Archive for the ‘Iran – Green Revolution’ category

One dead after protesters set fire to police station in southern Iran

May 17, 2018

Six others reportedly wounded and over 100 arrested in latest demonstration over decision to divide region’s administration

MEE and agencies Thursday 17 May 2018 09:35 UTC Middle East Eye

Source Link: One dead after protesters set fire to police station in southern Iran

{Trouble in paradise. – LS}

One person was killed and six others injured in violence in a city in southern Iran that has seen several protests in recent months, the Fars news agency reported on Thursday.

It said a group of people gathered in Kazerun on Wednesday evening to chant “subversive slogans” and set fire to a local police station.

Videos of the incident were shared on social media overnight.

Residents of Kazerun have held sporadic demonstrations for weeks against a government decision to establish an administrative division in the region.

One video posted on Twitter purported to show protesters chanting “They support Gaza, but betray Kazerun”.

Wednesday’s scuffle was the first reported unrest in the town in two weeks after a decision to shelve the reform initiative, the semi-official Fars agency said.

According to Iran Human Rights Monitor, which is associated with the exiled opposition group the National Council of Resistance of Iran, state security forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing two protesters, and arrested more than 100.

Citing local reports, IHRM said 40 armoured police vehicles were sent to the city to quell protests and residents in a nearby town blocked roads in an attempt to stop the police forces from reaching Kazerun.

Middle East Eye could not independently verify NCRI’s account.

At least 25 people were killed in a wave of social unrest that swept towns and cities across Iran between 28 December and 1 January.

The largest demonstrations since the 2009 Green Movement, the protests were fuelled by harsh economic conditions in the country.

 

Iran’s cyber warfare against its people must not stand

February 23, 2018


Iran’s cyber warfare against its people must not stand
© Getty

By Raymond Tanter and Ivan Sascha Sheehan, opinion contributor — 02/23/18 08:30 AM
The Hill

Source Link: Iran’s cyber warfare against its people must not stand

{Fighting the Mullahs one byte at a time. – LS}

New cyber revelations from the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK), the Iranian opposition movement, about the scope of mass surveillance by the Iranian regime are significant. Why? They show the desperation of the Iranian regime in confronting the uprising that began nationwide last December and has continued to this day.

Anti-government protesters chanted slogans indicative of a revolution: “Death to the dictator,” “Death to (Supreme Leader) Khamenei”, “Death to (Hassan) Rouhani,” “Don’t be afraid, we are all together,” “Forget about Syria, think about us,” “Not Gaza, nor Lebanon, my life for Iran,” and “Reformer, Hardline, the Game Is Now Over.”

The fact that protests expanded to over 140 cities, by some estimates, constitutes an existential threat to the regime and an opportunity to use the people’s resentment as leverage against it. The Obama administration squandered valuable opportunities in the past — most notably during the 2009 anti-government protests in Iran.

Only when the Iranian regime employed cyber technology was it able to slow down the spread of the protests and wage large numbers of arrests.

Protesters’ Use of Cyber Technology

The latest popular uprising in Iran sent shock waves inside the regime and around the world. Many specialists now view the uprisings as a landmark event. Protesters made use of game-changing cyber technology through mobile devices and social messaging platforms. Technology played a significant role in organizing, exchanging information between different locales, and getting their message out to the rest of the world.

Indeed, protesters’ use of cyber proved to be the regime’s Achilles heel: It could not, despite a show of force, stop the expansion of demonstrations. The protests expanded even as the regime desperately cut off access to the Internet and blocked key mobile apps, such as Telegram, at considerable cost and international embarrassment. A new wave of domestic cyber warfare, led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), in collaboration with the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), accelerated significantly after the eruption of the nationwide protests.

The MEK established that the regime has focused on mass surveillance through malicious codes embedded in IRGC mobile apps. The goal was to monitor and disrupt the communication between protesters and dissidents.

The opposition movement argues that Iran’s domestic cyber warfare shifts focus from access control to “stateful endpoint” surveillance: In other words, with the recent uprising, the Iranian regime is now complementing its network shadowing with “stateful endpoint,” (mobile device) monitoring of content, context, and contacts to counter the expansion of the uprising and avert more protests. Café Bazaar, modeled after Google Play, is supervised by the IRGC and is its platform of choice to promote and distribute spyware enabled mobile apps.

Iran’s universities, according to the opposition group, are “a recruiting ground for IRGC cyber warfare personnel,” with recruits hired through front companies that “often engage in ‘research’ activities with a few of the IRGC’s ‘handpicked professors.’”

Tehran also apparently used foreign assistance to advance its cyber warfare. On Sep. 4, 2012, state-run Fars News Agency reported that the “signing of an agreement between Iran and North Korea to confront cyber-attacks has raised concerns in the west.”

