Iran's whole system is failing, not just its satellite programme

by Claude Salhani

Does Iran qualify as a failed state? Technically, perhaps not quite yet but it is certainly a failing state considering its misguided policies and self-destructive decisions.

If Tehran continues its current policies, it will only be a matter of time before it falls into the failed state category or before the government is forcefully removed by a popular uprising, very similar to the one that put the current regime to power.

The Fragile States Index, published by the Fund for Peace think-tank and Foreign Policy magazine, ranked Iran 57th among 178 countries in 2007, in which the lower the ranking number, the more fragile the state is considered. Its ranking reached 32nd by 2010 and in 2019 Iran was in 52nd place.

With every cycle of anti-government protests that has erupted in Iran in the past several decades since the mullahs overthrew the monarchy and turned Iran into an Islamic republic, there has been a gradual increase in the level of violence the government is willing to go to maintain its hold on power.

History has shown that escalation of violence by any government never solves its problems but encourages protesters to also step up their actions and can lead that government to its own demise.

Its tattered economy, soaring cost of living, rising unemployment, dissatisfied youth, merchants who own the shops and stalls in the bazaar representing the lifeline of Iran’s economy, provide indicators of the worsening political situation in Tehran. That, combined with US- and UN-imposed economic sanctions and the country’s failure in foreign diplomacy and disastrous neighbourhood relations, only increase Iran’s trend towards becoming a failed state.

A failed state is a political body that has disintegrated to a point that basic conditions and responsibilities of a government no longer function properly. Among the factors that contribute to a failed state is an inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.

The banking systems of such states also start to fail. When the economy is in such shambles that businesses find it difficult to operate, that is failure. Such states are also unable to provide adequate security for residents.

A country cannot be run on negative energy alone, which is what the Iranians are trying to do. A good example is a factory near Tehran that produces US flags to sell to people who burn them while chanting “Death to America.” Since the Islamic revolution, there has been no shortage of anti-Western demonstrations, so business is good for that factory.

However, there have also been no shortages of failures in foreign policy or domestic policies, although those failures have not prevented the Iranian leadership from claiming victory when there has only been defeat.

Iran said recently it had “successfully” launched a satellite, except that that satellite failed to reach orbit. This was a major blow to Tehran’s space programme, one the United States claims is a cover for its military missile programme.

The attempted launch of the Zafar — “Victory” in Farsi — satellite was a few days before the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution and crucial parliamentary elections in Iran. With such hollow claims to “victory,” Iran is catapulting itself to utter catastrophe.

Washington raised concerns in the past about Tehran’s satellite programme, saying the launch of a carrier rocket in January 2019 amounted to a violation of limits on its ballistic missiles. Iranians insist that they have no intention of acquiring nuclear weapons, maintaining that their aerospace activities are limited to peaceful needs and comply with UN Security Council resolutions.

“But we’re UNSTOPPABLE! We have more Upcoming Great Iranian Satellites!” Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi posted on Twitter in English. He added to his tweet an emoji depicting a satellite.

He later tweeted in Farsi that “sometimes life does not go the way we like it to go.” He added: “Please do not pay attention to fake news.” His quick rise through the Islamic Republic’s carefully managed political system is generating speculation he could be a candidate for Iran’s 2021 presidential campaign.

Jahromi acknowledged the unsuccessful launch in a tweet shortly after the news broke on state TV, comparing it to a “few samples” of US launch failures.

Iran is a rich country, rich in natural resources, rich in history and culture. It does not need to resort to terror tactics nor risk becoming a failed state to satisfy the egos of a handful of old men pushing outdated ideas.

Tehran needs to refocus its objectives. It needs to move away from its failed foreign policies. It should concentrate not on aggressive regional designs but on changing lives of its citizens for the better.

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