Niccolo Machiavelli, the notorious sixteenth-century Italian philosopher and author, famously wrote, “One of the great secrets of the day is to know how to take possession of popular prejudices and passions, in such a way as to introduce a confusion of principles which makes impossible all understanding between those who speak the same language and have the same interests.”
It seems Machiavelli has found new adherents in Tehran. The teetering theocratic regime ruling Iran, facing a multitude of crises at home and abroad, has turned to the tactics of Machiavelli, to confuse and undermine the resolute will of the Iranian people who seek the overthrow of the fascist clerical tyranny.
Facing growing unrest and mass protests in towns and cities across Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is terrified that a nationwide uprising will spark a revolution that will drive his corrupt and repressive regime from power.
He has therefore begun to deploy Machiavellian tactics to subvert public outrage, sending undercover Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and paramilitary Basiji agents to mingle with crowds of demonstrators, where they are filmed and recorded chanting slogans in favor of the deeply detested former monarchist dictatorship.
Video clips of people shouting “Reza Shah your soul be blessed” are then routinely shown on TV news bulletins, creating the impression that opposition to the current regime is fragmented and that there are people who long for the return of the despised monarchy overthrown by the 1979 revolution. Some of the videos have even been found, after forensic examination, to be fake, with dubbed voices being added to audio clips of chanting protesters.
Clearly, the mullahs feel that by boosting the former corrupt and authoritarian monarchy, they will save their current regime from being overthrown. It is a desperate last throw of the dice, which has been quickly exposed and deprecated inside Iran.
Remnants of the Pahlavi monarchist dynasty have surfaced from time to time in Los Angeles, but their voice has been silent during the past four decades of impoverishment and oppression suffered by 80 million Iranians.
Ordinary Iranians know that any suggestion of their re-emergence as a credible opposition force is risible. They still remember how Reza Shah committed crimes against national minorities in Iran. People of Lorestan and Khuzestan closely experienced his brutal acts of suppression. Indeed, Khomeini was able to hijack the 1979 revolution in Iran since the true leaders of that revolution were in the dungeons of the Shah, as the uprising began.
They also recognize and applaud the accelerating influence of the real democratic opposition movement, the People’s Mojahedin of Iran/Mojahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK) whose courageous resistance units have supported the daily uprisings by teachers, penniless workers and pensioners, defrauded investors, frustrated students, angry health workers and ordinary citizens dismayed by spiraling inflation and the collapsing economy.
They have fanned the flames of protest in towns and cities across Iran, daubing graffiti on walls and defacing government buildings and effigies of Khamenei and Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian president, dubbed “the butcher of Tehran.” The customary chants heard at every protest are: “Death to Khamenei and death to Raisi.”
State-controlled TV and radio broadcasts have been interrupted by resistance units, displaying images of Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, and calling for the downfall of Khamenei, Raisi and their henchmen, and the restoration of freedom, justice, and a secular democracy. It is abundantly clear that Iranians do not want a return to any sort of dictatorship.
The clumsy efforts to promote division and commotion through the ranks of legitimate protesters have been further exposed by the publication on social media in May of a secret MOIS directive aimed at “trained and informant forces in recent rallies.”
The MOIS directive instructed plainclothes agents when infiltrating popular protests to carry some medium-sized stones with them, travel around the crowd normally and identify leaders and ff the slogans against the regime and the leadership (specifically Khamenei) and the IRGC become sharp and radical, they are obliged to chant slogans against high prices and for “Reza Shah your soul be blessed,” “Death of Raisi” and a few other protest slogans that have already been given to them and encourage the people to repeat these slogans.
Further revelations of the mullahs’ subterfuge emerged from Hashem Khastar, the head of the Iran Teachers’ Union, who is currently imprisoned in Vakilabad Prison in Mashhad.
He wrote in a detailed message on May 17.
In the contemporary history of Iran, Shah and Sheikh (mullahs), in collaboration with each other and at critical junctures, have always acted against the interests of the Iranian nation. This historical collaboration can be seen even now in every uprising that peaks and when the nation rises. When the Iranian people’s protests and uprisings become serious and peak, they either suppress them or try to divert them. In every uprising, we have witnessed and are witnessing that Shah and Sheikh, under the command of the Ministry of Intelligence, introduce the ridiculous slogan “Reza Shah your soul be blessed” by their well-known Basij mercenaries to replace the radical and righteous slogans of the people. Their goal is to portray this picture of the people of Iran longing for the past and a dead king and to not let the people move towards the future and popular sovereignty. With this trick, the ruling mullahs want to postpone their overthrow a bit more.
The attempts of the elderly and despotic Khamenei to bully the Biden administration into resurrecting the tattered nuclear deal by ending sanctions and removing the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) — the regime’s Gestapo — from international terrorist blacklists have failed. His sponsorship of proxy wars and terrorists in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza is running out of cash and his sham election of Ebrahim Raisi, the butcher of Tehran, as a so-called “hardline” president, has backfired spectacularly. Khamenei’s regime is now regarded as a pariah by the civilized world. Facing such an explosive situation and searching in vain for ways to undermine the resolute will of the people and the Iranian resistance to overthrow the clerical regime, he has turned to the tactics of Machiavelli.
He perhaps should have remembered another of the philosopher’s famous quotes: “When you disarm the people, you commence to offend them and show that you distrust them either through cowardice or lack of confidence, and both of these opinions generate hatred.”
Struan Stevenson is the Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change (CiC). He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). Struan is also Chair of the ‘In Search of Justice’ (ISJ) committee on the protection of political freedoms in Iran. He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).