused them to be in this position.”

Regarding the potential for more uprisings and protests by the Iranian people, Jaffer said, “I think the regime will try to foment anti-U.S. protests to suggest that ordinary Iranians support them. And while there will likely be anti-regime counter-protests, it’s just unclear how it would play out.” He noted his worry that the anti-regime protesters simply do not have the mass numbers they need to put necessary pressure on the regime.

“And frankly, we’re not doing enough to help them. We ought to be doing more,” Jaffer said. “We have talked about the need for democracy, for freedom in Iran. But we haven’t been very aggressive in providing support to the activists. We need to triple down on that. We need more serious efforts to directly support the people of Iran.”

“Why are they spending their money on places like Syria and Yemen rather than on the Iranian people?” Jamie Fly, Senior Fellow at German Marshall Fund and former National Security Adviser to Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), told Breitbart News. He said that particularly Iranians who are in the middle and lower-middle class have a right to question why their country is investing so much in a civil war in the country next door to it, Syria, and why young Iranians are going to Syria to die.

“I think it’s hard to predict that sort of thing,” Fly said, referring to the regime’s potential fall while citing the Arab Spring, Tahrir Square, and the Syrian Civil War. “These things often come out of nowhere.”

“There’s clearly discontent,” he noted. “I think one of the major flaws of the JCPOA was that it assumed that Iran was on a course towards more moderation and it really built up people like [President] Hassan Rouhani and other so-called moderates and banked on them. … I think recent events have shown that these s0-called moderates aren’t actually moderates and have very limited control of Iranian policy.” He said the deal actually empowered the hardliners in Iran “and we are now seeing the results of that throughout the Middle East.”

 

Adelle Nazarian is a politics and national security reporter for Breitbart News. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

.