The Way Forward

Access to free, safe and secure Internet is now a new battleground pitting the people against the regime. Data show nearly 48 million Iranians have smartphones and about 50 percent have access to the Internet. As the call for freedom and regime change grows louder in Iran, it is crucial to understand how the international community could stand on the side of the pro-democracy movement by implementing effective measures to curb and confront the regime’s cyberspace repression of the Iranian people. That outcome requires designation of all entities and individuals in Iran engaged in cyber warfare, including enforcing Executive Order 13606.

This order of President Obama’s from April 22, 2012, prohibits any entity to facilitate the Iranian regime in its “computer and network disruption, monitoring, and tracking” and “or otherwise provided, directly or indirectly, goods, services, or technology” that can be used to “enable serious human rights abuses by or on behalf of the Government of Iran.”

Successful cyber warfare against the Iranian regime requires a comprehensive and decisive policy to include the full implementation of the current sanctions against the IRGC and its front companies, as well as measures necessary to evict the IRGC from the regional countries, especially Syria. Finally, the resistance should be offered cyber technology from the West.

BIG BROTHER Iran may be spying on Brits using ‘weaponised’ phone apps downloaded from Apple and Google’s app stores, report claims

February 16, 2018

By Mark Hodge 15th February 2018 4:59 pm The Sun

Source Link: BIG BROTHER Iran may be spying on Brits using weaponised phone apps downloaded from Apple and Google’s app stores, report claims

{Invading Iran one app at a time. – LS}

An explosive new report claims the spyware-enabled messaging apps, used by the evil regime, are being used by Iranian expats in the West to communicate with their relatives in the troubled country

IRAN could be spying on Brits and Americans using “weaponised” apps which are available on Apple and Google’s online stores, an explosive new report has claimed.

The Iranian regime has created their own messaging apps which are spyware-enabled to help them hunt down anti-government protesters in the country, according to the report obtained by The Sun Online.

The most popular of these applications is called Mobogram, which is used by millions of Iranians and is available to download by westerners on Apple’s App Store.

The report by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a political group which opposes the Iranian regime, shows that Iranian expats are using Mobogram to communicate with their relatives in the troubled dictatorship.

Deputy Director of the council Alireza Jafarzadeh told The Sun Online that the Iranian regime has “weaponised smartphones” in its bid to thwart demonstrators in the country.

He said: “When you download these apps and start using them, they have the ability to gain access to your contacts, track your location and they can see the content of your communications.

“They can find out who you are, your phone number, your address, because they gain access to information on your SIM card.

“Some of the apps have found their way into global marketplaces such as Google Play and Apple’s App Store.

“This means the Iranian regime could target the millions of Iranian expats living abroad who communicate with their relatives.”

Mr Jafarzadeh’s says that the council’s research has shown that the regime has used the spyware to “threaten, arrest, torture and kill people.”

In December and January, the Iranian regime was rocked by anti-government protests which erupted in over 100 town and cities across the Islamic Republic.

The Council’s research shows that the government has developed around 100 spyware enabled apps allegedly using tech companies which are a front for the evil regime.

Apps such as Mobogram are “forked”, or copied, from popular messaging app Telegram and “were promoted heavily” by the state-sponsored firms, claims Mr Jafarzadeh.

Last year, the founder and CEO of Telegram Pavel Durov branded Mobogram “potentially insecure” and warned against using it.

He tweeted: “Mobogram is an outdated and potentially insecure fork of Telegram from Iran. I don’t advise to use it.”

The Iranian government executes more people, including women and children, per capita than any other country on Earth.

And Mr Jafarzadeh says the regime is “experimenting” with cyber warfare on its own people but could “apply these tactics” against  western countries.

He said: “The regime has turned these applications into a spying weapon.

“They have weaponised these applications and as a result have actually weaponised smartphones in their favour.

“The Iranian regime is experimenting with cyberwar fare on its own population first – and once they have perfected that they could apply these tactics on countries outside of Iran.

“The regime feels very, very vulnerable to the uprising which is happening. They feel that the whole population is turning against them.”

The Sun Online has approached Apple and Google for comment.

Mobogram web developer Hanista has also been approached for comment.

The West’s shameful response to the Iran protests

January 9, 2018

The West’s shameful response to the Iran protests | Anne’s Opinions, January 8th 2018

Iran protests continue

In my earlier post about the Iran protests I mentioned the limp response from both Western governments and Western media. Melanie Phillips picks up on the weak institutional response from the West, saying:

… utterly risible the gloss initially put on these protests by the western media – those outlets, that is, that even bothered to report the demonstrations when they first erupted – that the issue which has brought Iranians onto the streets is merely economic privation.

