(Persia Digest) – A reformist Iranian political analyst believes: “Tensions are likely to reoccur due to economic problems created by sanctions, but the only way out of the existing crisis and bridging the gap between the people and the government is to accept that the problem exists and make some reforms from inside the system.”

Speaking to Persia Digest (PD), Sadegh Zibakalam, a Political Science professor at Tehran University, said: “I think a massive discontent has been created in Iran which demonstrated itself for the first time on 23 May 1997 in the form of 20 million votes given to [Mohammad] Khatami. It was repeated again during protests in 2009 and December-January 2017. All these dissatisfactions are indicative of a rift between the people and the government.”

He added: “If we draw a line between those who participated in the Revolution and those who were 14-year-old boys and girls at that time, the latter plus the following generations born in the 60s and 70s and gradually in the 80s [based on the Iranian calendar] have all become frustrated and disappointed. But the Iranian authorities do not want to accept this reality and that is why they described events that happened on 23 May 1997 as “American reforms” or called the protests of 2009 as sedition, and said that incidents of December-January 2017 were triggered by US and Israel. Under such circumstances, the ultimate acceptance of authorities is to attribute the laborers and teachers’ sit-ins and protests to the incompetency of the government of Hassan Rouhani. They hope that by giving permission to protesters, they can put the blame of the exiting discontent on the present government and the reformists.”

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“However, a number of authorities working in the administrative bodies of the country including the Majlis (parliament), Judiciary and even the security and military organizations, have finally realized that these developments are the result of economic, political and social frustrations and this is the calm before the storm. Thus, I hope that the system would think of a solution,” said the university professor.

Referring to the protests of 2017, he said: “I was neither for nor against those protests, but I am definitely against any move which will lead to a regime change because I believe in that case we will go backward. I understand the reason for the youth protests, disappointment and frustration. I understand that the Islamic Republic has failed to realize the objectives of the Revolution during the past 40 years, but at the same time I believe the way out of the crisis is long-term, steady reforms from inside the system. This is how we can stop the storm.”

Explaining why protests in Iran are indicative of a state-nation disagreement while in the West it is interpreted in a different way, ZibaKalam said: “It is because when there is a problem on Wall Street, or Greece or France, their establishment accepts that there is a problem and people are dissatisfied. But in the Islamic Republic, the authorities do not accept the possibility that they could have made a mistake. There are even those who believe the system is flawless and free from any mistakes. This is the difference between Iran and the West.”

Commenting on the possibility of new protests as a result of economic pressures imposed by the sanctions, the analyst said: “This is possible because no steps have been taken since last year to this moment about “what should be done”. The only reaction by the authorities was to point to Rouhani’s government and pretend that his government was the main cause of the discontent.”

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Asked if the protests have the potential to lead to regime change, he said: “I believe even if they have such potential, we should not repeat the mistake of the past and have another revolution. We should, instead, fix everything through reforms. The reason why there has been no democracy, freedom of speech, and free elections in Iran 112 years after the Constitutional Revolution is because the people have not taken constitutional steps for reforms; whenever a major step needed to be taken, there was a demonstration and a revolution. There is no doubt that the first and most important starting point is for Iranian authorities to accept a problem exists in the country. Many of them, especially among the extremists, do not even believe in the existence of any problems and say this is all the result of activities by satellite channels, the Persian-language networks, liberals, mercenaries and dependent intellectuals.”

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