Iranian worshippers raise their fists ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

The Best Hope for the Iranian People

Iran’s leadership will be extremely reluctant to withdraw from the forward positions the country has gained across the Middle East. Amid the current protests, however, the West has a golden opportunity to push Iran to suspend its regional ambitions and focus on domestic economic conditions.

LONDON – One of the most extraordinary things about the current protests in Iran – the largest since the Green Movement in 2009 – is that the very people that they are directed against may well have been the people who started them. Iran’s ultra-conservative theocrats appear to have thought that by stoking anger over the economy in their political heartlands, they would undermine the moderate President Hassan Rouhani. But, if that is the case, they failed to anticipate the depth of the dissatisfaction of the Iranian people with the status quo – especially their own role in it.

To be clear, despite the massive scale of the protests, they are very unlikely to bring down the regime. Iran’s security forces are too strong and have too much at stake in the current system, which gives them control of vast swaths of the Iranian economy.

Moreover, the protesters are essentially leaderless and lack clear objectives. No matter how much encouragement Western powers give them, the protests seem all but certain to end with Islamist hardliners retaining their power bases and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps retaining control of most of the state’s assets and security activities.

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