When Hassan Rouhani was reelected in Iran's presidential election on May 19, he clobbered his major opponent. Rouhani won 57% of the vote in a large turnout, a huge margin against 38% for hardline cleric Ebrahim Raissi, who was the favored candidate of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei. Rouhani's victory came from overwhelming support of young people, who came out in large numbers because of opposition to the hardline restrictions on dress, free speech, and gender relations. Iran is in a generational Awakening era (like America in the 1960s), when there's a "generation gap" between the generations of traumatized survivors of the previous generational crisis war (WW II for America, the 1979 Great Islamic Revolution for Iran) and those in the generations growing up after the war, with no personal appreciation of the horrors of that war. The people in Iran's young post-war generations are now in their 30s, they are generally pro-Western and pro-American, and they have nothing in particular against Israel. They do, however, share their parents' vitriolic hatred for Saudi Arabia. AEI Iran News (3-July)
The younger generations support moderates like Rouhani, and the moderates become more powerful as their supporters in the younger generations grow older, and more reach voting age. The older generations support the hardliner geezers like Khamenei, and the hardliners become weaker as the older generations retire and die off.
So it should be no surprise that Khamenei and the other hardliners, including Iran/s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) are panicking and becoming increasingly desperate, as they see their power slipping away. Rouhani's overwhelming victory on May 19 was certain to trigger this panic, as well as desperate reprisals.
The relationship between Rouhani and the IRGC has become increasingly tense in the last couple of weeks. Rouhani has openly challenged the IRGC's outsized role in Iran's economy, and has attempted to limit the IRGC's economic and political influence.
The hardliners have struck back in the last few days. Khamenei has been comparing Rouhani to Bani Sadr, who was president of Iran in 1980-81, and was impeached by parliament. A prominent hardliner said, "Those who seek to weaken Iran’s security and the IRGC are enemies of the people." Judiciary Spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, a hardliner, views Rouhani in apocalyptic terms:
"Today, the destruction of the Basij (domestic security force) and the Judiciary has intensified. Looking back at past experience, a fitna (sedition, civil strife) is ahead." AEI Iran News (6-July)
All of this happened in the last couple of weeks. It's fairly certain that the rhetoric will become increasingly vitriolic, as the hardliner geezers become increasingly panicky, as they realize that they're losing power to the younger generations and the moderates.
Every generational Awakening era ends with a climax that resolves the "generation gap" with a victory of either the older or the younger generations. In America, the climax was Richard Nixon's forced resignation in 1974.
For that reason, Ejei's prediction of sedition and civil strife is interesting. Rouhani's democratic victory suggests that the Awakening era climax will end peacefully, probably with the death or resignation of Supreme Leader Khamenei. If there is violence, it will probably come from the hardliners and the IRGC, though I expect any such violence to fizzle fairly quickly. Al Arabiya (Riyadh) and Arab News (Riyadh)
*) Trump administration considers promoting Iran 'regime change'; Some mainstream media commentators say that this is another example of president Donald Trump's "boneheaded" or "chaotic" foreign policy, while others suggest that Trump is planning a coup or invasion of Iran.
As I've written in the past, I've worked in the past with Steve Bannon, one of Trump's closest advisors. Bannon is extremely familiar with Generational Dynamics and the work I've done, and I believe that Trump and Bannon are guided by Generational Dynamics principles and findings. In fact, I become more and more convinced of this every day, as Trump's foreign policy makes perfect sense to me from the point of view of Generational Dynamics. This is in contrast to Obama's foreign policy, when never made any sense to me at all.
Bannon and Trump are very well aware that "regime change" is coming with 100% certainty, as an Awakening era climax. Tillerson's remarks are consistent with that view, and presumably represent the views of Trump and Bannon. Tillerson was vague about his intentions for regime change, but I interpret his remarks to mean something on the level of "meddling" to encourage an awakening climax to occur sooner.
Cotton's remarks, on the other hand, do not make any sense at all. America is under no threat from the hardliners in Iran. Washington Post and Politico (25-June)
As I've written many times, the hardliners use daily anti-American and anti-Western mainly for domestic consumption, without any intention of attacking anyone in the West, including Israel. If and when Iran attacks, it will be against Saudi Arabia.
So if we assume that Tillerson's remarks are administration policy, then what can be done to speed up the Awakening era climax, and encourage regime change? In my opinion, nothing. Some major event within Iran, such as the sudden death of Khamenei, might trigger the climax. (Or, it might not, if Khamenei is replaced by another hardliner.) I don't believe that "meddling" in Iran's affairs will do much good, but it probably won't do any real harm. However, anything more substantial, such as a coup, could badly backfire.... Just Security (26-June) and Asia Times