The killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander, Qasem Soleimani, brings the end of the mullahs’ regional expansionism and warmongering closer at a critical moment in the region. 

In order to protect American lives, President Trump ordered the preemptive action of assassinating the symbol of Iran’s regional power. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo further explained the reason behind this defensive action and the inevitability of assassinating Soleimani.

“The intelligence assessment made clear that no action – allowing Soleimani to continue his plotting and his planning, his terror campaign – created more risk than taking the action that we took last week,” Pompeo said.

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The fundamental pillars upon which the theocracy in Iran is established are the export of terrorism and domestic repression. 

Secretary Pompeo’s 12+1 demands for Iran has targeted one of these pillars. Amid mass anti-Iran protests in Iraq, it seems that the US has fathomed the urgency of forming a strategy to handle the IRGC based on its true nature.

Indeed the mullahs have got stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. The regime needs to make up its broken hegemony for its ideological forces inside the country and regional proxies, particularly in Iraq.

Thus, the IRGC commanders have repeated the same old rhetoric of attacking US interests in the region. Predictably an defence adviser to the regime’s Supreme Leader threatened to target the US military bases in the region.

Moreover the regime’s proxies in Iraq, such as Kata’ib Hizballah, threaten to take revenge over the US airstrikes against the group in Iraq and Syria. 

“The response for sure will be military and against military sites,” IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan told CNN on Sunday.

However, Dehqan paradoxically hinted to the crystal clear fact that the theocracy is neither able nor willing to start a war with the West.

“Let me tell you one thing: Our leadership has officially announced that we have never been seeking war and we will not be seeking war,” he said.

In reality both Trump and the Iranian regime do view war as a serious threat to the existence of their political future.

The US Presidential election is coming and Trump has had enough challenges with his domestic foes but he fully understands that showing weakness against Iran will put his re-election at risk.

However, Trump will have a fair chance of re-election even in the case of a possible controlled confrontation with the mullahs. But the Western allies should unite if the mullahs make a strategic mistake, and the UK has sent a Royal Navy nuclear-powered submarine armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles to the Middle East if it is necessary to protect British national interests against the IRGC.  

The story is completely different in Iran. For a domestically loathed dictatorial regime that has been sunk in economic and political crises  while also losing its regional and international legitimacy, it is fatal for its existence to lose the balance of power inside the country.

On the other hand, Iran is a powder keg following the ruthless suppression of nationwide protests in the country in November – during which the regime killed at least 1,500 demonstrators based on reports from Iranian opposition group MEK’s network inside Iran, confirmed later by Reuters.

The MEK’s leader Mrs Maryam Rajavi has warmly welcomed the killing of Soleimani and urged “to evict the mullahs from the region, especially from Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and expel the IRGC from these countries.”

President Trump has recently tweeted “if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have chosen 52 Iranian targets, some at a very high level.”

Today Iranian mullahs have got the message and are tiptoeing around Trump’s red lines. Any US attack on mullahs will change the balance of power inside Iran in favour of the popular resistance against the theocratic dictatorship, including for the MEK. 

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The MEK is the sole organised opposition in Iran and abroad, which has confronted the IRGC for more than three decades. The organisation has already helped the Iranian people form Resistance units within Iran’s society. These units are using opportunities during any anti-regime protests across the country to target the regime’s military and economic bases as well as symbols of repression.

The MEK and its units are ready to help the suppressed people of Iran to overthrow the regime entirely, thus, the theocracy fears the result of any US military strike against it will deal a major blow to the ability of its suppressive forces to crush the popular uprising that looms. 

What the mullahs and their allies in Iraq and the region can do for now is use Soleimani’s body to close ranks and to keep their ideological forces loyal for a while.

Mullahs will also try to deflect attention from the anti-regime protests in both countries as long as possible. The next perilous crisis is that Iran’s regime has announced it will no longer keep its commitments under the nuclear deal. Perhaps Israel will strike Iran before the US.

Hamid Bahrami is a former political prisoner from Iran. He is a human right and political activist and works as a freelance journalist. Bahrami has contributed to Herald Scotland, The Hill, Al Arabiya English, Jerusalem Post and the Daily Caller as his work cover’s the Middle East affairs. He tweets at @HaBahrami and blogs at Analyzeco