Archive for the ‘Iranian economy’ category

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.

The Regime Chants “Death to America”, Iranians Chant “Death to Mullahs”

January 1, 2018

The Regime Chants “Death to America”, Iranians Chant “Death to Mullahs”, Gatestone InstituteMajid Rafizadeh, January 1, 2018

(Please see also, Anti-government protests grow more violent in Iran. — DM)

Protesters, risking their lives, have been chanting, “Death to Khamenei” — a serious crime according to the clergy, and punishable, according to the Sharia law of the regime, with death.

People are also chanting, “Death to Rouhani”, “Shame on you Khamenei, step down from power”, “Death to the Dictator” and “Death to the Islamic Republic”. Protesters are tearing down the banners of Iran’s Supreme leaders, Khomeini and Khamenei.

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Now, people in Iran are demanding not just limited reforms but regime change. The government has been doing all it can to stoke the flames of hatred, but has been trying to deflect it to “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”.

The Trump administration is taking the right side by supporting the Iranian people; they are the principal victims of the Iranian regime and its Islamist agenda.

Let us not be on the side of history that would remain silent in the face of such crimes against humanity, let us not join the ranks of other dictators, terrorists, and criminals, that turned a blind eye to violence, and the will of brave, innocent people.

Protests have grown and have spread across Iran in cities such as Tehran, KermanshahShirazRashtQomHamedanAhvazIsfahan, Zahedan, Qazvin, and Sari.

The political nature of the protests has been made clear from the outset and the regime is experiencing a political earthquake. The regime’s gunmen have been out in full force. Despite the brutal power being deployed to crush these peaceful demonstrators — four protestors have already been reported killed — more people are flooding the streets in defiance of the regime.

The scale of these sudden protests is unprecedented during the last four decades of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s rule.

These demonstrations, however, are different from other protests in Iran since 1979, when the theocratic regime was established. In 2009, during the popular uprising in the name of the “Green Movement,” people were protesting against rigged elections and the presidency of the anti-Semitic politician Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Chants echoed through the streets, “Where is my vote?” while the government ratcheted up its power to silence the protestors.

Pictured: People in Tehran, Iran, protest against rigged elections during the popular uprising in the name of the “Green Movement,” on June 16, 2009. (Image source: Milad Avazbeigi/Wikimedia Commons)

Now, people are demanding not just limited reforms but regime change. After almost four decades of living under a theocracy — with Islamist mullahs controlling them, rampant corruption, and the regime’s persistent dissemination of propaganda — the people have reached the boiling point. The government has been doing all it can to stoke the flames of hatred, but has been trying to deflect it to “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”.

Protesters, risking their lives, have been chanting, “Death to Khamenei” — a serious crime according to the clergy, and punishable, according to the Sharia law of the regime, with death.

People are also chanting, “Death to Rouhani”, “Shame on you Khamenei, step down from power”, “Death to the Dictator” and “Death to the Islamic Republic”. Protesters are tearing down the banners of Iran’s Supreme leaders, Khomeini and Khamenei.

Chants being heard all over the nation are, “Forget about Palestine, forget about Gaza, think about us”, “Death to Hezbollah”, “The people live like beggars / [Khamenei] lives like a God,” and “Leave Syria alone, think about us instead”.

The outcry leaves no question about the needs of the people, and the real voice of Iran. Demonstrators are making a clear distinction between the Iranian people’s desired policies and those being carried out by the regime. All political and economic indications are that protests in Iran will continue to grow.

The Trump administration in the United States is taking the right side by supporting the Iranian people; they are the principal victims of the Iranian regime and its Islamist agenda.

US President Donald Trump tweeted:

“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! #IranProtests”

In another statement, the U.S. State Department said:

“On June 14, 2017, Secretary Tillerson accurately testified to Congress that he supports ‘those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of government. Those elements are there, certainly as we know.’ The Secretary today repeats his deep support for the Iranian people.”

Let us be clear. The fault lines are completely visible. If you are on the side of justice, freedom, and basic human rights, and if you respect humanity, you will not be able to remain silent. Let us at least give moral support, if not more, to the Iranian people. Justice and truth need to prevail. This is what history has repeatedly shown us. Let us not be on the side of history that would remain silent in the face of such crimes against humanity, let us not join the ranks of other dictators, terrorists, and criminals, that turned a blind eye to violence, and the will of brave, innocent people.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He is the author of “Peaceful Reformation in Iran’s Islam“.