They said this because the media reflects the European/Obama view that the Iranian regime is not an enemy but an ally. How then can they acknowledge that the Iranian people are rising up against oppression?

The Obama/EU axis and its media supporters have consistently dismissed or denied Iran’s role as the world’s principal sponsor of terrorism. They have ignored or downplayed its march to regional hegemony. They procured or applauded the shocking nuclear deal which enables this fanatical Islamist regime –– which has been at war with the west since 1979 and which openly declares its genocidal intent to wipe out out Israel – to become a nuclear armed power in ten or fifteen years’ time: a deal which, though sanctions relief, has also funnelled money to the regime to enable it to step up its terrorism and embed itself further in the region.

The result has not been merely that the free world has been placed in hugely increased danger. The European/Obama axis also abandoned and betrayed the Iranian people who have been suffering under the cruel tyranny of a regime which oppresses women, jails dissidents and hangs gay men from cranes.

If people are to rouse their courage to pit themselves against the might of a regime that can kill and crush them, the support of the rest of the world is absolutely crucial. So far, though, Trump is alone in offering such support. Apart from Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson feebly and pointlessly tweeting his “concern”, Britain and the EU have been silent. They are not supporting the people of Iran against the regime. They are not trying to weaken it. How can they? They have helped empower it. As have their cheerleaders and Obama sycophants in the media.

Melanie Phillips continues on this theme in a further post on Europe’s shameful silence on the Iran protests, in which she also excoriates Barack Obama and his administration for empowering the Ayatollahs through the nuclear deal:

The people have been calling for “Death to Khamenei,” Iran’s supreme leader, “Death to Rouhani,” Iran’s supposedly moderate president, and to “End the clerical regime!” Revolutions against tyrannical oppressors require extraordinary levels of courage and determination. We know from Soviet Union dissidents how desperately such people need to know the world is with them and to hear their oppressors put on notice that their behavior is being watched.

Support for the protestors from London

 

The very worst thing for those pitting their lives against tyranny is silence from the rest of the world. That’s what tyrants depend upon to stamp out the sparks of freedom.

President Trump stepped up to the plate by repeatedly tweeting support and encouragement to the protesters and issuing warnings designed to undermine and weaken the regime.

But from all those progressive folk in the West who never stop parading their anti-fascist credentials and signaling their support for the persecuted and for human rights there has been… silence.

The media tried to dismiss the uprising as merely an economic protest. Instead of condemning the regime for killing and jailing protesters, the media condemned Trump for supporting them.

The British and EU governments, with their vast and sordid financial ties to the regime, have given zero support to the revolt, offering merely bromides about the need to avoid loss of life. In the US, former Obama administration staffers have been desperately playing down the uprising.

Obama’s Middle East coordinator Philip Gordon called on Trump “to keep quiet and do nothing” in response to the protests.

The Iranians, he claimed, wouldn’t want Trump’s support. His threat to end the nuclear deal, his unconditional support for “Iran’s biggest adversaries, Saudi Arabia and Israel” and his recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would give the Iranians reasons to unite against him.

Gordon thus stupidly conflated the Iranian people with the Iranian regime.

It’s the regime that is against America on all these issues. The Iranian people, by contrast, have no intrinsic prejudice against Israel, have no reason to reject the recognition of Jerusalem and are unlikely to lose sleep over the ending of the nuclear deal, nor America’s alliance with the regime’s foes in Saudi Arabia.

For the protesters were also shouting: “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon! Our life only for Iran!” They don’t support the regime’s aim of regional and global domination. They want Iran to be run for the benefit of Iranians.

For this, they desperately need Trump’s support. They want to know that the US won’t support the regime. Obama did that, and it hurt the Iranian people.

Obama thus bent over backward to give Iran a free pass. According to Politico, his administration stymied an FBI-led operation to shut down Hezbollah’s drug-running, terrorism- financing racket.

In the 2016 prisoner swap deal with Iran, he released several men who his own law enforcement agencies believed posed a danger to national security.

And in the 2009 Green Revolution, Obama abandoned the Iranian people by refusing to give the protesters support.

All of this was to secure the nuclear deal – which has merely empowered Iran to use the money released by sanctions relief to strengthen its terrorist infrastructure and step up its malign and aggressive meddling in the rest of the region.

If the Iranian uprising is stamped out, it will be because of the absence of support from Britain and Europe. Their silence makes them complicit with a genocidal regime at war with the West and has caused them shamefully to betray a brave people fighting for its freedom.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, himself a former Prisoner of Zion at the hands of the brutal Soviet regime, agrees with the Melanie Phillips’ position, writing in the Washington Post that the West should stop dithering and support the Iranian protestors:

As an opinion piece in the New York Times recently put it, the best way for the U.S. government to help the Iranian protesters is to “Keep quiet and do nothing.”

