Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Ali KhameneiReuters

Yochanan Visser is an independent journalist/analyst who worked for many years as Middle East correspondent for Western Journalism.com in Arizona and was a frequent publicist for the main Dutch paper De Volkskrant. He authoreda book in the Dutch language about the cognitive war against Israel and now lives in Gush Etzion. He writes a twice weekly analysis of current issues for Arutz Sheva.

While in Paris thousands of people and hundreds of politicians, among them U.S. president Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Guiliani, gathered for the annual “Free Iran” conference, security forces in the Islamic Republic killed four protesters in the city of Khorramshahr in the southwestern Khuzestan province.

The protests in the majority Arab city in Iran were driven by anger over a severe water shortage in the country where a years-long drought and mismanagement by the Mullah regime has left roughly half of the population without a sufficient water supply.

Last week 230 Iranians were poisoned after they drank polluted water in Khuzestan because of the shortage of drinking water

The demonstrations in Khorramshahr, which have now spread to other cities in Khuzestan, came after shopkeepers in Tehran’s ‘Grand Bazaar’ went on strike last Monday. An Iranian lawmaker later said 129 people had been detained during the strike.

The unusual protests in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar are a “harbinger of change to come” since the large commercial center in Iran’s capital has “constantly provided an accurate reflection of the country’s political mood” according to columnist Claude Salhani of The Arab Weekly.

Salhani pointed to the loss of authority over Iran’s citizens by the theocratic regime and said it was no coincidence that female supporters of the Iranian soccer team showed up in Russian stadiums without the mandatory ‘chador’ and head scarves during matches of “Team Melli”.

An anonymous Iranian eyewitness of the deadly demonstration in Khorramshahr furthermore told Israeli TV Channel 2 that the demonstrations against the regime of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are once again spreading to cities across Iran.

The man confirmed that the protests are driven by anger over the dire economic situation in Iran, discontent with the regime’s handling of the water – and financial -- crisis plaguing the country, along with a strong desire for regime change after almost 40 years of Islamism and repression.

The unnamed Iranian said he was confident the Iranian people would have a bright future, but that improvement of the situation was dependent on regime change.

In Paris, meanwhile, Maryam Rajavi, the President of the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), expressed similar thoughts about the chances of regime change now that the regime is failing to quell the protests in the country.

“This is the Iranian nation’s fight. The regime’s overthrow is inevitable. Victory is certain and Iran will be free,” Rajavi told the conference, adding that “the prospects of an Iran devoid of the mullahs and the Shah are looming.”

“The so-called solution within religious fascism has become null and void," according the NCRI leader, who claimed that the state of the Iranian society is “explosive” and that Khamenei’s standing had plummeted dramatically over the past few months.

Rajavi vowed Iran would become a state for all its citizens with separation between religion and state, and would promote peaceful coexistence with its neighbours while fostering regional and international cooperation.

Rajavi didn’t name Israel specifically as one of these neighbours, but another protest in Iran last week made clear the Iranian people doesn’t harbour the hatred of Israel displayed routinely by the Islamist regime.

A video posted on Facebook showed a protesting crowd chanting “Death to Palestine,” while other Facebook posts showed angry protesters who chanted “ No to Gaza and Lebanon” and “Death to the dictator” - meaning Ayatollah Khamenei.

Khamenei later reacted to the nationwide protests and said “economic pressures” by foreign actors are being used to divide the Iranian people and the regime, but claimed these pressures would only make the bond between the regime and the people stronger.

At the same time, the Iranian leader warned government officials that they should not take their positions for granted, a clear indication he feels his regime is in danger.

“Officials should be careful to avoid neglect, laziness, pomposity, arrogance towards the people or relying on positions of leadership that can last for [many] days,” the Iranian leader told a gathering of military officials according to the Tasnim News Agency in Iran.

Khamenei no doubt referred to the U.S. Administration which is striving to achieve regime change in Iran and has re-imposed biting sanctions on the country after leaving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015-landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers.

During the NRCI gathering in Paris, Trump’s personal lawyer and ally, former New York city mayor Rudy Guliani said that Trump wants to suffocate the Islamist regime in Tehran and that the President is sure there won’t be change in Iran’s behaviour unless there is “a Change in people and philosophy.”

Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton last year predicted that the Trump Administration would work to cause regime change in Iran before the Islamic Revolution could celebrate its “40th birthday”.

One of the means to suffocate the Islamist regime in Iran is to cut off Iran from the global oil market.

The Iranian economy relies heavily on oil and gas exports and is already suffering from lower oil exports as a result of the re-imposed sanctions by the Trump Administration.

The U.S. has now reportedly reached an agreement with the regime of Saudi Arabia to boost the output of oil by the Kingdom by 2 million barrels oil per day, an effort meant to bring down soaring crude oil prices.

Trump wrote on his Twitter account that he had spoken with Saudi King Salman over the telephone and that the King had agreed to increase Saudi oil output “to make up the difference,” meaning Iran’s reduced oil exports as a result of the new sanction regime.

The masses in Khuzestan, meanwhile, have reportedly taken up arms to defend themselves against the Basij militia of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps., according to a local Iranian journalist.

The journalist, Babak Taghvaee, wrote on his Twitter account that “brave protesters in #Khorramshahr just started defending themselves by shooting at the terrorist #Basij militia & #IRGC Special Unit of #Iran’s Islamic Regime Police.”

“They have armed themselves by AK-103 assault rifles captured from security forces,” Taghvaee added.