One Less Brick in the Wall

January 1, 2018

One Less Brick in the Wall, PJ MediaMichael Walsh, December 31, 2017

(AP Photo)

So let’s all root for the Iranians who are, once again, trying to overthrow their reactionary Islamic regime. A victory against the mullahs in Iran would have beneficial results for everybody except devout Shi’ite Muslims and their allies of convenience on the American, largely atheist and most certainly anti-Christian, Left. By removing the source of Hezbollah’s support, pressure would be relieved on Israel and on American forces still in the dar-al-Harb theaters of war. By demolishing rule-by-mullah, Iran would pose much less of a nuclear threat to civilized nations. And by freeing the Iranian people to choose a new government, the Western democracies could find a valuable new ally in a strategically important part of the world.

For millennia, the people of Iran have been unable to decide where to cast their lot. In its attempts to move westward, the Zoroastrian Persian Empire was defeated repeatedly by the Greeks, by Alexander the Great, and by the Byzantines; later, Persia was conquered by the Muslim Arabs, by the Mongols (who really put paid to the “Golden Age”) and by Tamerlane, among others. If Iran can successfully overthrow the Islamic Republic, de-institutionalize Islam, rediscover its own genuine nationalism, and elect a real republic in its place, this historically pluralistic nation will likely find a warm welcome.

Islam has brought nothing but misery to Iran. Perhaps it’s time for Iran to try something different.

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The end is near for the mullahs of Iran, which is bad news for the Islamic Republic of Iran, but good news for the Persian people, who have a chance to free themselves of the baleful effects of the Arab conquest and — finally — join the community of Western nations by casting off its imposed Islamic theocracy and, it is to be hoped, Islam itself. The late Shah of Iran attempted, in part, to de-Islamicize historic Persia of its foreign influences via the restoration of the Peacock Throne, but his revolution was overturned, in part via the Soviet-inspired meddling of the Iranian Tudeh Party, which left the gates open for the ayatollah Khomeini.

Both the Russians and the Americans lost when Khomeini came to power, and Iran shortly thereafter seized the hostages at the U.S. Embassy, precipitating (among other events, including the disastrous American economy) the fall of the Carter administration and the election of Ronald Reagan. Ever since, Islamic Iran has been unremittingly hostile to the United States, as well as to its schismatic co-religionists elsewhere in the Muslim-conquest world, especially Sunni Iraq and, of course, Saudi Arabia.

That’s been a triumph for Shi’ite Islam, but a disaster for the Iranian people, whose numbers include not only ethnic Persians but Jews, Assyrians, Kurds, and many others. The brief flowering of art, science, literature and poetry during the so-called “Golden Age” of Islamic Persia was soon enough snuffed out.  As I write in my forthcoming book, The Fiery Angel:

It is fashionable today to cite the Islamic “golden age” – a direct result of its contact with Christian Europe, we should keep in mind – as a model, not just for what Islam could one day again become (unlikely, since militant Islam explicitly wishes to return to its seventh-century purity), but also as an apologia for Islam’s many and violent sins against the international order.  But until Islam casts off Saudi-fueled Wahhabism and Irian Shi’a millenarianism, gives up its supremacist designs, and becomes willing to accommodate peaceful co-existence contact with West – beyond  its oil-driven importation of Mercedes-Benz and Maserati automobiles and Western firearms – this is unlikely.

As the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaeologus — quoted by former Pope Benedict XVI in his controversial 2006 Regensburg lecture (controversial only to apologists for Islam, that is) — observed in 1391:

Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.