Fortunately, President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have already shown themselves unwilling to follow this advice. Even so, it is vital to understand why failing to support the protesters at this critical juncture would constitute a moral and strategic mistake — one of potentially historic proportions.

Consider what happened in 2009, when Iranians came out in large numbers to denounce their country’s rigged presidential election. The response they received from the American government was decidedly tepid. The priority of then-President Barack Obama was to reach an agreement with Tehran over its nuclear program, and he and his advisers feared that they would alienate the regime by vocally supporting its detractors.

Yet subsequent events have proved these views completely wrong. This policy of non-interference discouraged protesters and reinforced the regime at the very moment when the opposite could have led to genuine change.

My experiences as a political prisoner and my decades of involvement with democratic dissidents around the world have shown me that all democratic revolutions have some elements in common. It is the drive of ordinary citizens to free themselves from government control over their thought, speech and livelihoods — to shed the burden of having to conform in public despite their private misgivings and grievances against the regime — that has propelled dissidents and revolutionary movements around the world, from Communist Russia to the Arab Spring to today’s Islamic Republic of Iran.

Any regime that refuses to respect its citizens’ most basic rights, and especially the right to think and speak freely, can maintain its power only by intimidation and force.

Dissidents know the penalties of speaking out but are compelled more by the desire for freedom than by fear. They are willing to brave the consequences, including the loss of their livelihoods, physical freedom and even their lives, to gain the liberty to speak their minds. Revolutions take place when enough people simultaneously cross that fateful line between silent questioning and open dissent, between cowering in fear and standing up for freedom. Once they do so, the regime can no longer contain the upsurge of opposition and must either begin to liberalize or collapse.

This is why a policy of silence on the part of world leaders is so misguided. What matters to Iranians debating whether to cross this decisive threshold is how much they dislike their own government, as well as their knowledge that the free world — those who share the basic principles for which they are fighting — stands behind them in their moment of truth.

… Our leaders must not be misled by the argument that publicly siding with Iran’s dissidents will give the regime an excuse to blame the protests on foreign meddling or crack down even harder on dissidents. The government in Tehran will do these things no matter what, since a regime as threatened as Iran’s is right now will take any steps in its power to deflect and suppress opposition.

Yet, world powers should go even further than this. They should warn Tehran — and thereby reassure protesters — that it must respect its citizens’ rights if it wishes to continue receiving benefits from their countries. Articulating a clear policy of linkage would put pressure on the regime to make genuine changes and give hope to protesters that their sacrifices will not be in vain.

These sterling words from Natan Sharansky stand in stark contrast to the utterly pathetic reaction from Britain’s establishment, particularly the Labour Party whose leader has never met a terrorist he couldn’t like.

Here’s a tweet from a spoof Jeremy Corbyn account, but the link is no spoof:

And more:

Even the leftist Independent calls on Britain to support the protestors and condemns the equivocation of the Labour Party:

Anyone with a conscience, meanwhile, knows that the Iranian government hangs gay people, tramples on women’s rights, has a poor human rights record and sponsors terrorism. It is not difficult, in a contest between such a regime and the right to free expression, to know which side is wearing the whiter hat.

Ms Thornberry’s warning that Westerners should not “simply impose our views” on other countries is the most appalling moral cowardice. There is nothing “Western” about universal human rights, and all representatives of the British people should stand up for them.

But let’s not just concentrate on the Labour Party who, after all, are not in power. What about the British government itself?

Allister Heath in the Telegraph laments Britain’s non-response:

What’s wrong with us? Why isn’t there loud, universal support from all shades of political opinion, in Britain and across the West, for the anti-regime protesters in Iran? Why such reluctance to encourage these brave young men and women who are risking their lives by taking on the theocrats?

Have we forgotten the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, or is it that our elites are now so embarrassed by Western values that they can no longer relate to those in other countries who also yearn for freedom and democracy?

Scandalously, but unsurprisingly, Mr Corbyn has yet to speak out about the protests: he was quick to condemn Donald Trump’s commonsensical recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, but has nothing to say about the murder of dozens of Iranians.

So much for the hard-Left. Why are the Tories and the (clearly hopeless) Foreign Office almost as silent, in effect aligning themselves with the worst of European foreign policy, despite the liberating potential of Brexit?

Why has Boris Johnson been so uncharacteristically mealy-mouthed? Why is the British government still clinging to the absurd notion that the Iranian nuclear deal was a good idea, rather than a shameful exercise in appeasement which ended up propping up an illegitimate regime while lining the pockets of a few European companies?

