Since the Trump decision in May 2018 to withdraw the US from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and launch the "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran, internal developments in the Islamic Republic have benefitted one group in particular:  The most radical clerics and the allied top leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).  While I have no doubt that President Trump's motive in pulling out of the deeply flawed P5+1 agreement was to force Iran to the table to renegotiate a much more comprehensive and permanent JCPOA 2.0, the consequences have been to actually push Iran further away from negotiation and closer to a repressive military junta.

There are four pillars of power inside the Islamic Republic:  The Supreme National Security Council, the Judiciary, the Majlis and the Presidency.  Under the weight of US sanctions and the capitulation by European governments and multinationals to the threat of US secondary sanctions, the IRGC and allied clerics have taken control over the Majlis, consolidated control over the Judiciary, strengthened their hand with the Supreme National Security Council.  And now, with presidential elections coming up in June 2021, they stand poised to win the presidency.  It is likely that a "former" IRGC commander will be the presidential candidate for the ultra-conservative Principalist bloc.  Another former IRGC commander is widely considered to be the successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei upon his death or retirement.

The biggest gains for the IRGC–and the biggest disaster for the Iranian people–is on the economic front.  With foreign goods effectively barred from the country, with the Iranian Rial in a hyperinflationary free-fall, control over the domestic economy has been consolidated by a network of so-called foundations all under the control of the IRGC.  Low quality domestic goods are all the Iranian people can afford, and the IRGC has the monopoly on that production.

There is plenty of blame to go around for the US lack of strategy for dealing with militant Iran.  Back in 2009, when millions of Iranians took to the streets to protest a blatantly fraudulent election giving IRGC's Ahmadinejad a second presidential term, President Obama ignored his own national security team, and instead of supporting the Green Movement, sent letters of cooperation and congratulations to Khamenei and Ahmadinejad.  US intelligence failed to note that Khamenei had gone into hiding, fearing a revolution was about to sweep him and the entire Islamic Republic out of power. 

The missed opportunity of 2009 led to intensification of repression by the IRGC and its Basij militia.  Unfortunately, President Trump's "maximum pressure" after withdrawing from JCPOA, while appearing to be the reverse of President Obama's miscalculation, proved to be another policy miscalculation, leaving Iran now on the verge of a consolidated military junta.

Hardly the Iran that is likely to welcome the US back into the JCPOA and negotiate a permanent ban on nuclear weapons and a reduction in the country's ballistic missile program.

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  1. Charlie Wilson says:

    Harper speaks the truth. He must have been traveling incognito wearing a burqa the last six years.

  2. JohninMK says:

    Another in the growing list of US diplomacy shooting itself in the foot or the application of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Add to
    – fomenting a coup in Ukraine leading to the loss of Crimea
    – sanctions on Russia leading to dramatic increase in import substitution
    – Support for terrorists in Syria leading to big Russian intervention.
    Its almost as if there is a pro Russia cell deep in State.

  3. Dan says:

    One note: I usually find this site by typing “sic semper tyrannis blog” into google because I clear my cache and cookies so often it rarely saves. It always showed up first on the results.
    But this morning I did it – a few times – and the blog does not show up on google listings. It appears to have been de-listed in some form.
    You must have broken the rules, which are mostly about unquestioning obedience.

  4. Artemesia says:

    Wouldn’t the entire situation have been better– for Iran, for Iranians, for Europe, and even for USA if USA had minded its own business and let Iran sort its own politics?
    Silly me.
    Richard Silverstein hosted a panel discussion in Seattle in 2009 (??) that featured Keith Weissman.
    Weissman, against whom charges of espionage had recently been dropped,
    said that while an employee of AIPAC “he wrote the first set of legislative sanctions for Congress in 1995.”
    I recall from the video of the event, Weissman explained that his part in drafting the D’Amato Amendment followed an Executive Order signed by Bill Clinton. AIPAC required legislation lest a subsequent president rescind the EO.
    That was one starting point of AIPAC’s anti-Iran campaign.
    The pro-Israel community has crafted numerous other measures, including embroiling USA in wars, to slake Israeli animus and paranoia about Iran.
    In my opinion, anti-Iran policies, good, bad, or indifferent, are misdirected to the extent that they fail to accurately target the underlying trouble-maker: Israel and its advocates in USA.

  5. Fred says:

    I was unaware Crimea was ever an American possession or otherwise ours to “lose”.

  6. joe90 says:

    The answer to your question is NO. It just made them act more openly.