Little more than half a century later, in 1453, Constantinpole fell to the Muslim Turks, marking the final end of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the long night of darkness that has enveloped the Middle East pretty much ever since. Christendom lost control of the lands of its origin, including the reconquered Crusader states of the Levant (one of which still survives, barely, as Lebanon), and the battle line between Europe and Islam was drawn from Gibraltar to the Balkans — the beginning of a long, uneasy truce that lasted until Sept. 11, 2001.  As I wrote on Twitter (@dkahanerules) last week:

A lot has changed since then. For one thing, the Shi’ite-partial Obama is gone, having been replaced by his polar opposite in Donald Trump:

Iranian Officials Inconsistent in Describing Protestors’ Motives and Goals

December 30, 2017

Iranian Officials Inconsistent in Describing Protestors’ Motives and Goals, Iranian News Update, Edward Carney, December 30, 2017

Please see also, The First Anti-American President, the thrust of which is

Donald Trump is certainly the opposite of an anti-American president, and he has no affection for our enemies. He has enabled the Ukrainians to fight, perhaps effectively, against the Russians. So why can’t he enable the Iranians to fight against the ayatollahs?

In the Ukrainian case we’re talking about military weapons; in the Iranian conflict the weapons are political.

If the Iranians rose up against the regime when Obama entered the White House, you can be sure they are at least equally motivated to do it with Trump in office. There are many protests in Iran today, and the Khamenei/Rouhani regime has responded by executing half as many Iranians as in the past. We should relentlessly expose this mass murder, and we should publicize the ongoing protests.

The target audience for such exposes is the great mass of the population. Paradoxically, Iranians are better informed about events in Jerusalem and Washington than in Iranian Kurdistan, the southern oil regions, and cities like Mashad and Qom.

— DM)

[T]he protest against foreign intervention has taken on a life of its own, with activists chanting such slogans as “forget about Syria; focus on us” and “no Gaza, no Lebanon; I will give my life only for Iran.” Despite the prevalence of these sorts of messages in social media and public accounts of the demonstrations, Iranian officials continue to maintain that the regional military prestige of the Islamic Republic remains broadly popular. For instance, the Huffington Post quotes hardline cleric Ahmad Alamolhoda as claiming that only about 50 protestors had expressed regional concerns within a gathering of several hundred.

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On Friday, mass protests continued throughout Iran after having started the previous day in reaction to rising rates of inflation and other uncontrolled economic conditions that had contributed, for instance, to a doubling of the price of eggs in just one week’s time.

Deutsche Welle quotes one Iranian lawmaker as blaming these problems on “illegal financial institutions” that had been established under the administration of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The closure of one such bank, called Mizan, reportedly had a particularly marked impact on Iran’s second most populous city, Mashhad, which has been the focal point of protests that spanned much of central and northern Iran as of Thursday.

The lawmaker’s account of the protests seemingly absolves the current government of responsibility for the conditions that are being protested by victims of a widening income gap in the Islamic Republic. But the DW article also points out that a major target of those protests has been current President Hassan Rouhani’s slow progress in following through on a promise to reimburse citizens whose investments were wiped out by the collapse of state-linked financial institutions.

 

At the same time, DW and various other outlets have highlighted a trend toward broader focus in those protests, targeting not just rising prices and not just financial indicators as a whole but also the Rouhani administration’s failure to uphold a wide variety of promises regarding domestic reform. Insofar as the abandonment of these promises represents closure of the political gap between Rouhani’s political allies and those of hardline authorities like Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the protests seemingly double as an expression of opposition to the clerical system as a whole.

Indeed, the BBC refers to the demonstrations as “anti-government” protests in its reporting on Friday, as well as identifying them as the most serious and widespread such gatherings since the 2009 Green Movement, which emerged out of protests against Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection. Those protests lasted for eight months and ended with a severe crackdown by government authorities, but many Iran watchers have observed that the resentments voiced by that movement continued to simmer under the surface in anticipation of another mass demonstration.

 

This is not to say that there have been no major protests in the ensuing year. Indeed, the National Council of Resistance of Iran has identified thousands in the past year alone. But these have tended to be more geographically confined than the current demonstrations, and many have been focused not on politics but on specific demands such as the payment of overdue wages.

The content of Thursday’s and Friday’s protests was evidently broad enough in scope that even some Iranian officials were compelled to acknowledge the “anti-government” nature of chants and slogans, even while downplaying the scope of their appeal. The Associated Press reports that the governor of Tehran, Mohsen Hamedani, had acknowledged the spread of the protests to the Iranian capital, yet insisted that the gathering involved fewer than 50 people, most of whom dispersed after being warned by police.