I understand that Boris feels he must tread carefully after the disastrous Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe affair, but it is deeply disappointing that Mr Trump’s foreign policy towards Iran is far more ethical than Britain’s. We need a Kennedy-esque oration, a “we are all Tehranis” moment from our Foreign Secretary to give the rebels the kind of moral support they desperately need.

The Americans get this: Mr Trump – yes, Trump, the president despised by so-called liberals the world over – has adopted exactly the right tone in recent days, and Nikki Haley, his ambassador to the UN, has been superb and now looks like a future Republican presidential contender.

The reality is that there is no moral ambiguity when it comes to the Iranian protests, no shades of grey, no trade-off to be had for reasons of realpolitik. There are the good guys – the young, brave counter-revolutionaries seeking to overthrow the brutes who have ruled their country for so long – and then there is the regime, a barbaric and corrupt mob that has brought a once great society to its knees.

The protests were precipitated by economic chaos, as is often the case, but quickly mutated into open attacks on the regime. … In social terms, there has been an explosion in drug abuse, mental illness, depression and atomisation.

Most encouragingly, the protesters are furious that the regime is spending so much on financing terrorism and on its wars in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, rather than on its own people. They have been saying so, clearly, in demonstrations around the country.

This remarkable message – a powerful counter-blast to the pernicious idea that the Middle East is somehow different, that none of its people want democracy, individual liberty or toleration – is far more radical than the demands made during the 2009 uprising. If any country is ready for a real dose of modernisation, it’s Iran.

True, the protesters are disorganised and they disagree about much, but they deserve our support, and that of all of the global bodies supposedly concerned with human rights which have been pretending not to notice what has been going on (they are only interested in the “right” kinds of rights violation, that is those by Western countries).

We cannot be sure that a new, successful counter-revolution would not lead to chaos, but Iran doesn’t need an authoritarian regime to prevent tribal warfare and the Islamists are totally discredited, so the omens are better than they were in Afghanistan or Libya.

What is certain is that we’ve failed the Middle East appallingly in recent decades. We mustn’t also betray Iran again. Its dissidents need a clear signal that the world would be delighted to work, when the time is right, with a new government in Tehran. Foreign Secretary, are you listening?

The only foreign representative who does seem to be listening and is not afraid to express an opinion is the US Ambassador to the UN who overtly threatened the Iranian regime:

Let’s just hope that the world does not restrict itself to just “watching”.

International Responses to Iran’s Mass Protests are Beginning to Emerge

January 3, 2018

International Responses to Iran’s Mass Protests are Beginning to Emerge, Iran News Update, January 3, 2018

Perhaps equally important is the escalation in the overall tone of protesters’ messages, respective to the 2009 demonstrations. While the earlier movement was primarily focused on the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, current slogans include calls for “death to the dictator,” in reference to Supreme Leader Khamenei and, by extension, the entire system of clerical rule.

It is reasonable to conclude that the suppression of previous demonstrations combined with the regime’s inability or unwillingness to address the underlying grievances is leading a growing number of Iranians to the conclusion that regime change is a necessary prerequisite for the improvement of their own future prospects.

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INU – International coverage of Iran’s nationwide protests continued on Tuesday and began to display common narratives as the demonstrations entered their sixth day. The initial protests in the city of Mashhad, allegedly organized around economic issues by conservative opponents of President Hassan Rouhani, led to unexpected expansion in both the geographic and ideological scope of subsequent gatherings. This in turn led to highly predictable government crackdowns, resulting in numerous arrests and several deaths.

CNBC was among the outlets to report that nine people had been killed in the midst of the demonstrations on Monday night. One hundred people were reportedly arrested that night in the capital city of Tehran alone, after 250 others had been arrested in the same locality over the previous two nights. Figures for the total numbers of deceased and arrested protesters appeared more inconsistent as of Tuesday. It was generally agreed that the nine deaths from the previous night had raised the total to more than 20.

Al Jazeera placed the figure at 22 and also reported that at least 530 people had been arrested. But the National Council of Resistance of Iran, drawing upon its intelligence network inside the Islamic Republic, specified higher figures in both instances, saying that at least 30 people had been killed and 663 arrested. The NCRI also provided a breakdown on the location of a number of these arrests, in addition to the 450 that took place in Tehran.

That breakdown demonstrates one key fact that has been widely observed about the current wave of protests: they are different from the 2009 Green Movement and generally unusual among Iranian protest movements insofar as they are not geographically diffuse, involving a number of rural areas that are considered to be conservative strongholds rather than being focused primarily on socially progressive urban areas like Tehran.

In fact, Iranian officials appear to have responded to the growing protests in part by insisting that their original economic focus remained the only significant driving force and that the demonstrations held limited appeal in the capital and in other major cities apart from Mashhad.

