March 21, 2023 | Flash Brief

Regime in Tehran May Be Facing Internal Instability

March 21, 2023 | Flash Brief

Regime in Tehran May Be Facing Internal Instability

Latest Developments

Two documents reportedly produced by the Islamic Republic of Iran and obtained by Iran International shed new light on the extent of the regime’s economic woes and internal instability. One document reportedly detailed a late February meeting held at Iran’s presidential office to discuss a drop in strategic fuel reserves to a “dangerously low level” and the need to delay repairs at Iran’s refineries to maintain maximum fuel production. A second document reportedly detailed a January meeting between Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who expressed concerns about a lack of loyalty in the guard’s ranks in the wake of national protests.

On top of continued pressure on the Iranian rial, high inflation, and reports of government cash shortages, Tehran’s internal woes leave the regime vulnerable to increased sanctions pressure alongside maximum support to the Iranian people.

Expert Analysis

“As Iranians celebrate Nowruz, their oppressors appear more vulnerable than ever. The Islamic Republic is a regime rotting from within, battling non-stop economic and political instability. There’s a window here for the West to combine financial sanctions targeting the regime with robust support to the Iranian uprising. Lifting sanctions or otherwise giving the regime access to cash would be an historic strategic error.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

Maximum Support to the Iranian People

Last October, FDD published a comprehensive strategy to provide “maximum support” to the Iranian people amid the national uprising that followed the killing of Mahsa Amini. The strategy called on the Biden administration and U.S. allies to provide Iranian protesters with information on the movements of Iranian security forces; support labor strikes; enable censorship circumvention; employ cyber capabilities in support of protesters; impose human rights sanctions on the supreme leader, the Iranian president, and a host of other senior and mid-level officials; establish a support fund for protesters; and intensify diplomatic pressure on the regime within international organizations.

Increasing Pressure on the Regime in Tehran

In addition to the maximum support strategy, FDD recently published a comprehensive “Plan B” strategy to dramatically increase financial and political pressure on the regime in Tehran. The strategy provided concrete policy recommendations for ways to dramatically ratchet up pressure on the Islamic Republic by the Departments of the Treasury, State, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, and Transportation, along with the Agency for Global Media and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Given the unprecedented instability within the regime, any negotiations over the release of sanctioned funds to Iran should end immediately.

Related Analysis

Maximum Support for the Iranian People: A New Strategy,” by Saeed Ghasseminejad, Richard Goldberg, Tzvi Kahn, and Behnam Ben Taleblu

Strategy for a New Comprehensive U.S. Policy on Iran,” edited by Mark Dubowitz and Orde Kittrie

U.S., Iran May Be Negotiating Payoff for American Hostages,” FDD Flash Brief


Iran Iran Human Rights Iran Politics and Economy Iran Sanctions Israel Sanctions and Illicit Finance