Hamedani added that those who remained were “temporarily” arrested, and these remarks seemed also to downplay the severity of the government’s response to what might be regarded as a serious threat to its legitimacy. However, social media posts from various cities depicted peaceful protests being met with tear gas and water cannons, and the crowds in each of those gatherings numbered in the hundreds or in the thousands. By the end of Thursday, there had been at least 52 arrests in Mashhad alone, according to the BBC.

This is not to say that there have been no major protests in the ensuing year. Indeed, the National Council of Resistance of Iran has identified thousands in the past year alone. But these have tended to be more geographically confined than the current demonstrations, and many have been focused not on politics but on specific demands such as the payment of overdue wages.

The content of Thursday’s and Friday’s protests was evidently broad enough in scope that even some Iranian officials were compelled to acknowledge the “anti-government” nature of chants and slogans, even while downplaying the scope of their appeal. The Associated Press reports that the governor of Tehran, Mohsen Hamedani, had acknowledged the spread of the protests to the Iranian capital, yet insisted that the gathering involved fewer than 50 people, most of whom dispersed after being warned by police.

Hamedani added that those who remained were “temporarily” arrested, and these remarks seemed also to downplay the severity of the government’s response to what might be regarded as a serious threat to its legitimacy. However, social media posts from various cities depicted peaceful protests being met with tear gas and water cannons, and the crowds in each of those gatherings numbered in the hundreds or in the thousands. By the end of Thursday, there had been at least 52 arrests in Mashhad alone, according to the BBC.

 

Political imprisonment is rampant in the Islamic Republic, and the BBC report also indicates that this was one of the topics that had been advanced by some protestors. But political focus of any given participant in the demonstrations might be different from those of any other, as evidenced by media reports identifying chants as targeting economic issues, political imprisonment, Iran’s paramilitary interventions in the surrounding region, and so on.

This latter topic is closely related to the economic issues that reportedly sparked the protests, since the Iranian government has spent billions of dollars in recent years on propping up the Syrian dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, as well as on promoting the growth of the Houthi rebellion in Yemen and the various Shiite militias operating in Iraq. A recent editorial in Forbes points out that the new Iranian national budget, introduced by Rouhani in early December, includes the provision of 76 billion dollars to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its foreign special operations Quds Force, at a time when tens of thousands of victims of a November earthquake are still awaiting basic shelter and government services.

 

But the protest against foreign intervention has taken on a life of its own, with activists chanting such slogans as “forget about Syria; focus on us” and “no Gaza, no Lebanon; I will give my life only for Iran.” Despite the prevalence of these sorts of messages in social media and public accounts of the demonstrations, Iranian officials continue to maintain that the regional military prestige of the Islamic Republic remains broadly popular. For instance, the Huffington Post quotes hardline cleric Ahmad Alamolhoda as claiming that only about 50 protestors had expressed regional concerns within a gathering of several hundred.

Interestingly, the same report also quotes Alamolhoda as advocating for an intensified crackdown on the protestors. In absence of this, he suggested, enemies of the regime would claim that the government had lost its “revolutionary base”. The Huffington Post indicates that Tehran security personnel have promised that any demonstrations in the capital would be “firmly dealt with”. This seems to be at odds with the Tehran governor’s commentary about temporary arrests and also with the initial reaction from Mashhad Governor Mohammad Rahim Norouzian, whom the AP quoted as saying that security forces had shown “great tolerance”

 

Since that initial reaction, Iranian officials seem to have increasingly justified crackdowns through acceptance of the broader characterizations of the protests’ grievances and goals. Norouzian himself came to describe the protests as having been organized by “counter-revolutionaries”, according to DW. According to other sources, officials have also referred to the organizers as “hypocrites,” a term often applies to members of the leading Iranian opposition group the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran.

The PMOI has also been a driving force in a number of activist campaigns within the Islamic Republic, including the push for international attention and independent inquiry into the 1988 mass execution of political prisoners, which primarily targeted that same resistance organization. In a Huffington Post editorial on Friday, former US Ambassador Ken Blackwell sought to connect that massacre, which killed an estimated 30,000 people, to the current protests. He said that Thursday’s and Friday’s chants of “death to the dictator” emerged out of “a political climate punctuated by growing demands for justice for the regime’s massacre.”