Following the first day of protests, it was reported that Tehran officials had declared that only 50 people attended a local gathering and that most of them dispersed immediately following police warnings. Similar messaging seemed evident in quotations cited in the Los Angeles Times, with officials asserting that despite 450 arrests in three days, the demonstrations in the capital were naturally dying down. Those remarks went on to speculate that the rest of the country would soon follow suit.

The nearly simultaneous claims about mass arrests and waning popularity are not the only instances of self-contradiction in the regime’s response to the protests, Al Jazeera raised this issue in the context of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s personal response to the situation, which emerged for the first time on Tuesday. Khamenei sought to portray the protests as primarily the work of outside agitators. Business Insider quoted him as specifically blaming “wicked enemies backed by westerners, easterners, as well as reactionaries of the region”.

In the first place, his decision to weigh in is at odds with other officials’ attempts to downplay the significance of what is happening. At the same time, Al Jazeera notes that by giving credit to foreign infiltrators for such widespread demonstrations, Khamenei is contradicting the regime’s official position that such infiltrators have little real influence in the Islamic Republic. In fact, Al Jazeera asserts that the latter position is correct and that Khamenei’s claims regarding a foreign hand in the protests are not at all credible.

This, of course, is not to say that there hasn’t been an outpouring of foreign interest as the demonstrations have stretched on. Neither does this observation lead to the conclusion that foreign support for a domestically-driven movement hasn’t been welcomed by Iranian activists. Indeed, aBBC report consisting of direct commentary from Iranian citizens includes one quotation embracing the supportive remarks delivered by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu via Instagram.

The Iranian activist, identified only as Zahi, addressed Netanyahu directly and then turned his attention to other countries: “Thanks a lot for supporting the oppressed. I expect the same from all other countries. This cruel regime is harsh on its own people. We shouldn’t be under batons and bullets. This isn’t our destiny. We have the right to protest and we ask other countries to support us.”
Netanyahu’s use of social media to express support for the protest movement was predictably emulated on Twitter by US President Donald Trump, who has posted on the topic several times since the demonstrations started. His messages repeated familiar condemnations of the Iranian regime and praised the Iranian people for speaking out about the misappropriation of their wealth for terrorism and projects of regional intervention. These issues had previously been raised by many of the protestors themselves with slogans such as “forget about Syria; think about us!”

Apart from offering personal support for the protesters’ cause, Trump has also overseen responses from the White House that are passing through more official channels. ABC News reported on Tuesday that the administration was keeping up pressure to prevent Iran from blocking the social media platforms that have been used as effective organizing tools for the ongoing demonstrations. The Associated Press added that the White House was actively encouraging Iranian citizens to use virtual private networks in order to evade some of the new blockages that the Iranian government is imposing on specific websites.

Both outlets quoted Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein as saying that the US has “an obligation not to stand by.” He added, “We want to encourage the protesters to continue to fight for what’s right and to open up Iran.”

Much of the international press has criticized President Trump over his direct commentary on the protests, suggesting that any American effort to influence their trajectory would feed into the Iranian supreme leader’s efforts to discredit the demonstrations as the work of foreign agents. Nevertheless, many of the same outlets have expressed earnest support for what the Trump administration is doing at the policy level, as opposed to at the level of pure public relations.

The Atlantic, for instance, insisted that any active American interference would help hardliners, but then advocated for Western powers the help facilitate the free flow of communication within Iranian society. Also, in an interview with PBS NewsHour, Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace recommended that the US could help to inhibit Iran’s ability to control communication, adding that one way of doing this would be by censuring any information technology companies that provide Iranian leaders with the tools to limit access within their country.

Sadjadpour also highlighted the considerable impact that the continued flow of information could have on the future of the still-emerging movement, which has reportedly been spreading in absence of centralized leadership or specific, across-the-board demands. He pointed out that whereas Twitter had been a highly successful organizing force in the 2009 Green Movement protests, those protests took place at a time when only one million Iranians could access the platform via smartphones. Today, 48 million Iranians have such devices.

The continued use of those devices as organizational tools would no doubt contribute to a situation that the BBC described as an “unpredictable challenge” for the ruling regime. The BBC also observed on Tuesday that momentum was still building for the grassroots movement. According to theIndependent, that momentum is such that protesters in some areas have actually overpowered security forces and members of the basij civilian militia, disarming and dispersing some of the forces that might otherwise have violently repressed the gatherings.

Of course, it is still widely expected that state authorities will implement a campaign of such repression on the orders of the supreme leader. Sadjadpour noted that the weeks-long protests in 2009 were a case study in the regime’s highly developed capacity for violent repression, which has likely grown since then. And the Washington Post described the office of the supreme leader as having “many loyal and ruthless troops at his disposal.”

