By Aynaz Anni Cyrus and Kaveh Taheri.
The Islamic regime of Iran has been kept in power by default support from a large middle group of Iranian society, who the opposition forces have never been able to recruit for regime change. The Islamic dictators are quite skilled at keeping that large population passive. They use various tricks to encourage those people to vote for tightly managed regime candidates. Media propaganda is one of their most effective tools. So, if Iran is to join the west in freedom, opposition forces will need to break through that media messaging wall, to persuade the masses to join them in the cause of regime change. And they do have a workable plan for it.
The regime finds clever ways to charm the public into passive submission. It employs think-tanks to survey the concerns of the masses, and then, rather than to solve their country’s problems for them, it makes empty promises, and stokes their fear. One technique the regime deploys is to frighten the citizens with the idea that unless the mullahs are to remain in power, “Iran would be turned into another Syria”.
Of course, that use of fear propaganda is deeply rooted in cynicism given that the regime has always been terror-based, ever since it took power in 1979. It has caused not only death and devastation in neighboring Iraq and Syria, but also destruction of Iran’s own society and environment. Outside of Iran, its terror forces have left the entire region destabilized.
Like many dictatorships before them that create threats to hold power, the regime and its foreign allies, such as NIAC consistently stoke fears about the threat of civil war, as well as war from the United States, to keep Iranian citizens in its corner. In particular, they warn about the danger of their traditional internal enemy, the vicious terror group MEK, to scare Iranians away from any support for the populist forces of regime change in the country.
That scare tactic works, despite the fact that the United States has apparently ruled out military intervention in Iran, as well as distanced itself away from MEK. As Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo emphasized, the “Trump administration is not going to do a military exercise inside Iran” to accelerate a regime change.
In the regime’s propaganda effort, the world media, both inside Iran and abroad, are the regime’s main tool. Iran’s Persian and English mainstream media have been hijacked by the regime to defend its terror thugs.
For example, to keep down any unrest after the recent deadly floods in Iran, the regime’s own terrorist group, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), dispatched its foreign militias into Iran, through the western border crossings. State-managed Iranian media such as Persian BBC and Manoto TV hosted pro-terrorist guests to praise the militia group invasions. Then, other media followed suit, completing the propaganda task of the regime. To counter that propaganda, independent Iranian dissidents immediately came out to criticize such IRGC aggression to Iran’s territorial integrity, just as earlier they had rung alarm bells in 2015.
In the grip of that kind of regime propaganda, the masses tend to be directionless. So, they are continuously convinced to vote for the regime candidates in rigged elections, rather than support boycott efforts to bring on regime change.
To battle against regime propaganda, opposition forces can make their most effective investment in social media platforms, such as Telegram, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. There, they can give the Iranian public hope, motivation, and a program of direct action. The exiled Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi is one important figure who provides that messaging path for them. On such platforms, he shares his outlook: “Tomorrow’s country in the hands of youngsters through ballot boxes.” It is an impressive and direct message from an Iranian patriot who has never been involved with the hated, corrupt Khomeinist regime.
The opposition effort has a difficult task, but not a hopeless task. Repression and assassinations have taken a harsh toll on the opposition leaders, but today the regime is weaker than it was when it seized power four decades ago. Reinstated sanctions have recently tied its hands.
Because the masses tend to be passive and fearful of change, simple election boycotts alone have proven to be a failed political tactic. The voting masses had little choice other than to put regime candidates into power. So, despite the public’s distaste for them, Khatami, Ahmadinejad, and Rouhani won.
But if the opposition voices of freedom can remain focused on a workable agenda, they can gain credibility to counter the public fears of change. That agenda includes continued sanctions from the international community, to isolate the regime thugs. And the opposition can be empowered by a solid plan for a governing path forward, such as the Constitution 1906 effort.
With these steps, and by the opposition expanding their messaging platform, they can then be joined by widespread public participation in anti-regime protests. That mass public protest would certainly overthrow the Khomeinist kleptocrats, and bring a working, productive society to Iran’s long-suffering people.
Of course, the entire world would benefit if world leaders and those social media platforms would take up the case of basic human freedom in Iran as well by emphasizing the efforts of those fighting for that freedom. Few developments could mean more to world peace than if Iran became a free country instead of the world’s leading sponsor of terror.
Kaveh Taheri (Twitter: @TaheriKaveh), co-founder and chairman of the ICBHR.Com, is a Turkey-based Iranian Human Rights researcher and journalist who has worked exclusively on Middle East. Kaveh, who was a former political prisoner in Shiraz, had been sent to prison for his writings and statements on his Websites and Weblogs, in Iran and fled the country through Turkey to save his life.