The Islamic Republic of Iran has seen a year of mounting protests against the theocratic regime.

The killing by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) – the regime’s Gestapo, of fuel porters in Sistan and Baluchestan province in February, triggered widespread unrest that went on for weeks, despite a brutal crackdown by the authorities and a province-wide internet blackout.

In July, the clerical regime ordered the IRGC to open fire on unarmed civilian demonstrators in Khuzestan province who were protesting at on-going power cuts during the intense summer heatwave.

Dozens were killed. By November, tens of thousands of farmers in Isfahan had joined a mass protest over the desiccation of the Zayandeh Rud river, depriving them of essential irrigation resources for their crops. The farmers blamed the IRGC for diverting water from the river to the neighboring Yazd province, where they have corruptly plundered the profits from a series of heavy industrial, water-guzzling, military factories.

Once again, the protesters were violently attacked with batons and tear gas. The IRGC also opened fire with shotguns, wounding over 300 farmers, many of whom were struck in the face with shotgun pellets and lost one or both eyes. Now protesters across the whole of Iran are wearing eye-patches over one eye in sympathy with their wounded compatriots.

As the year 2021 drew to a close, tens of thousands of teachers took to the streets in towns and cities across Iran, protesting about legislation that only allocated a fraction of the budget required to meet their needs and left most of them in extreme poverty.

The nationwide protests have been joined by impoverished workers and pensioners, defrauded investors, frustrated students, angry health workers and ordinary citizens dismayed at the spiraling inflation and collapsing economy.

Deaths from the coronavirus pandemic are now nudging 500,000. There is a growing realization that the venal corruption and rank incompetence of the ruling mullahs have taken Iran to breaking point.

Eighty million beleaguered Iranians know that their once-wealthy country has been plundered by the mullahs to finance their proxy wars in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza. They know that while they starve, billions of dollars are being squandered on the bid to build a nuclear bomb and the ballistic missile systems required to carry it.

But instead of confronting these challenges and seeking to resolve them, the knee-jerk reaction of the elderly Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been to order more repression, more arrests, more executions, and an increased utilization of intimidation and assassination of dissidents and critics abroad.

The Iranian regime’s diplomatic service has become a de-facto arm of its security and intelligence service, deploying registered diplomats to carry sophisticated bombs to Europe in their diplomatic pouches on commercial airliners, and plotting lethal attacks on opposition rallies on European soil. Assadollah Assadi, a diplomat in the Iranian embassy in Vienna is now serving 20 years in a Belgian prison for his involvement in an attempted terrorist attack in Paris, while the Iranian ambassador and first secretary were expelled from Albania for their involvement in a bomb plot.

In 2021 Khamenei engineered the sham election as president of the ultra-hardline Ebrahim Raisi, known as "The Butcher of Tehran," for his leading role in the 1988 massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners. Khamenei clearly believes that the elevation of this former public prosecutor and head of the judiciary to the presidency will terrify the West into ending sanctions and endorsing further acts of servile appeasement.

In his role as a public prosecutor, Raisi often supervised the torture of men and women and then witnessed their hanging. He was head of the judiciary when orders were given to shoot dead protesters during a nationwide uprising in Iran in November 2019.

Over 1,500 were killed and thousands injured. Many of the injured were dragged from their hospital beds by the IRGC, then imprisoned and tortured. Several were subsequently executed on Raisi’s orders.

Raisi was placed on the Treasury blacklist on Nov. 10, 2019, for these and other serial human rights violations. His failure to attend in person either the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September or the COP26 Climate Change Summit in Glasgow in November, is perhaps an indication of his fear of arrest and indictment for crimes against humanity and genocide by the International Criminal Court.

It is therefore hardly surprising that the regime is now desperately trying to persuade the Biden administration to revive the defunct Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal. The extravagant charade of talks in Vienna is continuing.

The Iranian regime has tabled demands that are impossible for the Biden administration to meet. So desperate are the mullahs to kick-start their mothballed oil and gas sales, they are demanding the immediate lifting of all sanctions, including those that were directed at the regime’s proxy wars in the Middle East, which is something Biden, politically, cannot entertain. They also want a guarantee that no future U.S. administration would ever again withdraw from the deal, a guarantee that no president is able to give.

The JCPOA was deeply flawed from the outset.

Signed by Obama in 2015, it was only ever destined to run until 2025, after which the Iranians were to be allowed to re-commence their full nuclear program. In the three years that remain of the original deal, there is no likelihood of the mullahs opening their doors to maximum, un-fettered inspections of their nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA). They have already boasted that their uranium enrichment program has achieved 60% purity, a hair’s breadth from weapons-grade and any pledges or guarantees they may provide in Vienna would be worthless.

The only way the mullahs can hope to curb the rising protests is to meet the true needs of the Iranian people. They must end corruption, fix the economy, roll out the COVID-19 vaccination program, create jobs, improve production, address infrastructural and environmental problems, end their proxy wars and the export of terrorism and abandon plans to build ballistic missiles and a nuclear weapon.

But as the world knows, the regime has neither the will nor the intention to address these demands. The theocratic regime was built on repression, crime and corruption and like every other dictatorship in history, its days are numbered.

Let us hope that 2022 will see the restoration of freedom, justice and democracy for the people of Iran.

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).