As the country with the second largest gas and fourth largest oil reserves in the world, Iran is now a crumbling ruin, the legacy of 42 years of Islamic fundamentalism. The theocratic dictatorship ruling Iran has been a disaster for its 80 million mainly young citizens, the majority of whom have known no other government. Young Iranians are predominantly secular and non-religious, but they are tech-savvy and envious of the freedoms they recognise in the West. Yet they are chained to the diktats of a fascist, clerical regime, led by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who believes he is God’s representative on earth and wields ultimate power over the nation. Khamenei presides over a pyramid of corruption. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), the regime’s Gestapo, answers directly to Khamenei and controls almost the entire economy, including all of Iran’smonetary and financial institutions. 

On 28Feb 1979, immediately following the revolution, the regime established the Foundation of the Underprivileged. 28 private banks and heavy industries covering steel, aluminium and vehicles were all confiscated by the State, together with the properties of all of the biggest businesses, who were the backbone of the Iranian economy. All were nationalised and handed over to the Foundation of the Underprivileged, which was wholly controlled by the then Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In 2013, this foundation was valued at $95 billion. It gets its funding directly from the government, it pays no tax and has no accountability on how it spends its money. The IRGC has a tight grip on this foundation, which also runs construction companies and missile factories and is largely responsible for the regime’s ongoing nuclear programme.

As the inheritor of this vast wealth, Ali Khamenei is desperately trying to shore up his position. Sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign have crippled the Iranian economy, limiting the mullahs’ ability to exploit their oil and gas resources and to fund their aggressive meddling in the Middle East. Khamenei has coveted the top-secret project to develop a nuclear bomb for decades and was dismayed when its existence was revealed to the West back in 2003 by supporters of the Mojahedin e-Khalq (MEK), the main opposition movement to the theocratic regime. But the nuclear deal, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed by President Obama in 2015, was deeply flawed. It prevented inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from inspecting military sites in Iran, where, of course, all of the secret nuclear weapon production was and still is underway. President Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the deal and the mullahs have openly boasted how they have now accelerated their uranium enrichment program to 20% purity, in blatant breach of the Obama deal, which capped purity at 3.67%. The move takes the regime a step closer to producing weapons-grade uranium.

Meanwhile, as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across Iran unchecked, with an estimated death toll in excess of 205,000, Iran’s descent into economic chaos continues. With rocketing unemployment, spiralling inflation and a collapsing currency, the beleaguered citizens are crying out for help. People are now selling their organs, kidneys and bone marrow to try to avoid starvation. 20,000 people are sleeping rough in Tehran alone, of which 5,000 are women. But while Iran sits on an ocean of oil and gas, the clerical regime's plundering policies and rank incompetence have resulted in power outages, afflicting the Iranian people with enormous suffering during the coldest months of the year. 

President Hassan Rouhani has outrageously claimed that the Iranian public are “faced with famine due to the coronavirus outbreak” and are “shedding tears of joy” from the services the regime is providing. But in a determined snub to the West, he has rejected offers of Covid-19 vaccine supplies from WHO approved Pfizer and Moderna laboratories and informed the Iranian public that they will receive another vaccine by the summer from a so-far unidentified third country. The blatant corruption, repression and economic incompetence has led to a groundswell of protest with nationwide demonstrations and strikes and demands for regime change. In blind panic the mullahs have, as usual, deployed the IRGC to crack down mercilessly on the protesters and strikers, murdering hundreds and arresting thousands. There has been an on-going wave of torture and executions of political prisoners, in an attempt to shock the population into submission. In an explosive report dated 20th January, Amnesty has said that international action is needed to break the authorities’ cycle of protest bloodshed in Iran.

Deaf to international condemnation and domestic protests, the regime has continued its policy of aggressive military expansionism across the Middle East, pouring men and resources into Bashar al-Assad’s murderous civil war, the genocidal campaign against the Sunni population of neighbouring Iraq, support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen and its funding of the Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon. The mullahs have also continued to excel in their role as international Godfathers of terror, dispatching  their diplomats on missions to bomb and murder hundreds in Europe. In 2018 the Iranian Ambassador and First Secretary were expelled from Albania for their part in a bomb plot. Meanwhile, the verdict in the trial of Assadollah Assadi and three co-conspirators, will be delivered on 4th February in a Belgian court in Antwerp. Assadi, a senior diplomat from the Iranian embassy in Austria, was charged with handing over a 500gm bomb and detonator to 3 Iranian agents and instructing them to bomb a huge opposition rally attended by tens of thousands of ex-pat Iranians and dozens of Europeans and Americans, at Villepinte near Paris in June 2018. The new US President Joe Biden and his Secretary of State Tony Blinken, should think twice about re-opening diplomatic relations with this pariah regime, or lifting sanctions in a bid to revive the moribund nuclear deal. The US, EU and UN must begin a new policy of backing the oppressed Iranian people and not their tyrannical rulers.