In my latest piece for Al-Monitor, I argue that for Iranians, humor is a form of psychological processing—a coping mechanism to deal with dark scenarios. Iran’s past is fraught with such grim realities, and this, perhaps, is the secret to the population’s unwavering wit and reliance on humor during challenging times.
The threat of war and existing sanctions continue to greatly impact the everyday life of Iranians. There are many reports of high inflation, shortage of essential items, and potential rationing of food. Through all these pressures, one constant variable has been the population’s unrelenting sense of humor. There are countless jokes about corruption, Donald Trump, regime officials, and the daily challenges of life. A somewhat recent example is a short clip by Arzhang Amirfazli, a popular TV comedian and actor. In a minute-long clip published on social media, he does an incredible job to summarize the prevailing conditions of day-to-day life in Iran. I translated the short clip and I hope the sharp wit of its creator is not lost the process.
“The conditions of our everyday life: It got disconnected? Mhm. They cut it off? Mhm. It went up? It ran out? It totally disappeared? Uh-huh. It got eliminated? Mhm. Oh, so it’s no longer imported? Uh-huh. It’s no longer exported either? They took it? They removed it? Eh, they are no longer here? Hh-huh. It’s banned now? They embezzled it? Mmm. So, it’s no longer possible? They stole it and polished it off with a cold glass of water? Uh-huh. It’s contraband now? It’s prohibited. Mhm. They eradicated it? Uh-huh. They don’t give it anymore? Uh-huh. It’s very expensive now? Mhm. I shouldn’t even think about it anymore? Uh-huh. I can’t see it? Uh-huh. I can’t eat it? Mhm. And those we can’t even take anymore? Huh-huh. These we can’t hit anymore? Mhm. No! No! We don’t have any needs. It’s not important that you don’t have that. If this is not available then it’s not! No problem. We don’t need that either. There are no issues about this one either. It’s not here, so what? No problem. No! No! We don’t want this either. It was here until now, but it’s not here anymore. What can we do? We are used to it. No, I don’t want it. That one? I don’t want that either. No, we don’t want this either. We don’t need it. No problem! No!”
The impact of the US designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization depends on the Trump administration's ultimate implementation mechanism. Will the US hinder IRGC's financial dealings or confront it militarily as a terrorist entity akin to ISIS or Al-Qaeda? If the Trump administration is considering the former, the impact on IRGC's activities will be relatively minor. There have been various US Treasury sanctions imposed against the IRGC since 2007, but Iran's paramilitary force has managed to operate effectively regardless.
However, it is a different story if the aim is to treat the IRGC and its external special forces--the Qods force--as a terrorist organization. US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, or other parts of the region may be forced to confront the Qods force in combat, a move that will not go unanswered by Iran. The IRGC Commander has already stated that if the news of the potential terrorist designation is correct, the Guard will reciprocate by considering "the American military all over the world, especially the Middle East, as equal to ISIS." This scenario presents an extreme amount of risk for both the IRGC and the US troops in the region.
Politically speaking, the IRGC will be the ultimate winner in Iran. Early signs indicate unanimous support for Iran's paramilitary force. President Rouhani who has often publicly criticized the IRGC for its involvement in the country's politics and the business sector announced his administration's support of the Guards. Also, the IRGC is currently enjoying a boost of popularity and public support. External threats such as ISIS, have resulted in public's acknowledgement of the entity's invaluable efforts to ensure Iran's security and territorial integrity. Any potential sanctions against the IRGC will unify the country's various political factions in opposing external pressures.