“With God’s blessing: the engineering and construction personnel from Brigade 40—the Imam Ali Brigades—have undertaken the reconstruction of Sayyida Zaynab the Younger’s shrine in Nineweh Governorate, Sinjar district, after the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), the enemies of religion and doctrine, destroyed it” reads the green sign, emblazoned with the brigade’s logo.
According to the latest official reports, overall prices have increased by 48 percent compared to this time a year ago and food items have become 72 percent more expensive. A recently announced survey, conducted by the Iranian Student Polling Agency, found that Iranians’ degree of satisfaction in their lives is 3.6—on a scale in which zero equals total dissatisfaction and ten total happiness—down from 6.3 in 2018.
At least since fraud-marred 2009 presidential election protests in Iran, the IRGC has been aware that religious ideology can no longer rally nation-wide support among young Iranians. An IRGC captain and media producer admitted: “The youngest generation in our country doesn’t understand our religious language anymore.” The Revolutionary Guards responded by focusing its propaganda efforts on nationalism, as socio-cultural anthropologist Narges Bajoghli has argued.
Iran’s Civil Code provides that children and spouses of Iranian men are granted nationality automatically, but Iranian women married to a foreign spouse cannot pass their nationality to their husband and children.
US-Iran tensions have been rising since the Trump administration withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018 and especially since it imposed a complete embargo on the export of Iranian oil a year later. In July, President Donald Trump called off a retaliatory strike on Iranian soil after a spate of Iranian acts, including the shoot-down of a $130 million US surveillance drone.
The law was structured so as not to contradict Sharia law, which is the basis of the distinction between men and women, but it does effectively circumvent Sharia. Under Sharia law, a woman’s dieh or blood money is declared to be half of that of a man’s. Mandating the fund to provide the other half is a positive step toward equality for women’s rights in Iran and ending discrimination based on gender.
The stated reason for this is that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who was educated in the US and spent much of his life representing Iran at the United Nations, is too good at his job.
But what is the IRGC? While currently there is an intense focus on the Guards’ military actions on behalf of Iranian state interests in the Persian Gulf and its extraterritorial reach in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere in the region, the IRGC is an entity that goes far beyond a military force.
To the contrary, Hezbollah is now stronger, while the Lebanese government—the party primarily responsible for implementing 1701—continues to passively permit the group’s military build-up. Beirut’s dereliction is not solely a result of intransigence. Rather, Lebanese sectarianism, and Hezbollah’s political alliances and entrenchment among Shias make 1701 inherently unworkable. Instead of admitting this, the international community and the parties most concerned—namely Lebanon and Israel—continue fostering the illusion of 1701’s efficacy. Rather than making war less likely, this guarantees its inevitability.
The administration justified its withdrawal from the accord partly on the assertion that the lifting of sanctions required by the 2015 nuclear agreement was enhancing Iran’s ability to exert influence in the region. Leaving the deal and re-imposing sanctions would, according to President Donald Trump and other officials, apply “maximum pressure” on Iran—denying it the revenue to fund, arm, and train a wide network of regional allies and proxies, including the Lebanese Hezbollah, Iraqi Shia militias, Houthi rebels in Yemen, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, militant groups in Bahrain, and factions of the Taliban in Afghanistan.