By Adena Nima
On the first day of the new Iranian year, the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei held his annual Nowruz speech to lay the groundwork for the year ahead and provide so-called solutions to the regime’s plethora of crises.
One of the first things Khamenei cited was the people’s widespread disenchantment and the regime’s current deadlock in dealing with the economy.
Of course, with any speech made by the regime’s Supreme Leader, you have to read between the lines to get the gist.
“Due to the irregularities in the economy and livelihood of the people, some find an opportunity to weave negativity and spread despair. These people say, ‘nothing can be done’,” he said adding that people sowed despair on the internet, in Iranian media and in foreign propaganda.
What he really means is that most of the population are disenchanted with the regime and are angry with the current state of the economy.
Khamenei also implied that sanctions would not be lifted anytime soon and said his regime was in no hurry to rejoin the JCPOA.
“You should assume that sanctions will remain in place and plan the country’s economy based on sanctions,” Khamenei said, addressing current officials and the future government.
In other words, he is stalling for time because he is not willing to back down from the regime’s red lines which include missiles and terrorism in the region.
Iran’s next presidential elections are on June 18. There are currently widespread calls for election boycotts and even polls on regime affiliated Telegram channels show that the majority of Iranians will not vote.
And obviously, the Supreme Leader of all people knows this.
“The dear people must know that intelligence services of some countries including the worst ones, the United States, as well as the Zionist regime, have been trying to make the June elections unsuccessful,” he said.
“They are blaming the organizers of engineering the vote. In fact, they are accusing the organizers of the elections, or accusing the honorable Guardian Council, to discourage the people. (They say) Your vote has no effect on improving the situation. They are doing this with all their might using cyberspace.”
Khamenei also established the traits of Iran’s future president. He said the new president should be “competent”, a strong “believer” in the backward brand of Islam that Khamenei’s regime adheres to, and “revolutionary and jihadi”.
He said Iran did not need “an ironed out” president which could loosely be translated as a politically correct president. If you’re familiar with the regime, you know that this means the regime needs a President and government that would not mind getting its hands dirty in terrorism and aggression. In other words, someone who does not play by the rules. International rules that is.
The regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei stressed that Iran’s future president should not be “a pessimist” or one that has a “dark view of the future”. This is an indirect jab at most officials in Iran, whether they admit it out loud or not, that the regime has no future in Iran.
Khamenei then attacked one of his most powerful adversaries: the internet or “cyberspace” as he calls it.
“Despite all my emphasis, unfortunately, the necessary observations are not made in the country’s cyberspace. In a sense, it has been left alone,” he said.
Of course, Iran’s internet has not been “left alone”.
In a new law passed in February, Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace said websites and social media accounts with over 5,000 viewers or members will be monitored by judicial and government agencies.
According to IT Iran, a website that covers tech news, the law stipulates that account owners must immediately remove “unreal” information, news, or other content, upon being informed and must post an explanation, then report to the relevant authorities.
According to the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Iran is included in the list of press freedom’s 20 worst digital predators in 2020, which include companies and government agencies that use digital technology to spy on and harass journalists and thereby jeopardize freedom of access to news and information.
Iran is also ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.
And of course, the regime has a bad habit of completely shutting down the internet during nationwide protests or even major protests in one city.
“Those who are in charge have to pay attention. The whole world, all the countries manage their cyberspace. We pride ourselves in the fact that we have left cyberspace also. This is not a source of pride. Cyberspace much be managed,” Khamenei said in his televised speech on March 21.
So, has Khamenei changed tactics, and will he be more lenient now that the Biden administration is in power? No. If anything, his speech shows that he is planning to consolidate his power with the upcoming presidential elections and will choose a president more aligned with his views. This in turn will worsen the economy, corruption, and will herald more repression against Iranians, not to mention more aggression and terrorism in the region.
However, as economic conditions worsen and as more Iranians join 80% of the poor population, we might see nationwide protests in 2021. Protests by a very angry population, fiercer than November 2019 protests, are the only natural result of Khamenei’s so-called “solutions” to Iran’s problems.