The recent protests in Iran rang alarm bells for the ruling theocracy in Tehran. What started in Iran’s second largest and holy city of Mashhad, over rising prices, transfigured into widespread, unprecedented protests against the theocratic regime in towns and cities across the country.The earlier protests against the current status quo had mainly emerged from capital Tehran and some major cities. But these demonstrations touch a vast panoply of cities and towns, where people protest against living expenses and a corrupt government. Protesters were so discontented that even they attacked police stations, government offices, military installations and seminaries amid calls for the resignation of the supreme leader and the dismantling of the Islamic Republic. But what caused this discontent among the masses needs to be given deep thought. It surely is the economy at the heart of grievances that have brought the people’s dissatisfactions with the status quo to a boiling point. Economic mismanagement and deep-rooted corruption have given rise to a high rate of unemployment, inflation and widening socioeconomic inequalities. The government’s insensitivity to these grievances have not only affected the working class but have also increasingly impacted the lower sections of the urban middle class.Iranians now are finding it harder with every passing day to meet their basic needs. Ironically, Iran is the second biggest producer of petroleum products in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Hence these kind of pitiable economic hardships are unacceptable in this oil-rich country. So, a very vital question arises that where is the oil money going? President Rouhani in last December publicised some details of the 2018 budget revealing the astronomical portion of state funds going to religious and military entities while cuts to local subsidies. In addition to this, Iran spends fortunes for its overseas overt and covert operations. It pays more than the US $12billion annually on its military, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.It’s high time that the Iranians decide whether their country is first for Iranians or the Shia causeTehran is also providing billions of dollars in the form of subsidies, oil subsidies, credit lines, military assistance, and exports to Syria, whose economy has been shattered by the war. Moreover, Iran also provides an enormous amount of aid to a number of groups across the Middle East like- Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, Houthi rebels in Yemen, Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in Iraq, and Shia political groups in Bahrain. All of this is a massive burden for a country which is also bearing the sanctions and continues to struggle with much higher levels of unemployment and inflation. The people of Iran have every reason to be outraged. Unfortunately, following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Iranian regime sought to export its ideology abroad. Therefore, it spends Iran’s wealth on promoting and creating the groups which can propagate Iranian revolutionary ideology. The Islamic Republic has been a self-declared defender and sponsor of Shia cause. To fulfil this desire of being a mascot to Shia cause globally the regime always gave priority to its armed forces and weapon development projects and not to the welfare of the ordinary Iranian which bought this current regime to power.Since the time of Iranian revolution, which overthrew Shah Reza Pahlavi and up till now, Iranians have only got income disparity, unemployment, inflation and weak currency from their rulers. These are the fruits of revolution which was delivered to the masses. It’s high time that the Iranians decide whether their country is first for Iranians or the Shia cause. The general public opinion in Iran utterly rejects state sponsorship of Shia cause, which was even clearly illustrated in recent protests when protestors raised slogans like — ‘Forget about Syria, think about us’.Evidently, the protests seem to have died down, but if Iranian leaders fail to recognise that the status quo can’t be maintained and significant reforms are unavoidable, they are only buying time until the next uprising, which could lead to higher instability.Until the grassroot issues affecting lives of ordinary Iranians are not sorted out, there can’t be any long-term stability. People are in no mood to accept wasteful spending of national wealth on any foreign adventures of the regime.The top leadership of the country now has to dedicate the country’s wealth to the welfare of the citizens or otherwise eventually get itself overthrown. The ruling class of clerics also has to realise that the government is there to serve the country and its people, not the other way around that a nation should serve the ambitions of the government. President Rouhani, who is being considered as a moderate in the current setup, has to urgently push for reforms which he promised to fix the economy which is at the core of discontent of the people.The writer is a columnist for Middle-East and Af-Pak region; Emailmanishraiva@gmail.comPublished in Daily Times, January 29th 2018.