This fact, combined with the lack of any notable defections near the top of the regime, leads the Washington Post to conclude that the current demonstrations are unlikely to lead directly to a political tipping point. But the same report suggests that the suppression of those demonstrations will lead to the later recurrence of the same. Other outlets agree with this assessment, and Reuters cited the likelihood of repression leading to further protests as one of the main points of interest for Western leaders who are watching the situation unfold.

Perhaps equally important is the escalation in the overall tone of protesters’ messages, respective to the 2009 demonstrations. While the earlier movement was primarily focused on the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, current slogans include calls for “death to the dictator,” in reference to Supreme Leader Khamenei and, by extension, the entire system of clerical rule.

It is reasonable to conclude that the suppression of previous demonstrations combined with the regime’s inability or unwillingness to address the underlying grievances is leading a growing number of Iranians to the conclusion that regime change is a necessary prerequisite for the improvement of their own future prospects.

Finally, an Iranian Spring

January 2, 2018

Finally, an Iranian Spring, Al ArabiyaDr. Khaled M. Batarfi, January 2, 2017

Over 60 towns have joined the rebellion, so far. Iran is awakening. Iranians are demanding their freedom, democracy and rights. They regretted supporting a revolution that turned against them.

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When Iranians protested, mostly in Tehran, for the best half of 2009, they were angry about the rigged presidential election in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defeated his “reformist” rival Mehdi Karroubi. The “Green Revolution,” was about the government —not the regime change. It was led by an elite, educated and well-to-do metropolitans supporting to the reformist movement.

Recent protests are different in many ways. It started in Mashhad, a conservatively religious city, and the birthplace of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, where some 160,000 angry investors lost their life savings in a fraud residential project.

Banks owned by the Revolutionary Guards suddenly closed down wiping out all deposits. And many companies haven’t paid salaries for up to a year! For a couple of years, after the burning of the Saudi Embassy, Shiite tourists from wealthy Gulf region ceased to come and hundreds of business closed down.

Poor, unemployed and hungry people went out to call for a new revolution. They were calling Khamenei a dictator who lives in luxury while his people suffer, wishing him and President Hassan Rouhani death, as both of the are two sides of the same coin.

The city is governed by two of Khamenei top allies, Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda and Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi. The latter had participated and lost in the last presidential elections as representative of the supreme leader’s camp and the hardline movement.

Instead of calming the crowd, Alamolhoda advises the authorities: “If the law-enforcement agencies do not punish the troublemakers, the enemies will publish tapes and pictures telling the world that the regime of the Islamic Republic has lost its revolutionary spirit in Mashhad.”

These slogans summarize the sentiments of the Iranian people about their regime’s foreign policies and their devastating repercussions on development, economy and society

Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi

A religious and conservative town

Other cities followed. Isfahan, the third largest city in Iran, after Tehran and Mashhad joined the ranks. Teachers and retirees came out demanding their salaries and money lost in the failing banks and projects. The city is also a religious and conservative town. Its support of the Khomeini revolution in the late seventies was a decisive factor in its victory. Tens of thousands of their sons were killed in the Iran-Iraq war.

One protester has lost four sons in Iraq, and a fifth in Syria. Instead of rewarding him, they took away his pension, he complains. Now, he cannot support what is left of his family. He is not alone, according to official statistics, 20 percent of the population is below poverty line and 40 percent of them need food aid, that is 60 percent of the 80 million Iranians.

Twenty millions live in shantytowns. Not to mention an inflation rate exceeding 20 percent, and a currency rapidly losing value. The result is a hike in rates of crime, drug addiction and prostitution.

The slogans raised in the demonstrations are telling: “Neither for Gaza, nor for Lebanon, my life is only for Iran,” “Forget Syria, remember us!,” “May your soul rest in peace, Reza Shah,” “freedom or death,” “Release political prisoners,” “Leaders live in paradise, people live in Hell,” “Death to Hezbollah.”

Sentiments of the people

These slogans summarize the sentiments of the Iranian people about their regime’s foreign policies and their devastating repercussions on development, economy and society. While austerity measures worsened an already tough life, the Syrian regime received $20 billion to kill its own people, and Hizbollah gets $1,200 billion a year to do the regime’s dirty business.

Not to mention other costly expenses to support militias in Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain. As a protester put it, “We give an Afghan, Pakistani or Arab terrorist up to $1500 a month, with accommodation, food and transportation, while I live in a shack, and my hard-earned income of $250 is delayed or stolen.

Few former Iranian leaders sided with their people. Former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has just revealed the existence of 63 bank accounts for the head of the judiciary Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani and the corruption of his brother Ali Larijani, the Parliament Speaker.