  7. Australian lady says:

    With regards to Iran, things are always more complex than is apparent.
    If you consider this as a given, Thierry Meyssan’s analyses are very stimulating.
    Behind the scenes of US/Iran relations. (2020)
    Iran from anti imperialist to imperialist again. (2020)
    Storm warning in Iran. (2014)

  8. Polish Janitor says:

    I follow Iranian politics very very closely and I have say this is the most accurate and the best ‘brief analysis’ I have read in recent months. However there are certain things to add with regard to the situation in Iran:
    1. The geopolitics of the region
    2.Obama Doctrine vis-a-vis Iran
    3. Trump’s doctrine vis-a-vis Iran
    1. The JCOPA is predominantly a European problem and concerns EU more than the U.S. The logic in P5+1 was to ‘pacify’ Iran via economic relief and hooking the country on capitalism. The west assumed that economic relief would lead to middle-class development and from there to political reform and so forth
    2. The Obama Doctrine while recognizing this reality also tried to pursue its own agenda in the middle east, by applying the Iran Model to the rest of the region. This made the Arab dictatorships+ Israel very anxious so they vehemently opposed it
    3. Trump came into office, and by withdrawing from the JCPOA it dumped a big pile on Obama’s middle east doctrine and unsurprisingly the entire region excluding Oman, and Qatar joined the U.S. Turkey has been playing both sides and due to its geopolitical location cannot risk taking either side. The majority of Iran’s economy runs through Iran and Turkey and more recently after the opening of Gwadar strategic port in southern Iran it can achieve an economic lifeline from there too. That is why Iran wants Afghanistan to stabilize so if could reap the economic benefits running from there to Afghanistan and then to Central Asia (as a key node in China’s Belt and Road Initiative). As a result of Trump’s policies the middle class (the main force of ‘pacification’) have taken a fatal hit and IMO will never going to recover and as Harper noted it has put the fundamentalists on steroids and will embolden their grip on power for a foreseeable future.
    I am waiting to see what Joe Biden’s policy is going to be toward Iran, will he revive the Iran deal as EU has been persistently pressuring (with add-ons covering missiles too in JCPOA+) the administration to do so or will he continue Trump’s policy and build on it (due to its nature as a very low cost/risk and actually bipartisan in the Congress) as Iran is clearly not on the pacification path?

  9. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Polish Janitor,
    As to the middle class taking a fatal hit, why, you need look no further than to the seemingly never-ending lockdowns of the economy in the US to see just how much the Deep State values the well being, nay the very survival of the entrepreneurial middle class (and the entrepreneurially-adjacent masses dependent upon that class), which is to say, not at all. Now that Magic Monetary Theory has carried the field, the prospect of reduced tax revenue holds no sway over the actions of the Deep State here. They just don’t_fucking_care.
    In fact, the hobbling and/or destruction of an independent middle class plays to the interests of ideologues of all stripes, whether they be the IRGC wishing to intensify their Islamic Revolution, or the Deep State lusting after imposition of the Great Reset.
    The independent middle class is an alternative power center within a society, and an constructive route to a balanced society and They can’t have that, can they? A middle class can serve as a revolutionary – or perhaps an evolutionary – force against the deeply-cherished wishes of any power-crazed Elite, as this class, with an underpinning of a functional rule of law, coupled with a degree of societal protection from monopolistic forces, generates results, and more importantly, provides a positive example for societal development and the spreading of prosperity, not to mention an argument against authoritarianism.

  10. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    An amplification on my previous post…
    Our Elites say, “What is this nonsense about ‘inalienable rights granted by the Creator’? There is no Creator, and consequently no inalienable rights. We, the Owners, set the Terms of Service, and if you mooks don’t accept these Terms, you risk losing whatever privileges we conditionally permit you. Take it or leave it muppets”.
    Have we come to the point of being dragooned into neo-feudalism, cringing debt slaves crumpling our caps in our hands, scuffling the toe of our shoe in the dirt, eyes downcast, begging to merely live in a corner on their suffrance, reduced to scrambling for the crumbs they toss toward us? This seems to be what Our Elites have planned.

  11. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Closing bold tag. Apologies.

  12. Polish Janitor says:

    The objective of the U.S. foreign policy is and has been clear since like forever. It is literally written on their 1$ bill, to be light unto the nations. It has been amplified since Woodrow Wilson’s administration. Trump has been a big fat aberration from the norm, as he not only did not pursue ‘pacification/democratization’ approach to the Middle East, but rolled back the gains of previous administrations in a huge way. And BTW, pacification does not mean that the U.S. cares about the middle class per se or it is a benevolent power bent on spreading peace around the world, so don’t interpret it in a positive light. By democratization, it means they [the BLOB/BORG] want the middle class to do the ‘pacification’ for them instead of sending them boots on the ground which has been proven massively disastrous for the Americans. It is like fulfilling their objective on the cheap.

  13. lux says:

    Posted by: Artemesia | 17 December 2020 at 01:05 PM
    I am pleased that Harper is still around. Just as I am still puzzled why you chose Artemesia as aka.
    But yes, maybe as slightly puzzled about this:
    deeply flawed P5+1 agreement
    as you may be. Could Trita Parsi or more generally the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft may be able to provide help?
    No doubt life was easier on earth at the times when only two power blocks with atomic weapons faced each other. … The bigger question concerning Richard Silverstein, long no see, is the US–based on old griefs-staging a dog wails tails narrative? And how is Harper’s tale on China nowadays?
    Otherwise, the basic framing sounds familiar. MAGA? Four more years and the dealmaker will get mattes right?
    ok, I didn’t follow your links to Richard Silverstein, but I do now.

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