The Iranian regime continues to lavish funds on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and to erect statues of its leaders, even as the country contends with economic collapse, international sanctions and internal unrest.
Iran's dogged determination to push forward with its foreign agenda, which has seen it interfere in conflicts across the region, has drawn derision in the region and also among the Iranian people, political analysts said.
This agenda is funded at the expense of the Iranian people, who have seen domestic living conditions deteriorate, with poor-quality public services and a health sector brought to the brink of collapse by the coronavirus pandemic.
Yet addressing domestic economic and health crises is "not a top priority" for the regime, Iraqi journalist and political analyst Ziad al-Sinjari told Al-Mashareq.
Instead, he explained, the Iranian regime views funding the IRGC as "a top priority, as its existence depends on the existence of the IRGC and affiliated militias that it uses to do its dirty work outside the country's borders".
To this end, the regime "continues to pump money to the IRGC and its allies amid escalating US sanctions on its sources of funding", he said.
Monuments and murals
"The IRGC today controls most of the levers of the state," al-Sinjari said.
To generate revenue for its operations, the IRGC has sought to exploit the economic structure of neighbouring countries, he added, noting that the Iranian agenda in Iraq focuses on dominating that country and draining its resources.
The IRGC has sought to further and protect its interests in Iraq by funding Iraqi militias and spreading the doctrine of Wilayat al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurist) by establishing schools such as the Khamenei school in Ninawa province.
At the same time, even as its people face mounting hardship, it has been bankrolling monuments and painting murals of IRGC commanders, he said.
These include the new "Beauty of Victory" mural at the entrance to Baghdad Airport, inaugurated June 19th by the Popular Mobilisation Forces.
The mural shows IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and PMF deputy head Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, both of whom were killed in a US airstrike near the airport, saluting a crowd of Iraqis.
A widely-derided new statue of Soleimani was erected in the city of Jiroft in his home province of Kerman in June, amid the coronavirus crisis, with social media users criticising the Iranian regime's priorities.
Meanwhile, in Lebanon, Iran-aligned and funded Hizbullah unveiled a statue of Soleimani in the southern town of Maroun al-Ras.
Rising rejection, discontent
"Popular discontent inside Iran is growing," political analyst Ghanem al-Abed told Al-Mashareq. "Iranians are angry that the regime is ignoring the problems of unemployment, high prices, poverty and corruption."
They also resent the regime's lack of transparency, especially with regard to its handling of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
After initially concealing -- and even contributing to -- the spread of the virus, Iran was slow to implement public health measures, and the IRGC drew ridicule by announcing the invention of a device that detects the coronavirus remotely.
The Iranian regime has "made a laughingstock of itself", he said, noting that it would have been better for it to direct resources towards combatting the virus.
Iran is now trying to borrow billions of dollars from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) under the pretext of tackling the pandemic, he added.
While Iranian officials claim sanctions have hampered their ability to fight the coronavirus pandemic, Iranian affairs experts refute these allegations, saying the regime is seeking to divert attention from its handling of the health crisis.