Others exposed the extent of criminality that reached the highest offices. Top bosses in ministries, banks, charities and religious institutions were found guilty of embezzlement, fraud, sexual harassment and child abuse. Worse, the leadership, including the Supreme Leader, has protected and defended the guilty and tried to hid their crimes.

If the large, industrial and commercial metropolitans groan, imagine the suffering in the remote and marginalized areas. The racist and sectarian regime has always ignored the mostly Sunni Kurdish, Baluchi, Kurdish, Azeri, Turkmen and Afghan communities. Shiite Arabs fared no better.

Over 60 towns have joined the rebellion, so far. Iran is awakening. Iranians are demanding their freedom, democracy and rights. They regretted supporting a revolution that turned against them. The world is watching, as it did in the spring of 2008. This time around it should interfere if the regime terrorizes its own people. Since they pretend to be a democracy, they should be held to its standards.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on January 2, 2018.
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Dr. Khaled M. Batarfi is a Saudi journalist and writer based in Jeddah.

If The Islamic Republic is Falling, it’s Because of Trump

January 1, 2018

If The Islamic Republic is Falling, it’s Because of Trump, FrontPage MagazineRobert Spencer, January 1, 2018

Confronted with those 2009 demonstrations that did not go as far or demand as much, Barack Obama betrayed the demonstrators to every grisly fate that the mullahs could devise for them in their torture chambers. Bent on concluding the disastrous nuclear deal that lined their oppressors’ pockets with billions and set the world on a path to a catastrophic nuclear attack, Obama ensured that the U.S. government didn’t lift a finger or offer a word of support for the protesters, even as they were being gunned down in the streets.

But now the man who is setting the tone is a different man. Trump has come out strongly in favor of the protesters, tweeting: “Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching!”

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In 2009, Iran was swept by demonstrations, just as it is now. But at that time, the protesters were shouting “Allahu akbar,” and there was no indication that they wanted anything but reform of the Islamic regime, not the end of the regime itself. This time, however, the protesters have been chanting: “We don’t want an Islamic Republic!” “Clerics shame on you, let go of our country!” Some have even chanted: “Reza Shah, bless your soul!”

What has changed? Donald Trump.

Reza Shah was the Shah of Iran from 1925 to 1941 and the father of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the Shah who was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Reza Shah admired Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk and set Iran on a similar path of Westernization and secularization. In chanting this, the protesters are emphasizing that they do not just want economic reforms, as has been the line of the establishment media in the West. Nor do they want an Islamic Republic that is less corrupt. They don’t want an Islamic Republic at all.

Now why would Trump have anything to do with this? Because he has been singular among the leaders of the world, and the Presidents of the United States since 1989, in demonstrating his readiness to stand up to violent intimidation. President Trump has already made it clear in so many ways, most notably by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Clinton, Bush, and Obama all spoke about Jerusalem being the capital of Israel, but backed off from recognizing the fact as official U.S. policy, for fear that Muslims would riot and kill innocent people, and that such a recognition would jeopardize the chimerical and fruitless “peace process.”

So should terrorists decide where our embassy should be? Trump was not willing to concede this point. And when one man shows that bullies can be confronted and stood down by people with courage, others are inspired to make the same kind of stand. This new Iranian uprising came just weeks after Trump’s Jerusalem announcement, after the threatened rage and riots of Muslims worldwide in response to that announcement proved to be largely a fizzle.

Is it a coincidence that the Iranian people have stood up to the forces of jihad intimidation just after the President did so? Maybe. But if so, it’s a marvelous one, and in either case it’s illustrative of the power of courage in an age of cowardice.

For here again, even if the Iranian freedom movement has nothing to do with Trump, it is certain that these demonstrations would already be over, and may never have begun, if Hillary Clinton were President of the United States right now. Confronted with those 2009 demonstrations that did not go as far or demand as much, Barack Obama betrayed the demonstrators to every grisly fate that the mullahs could devise for them in their torture chambers. Bent on concluding the disastrous nuclear deal that lined their oppressors’ pockets with billions and set the world on a path to a catastrophic nuclear attack, Obama ensured that the U.S. government didn’t lift a finger or offer a word of support for the protesters, even as they were being gunned down in the streets.

But now the man who is setting the tone is a different man. Trump has come out strongly in favor of the protesters, tweeting: “Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching!”

In a similar vein, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said: “Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. As President Trump has said, the longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are Iran’s own people.” Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders added: “There are many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with the regime’s corruption and its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. The Iranian government should respect their people’s rights, including their right to express themselves.”

For the people of Iran, with help from Donald Trump, this could just possibly be the dawning of a new era of freedom. Even if the regime remains in power this time, it has been shaken to its core. It cannot afford to be as openly repressive and bloodthirsty as the Chinese at Tienanmen Square. Not, we can hope, with Donald Trump in the White House.