Sudden changes in Iran's senior paramilitary leadership, coupled with nationwide unrest over social issues and soaring inflation, show the Iranian regime is struggling to control the rapidly worsening domestic crisis, analysts said.
In a move some see as a further sign of the country's troubles, Rear Adm. Ali Shamkhani, long-time secretary of the influential Supreme National Security Council, was abruptly replaced on May 22.
Taking his place is Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) strategic centre director Ali-Akbar Ahmadian, with Iranian officials remaining tight-lipped about the reasons for the change.
He was in the position for 10 years and reportedly was instrumental in the normalisation deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia two months ago.
The Supreme National Security Council's secretary is appointed by the Iranian president, according to the law.
President Ebrahim Raisi's decision to replace Shamkhani came as a surprise to many given Shamkhani's closeness to Khamenei and his tenure in a highly sensitive position.
Iran has been making efforts to play up the detente with Saudi Arabia, with the regime attempting to convince the public that despite being at odds with the West, it has managed to normalise relations with a major regional power.
But the domestic situation appears to be difficult for Iranian authorities to control amid widespread dissent as the Iranian people push back on many issues, including the mandatory head covering for women.
'Shocking ethical blindness'
The Iranian regime has made it clear that its priority is enforcing mandatory head coverings and that it will mete out "the severest form of punishment" for women who appear in public without a head covering.
In response to the public appearance of celebrities without state-mandated head coverage, the regime formed a committee to pursue "unruly celebrities".
The regime's continued severe violation of human rights also includes a spate of executions across the country that has sparked public outrage.
A number of female prisoners gathered last Saturday in the yard of Tehran's notorious Evin prison to protest the executions.
During the gathering, eight female prisoners made speeches condemning the executions, singling out five cases, according to reports in Iranian media.
In light of the Iranian regime's disregard for human rights, outrage has erupted over the May 11 appointment of Iranin ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Ali Bahreini as chairman of the UN Human Rights Council's 2023 Social Forum.
The Centre for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) called for the immediate retraction of the appointment, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported.
The appointment of Bahreini, at a time when the council is investigating the deaths of hundreds of peaceful protesters in Iran, "reflects a shocking ethical blindness", CHRI executive director Hadi Ghaemi said.
The Social Forum, scheduled for November, is to focus on the contribution of science, technology and innovation to promote human rights, RFE/RL reported.
"The regime is desperate somehow to get its affairs under control, and despite ongoing crackdowns, it does not appear to have done so," an Iran-based political analyst told Al-Mashareq on condition that his name not be used.
"The domestic issues the regime is dealing with are not small or insignificant," the analyst said.
"The public is standing against mandatory head covering, celebrities are standing in solidarity with the people, prisoners are protesting executions, and the economic situation is rapidly spiraling out of the regime's control."
The overall inflation index for the 12-month period ending March 21 stood at 51.8%, per the BBC's Persian service.
In late March, the Statistical Centre of Iran (SCI) announced it would not publish inflation details for the five-year period ending in 2021.
It recently published very limited details about the increase in prices in the 60-day period ending March 20.
Analysts say the SCI's decision not to publish the country's inflation rate indicates that inflation has spiraled out of control, to the point that the government anticipates protests.
According to the BBC report, available data show the rate of point-to-point inflation for the 30-day period ending on April 21 surpassed 60%, which is the highest inflation rate in 80 years.
During the same period, the price of goods has risen by some 80%.
The near-bankrupt economy, public dissatisfaction with the overall status of the country, and continued protests over human rights have evidently created a frustrating situation for the Islamic Republic that is difficult to control.
The Iranian regime is still guarding its power at all costs, but its replacement of officials in key positions demonstrates its weakness amid the challenges it is facing.