But even if the initial economic focus of the latest protests had been voiced in isolation, there is an argument to be made that this also would constitute an expression of opposition to the continued rule of the clerical regime. In fact, this argument was made by historian Ellen Ward on Friday in an editorial published by Forbes. Ward observes that despite some officials’ efforts to blame the previous presidential administration for ongoing problems, it is really the underlying clerical system that is responsible for the economic future of the Iranian people.

This is to say that it is the clerical authorities, and not the elected branches of government, who establish and enforce policies with tremendous economic impact, including the interventionist foreign policy. Ward’s argument is reminiscent of the statement put out on Thursday by the PMOI’s parent coalition the National Council of Resistance of Iran. That statement quoted NCRI President Maryam Rajavi as saying that the economic prospects of the Iranian people cannot be expected to improve until the resistance movement has brought about the emergence of democratic governance in place of the theocratic dictatorship.

 

Cotton: We Should Support the Iranian People’s Protests Against ‘Hateful’ Ayatollahs

December 29, 2017

Cotton: We Should Support the Iranian People’s Protests Against ‘Hateful’ Ayatollahs, Washington Free Beacon, December 29, 2017

(Please see also, Iranian Protesters Hit the Streets Against President Rouhani, Ayatollah Khamenei. — DM)

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) leaves the weekly Senate Republican policy luncheon in the U.S. Capitol November 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) issued a statement of support Thursday for Iranian citizens protesting the regime, condemning the government’s “hateful ideology” as more committed to regional conflicts than the needs of its people.

Hundreds of citizens protested Thursday in Mashad, Iran’s second-largest city, over high prices and economic mismanagement. According to Reuters, they shouted slogans like “death to (President Hassan) Rouhani” and “death to the dictator.”

“Even after the billions in sanctions relief they secured through the nuclear deal, the ayatollahs still can’t provide for the basic needs of their own people—perhaps because they’ve funneled so much of that money into their campaign of regional aggression in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen,” Cotton said. “The protests in Mashhad show that a regime driven by such a hateful ideology cannot maintain broad popular support forever, and we should support the Iranian people who are willing to risk their lives to speak out against it.”

View image on Twitter

Cotton is a staunch critic of the Iranian regime and the Iran nuclear deal brokered by the Obama administration. He urged President Donald Trump to decertify Iranian compliance with the deal in October.

Iranians are frustrated with their economic situation and failure to gain benefits from the nuclear agreement, Reuters reported:

Unemployment stood at 12.4 percent in this fiscal year, according to the Statistical Centre of Iran, up 1.4 percent from the previous year. About 3.2 million Iranians are jobless, out of a total population of 80 million.

Some Protesters chanted “leave Syria, think about us,” referring to Iranian troops assisting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Syrian civil war.

Iranian Protesters Hit the Streets Against President Rouhani, Ayatollah Khamenei

December 29, 2017

Iranian Protesters Hit the Streets Against President Rouhani, Ayatollah Khamenei, Jewish PressDavid Israel, December 29, 2017

(Please see also The First Anti-American President which, after a brief discussion on the Iran scam, suggests what President Trump should do to get the Iranian people to rebel. Here are the guts of it:

There are many protests in Iran today, and the Khamenei/Rouhani regime has responded by executing half as many Iranians as in the past. We should relentlessly expose this mass murder, and we should publicize the ongoing protests.

The target audience for such exposes is the great mass of the population. Paradoxically, Iranians are better informed about events in Jerusalem and Washington than in Iranian Kurdistan, the southern oil regions, and cities like Mashad and Qom.

All Iranians need this information, which shows them that they are not alone. The technology for such a campaign exists. It is the same as it was when we deployed it against the Soviet Union with such powerful consequences: our broadcasting network, starting with the Voice of America. Today, Farsi-language VOA is often a vehicle for anti-American polemics, since personnel is virtually unchanged from the Obama years. We need a thorough housecleaning, but there are few signs that our national security team understands its urgency.

— DM)

Thousands of Iranians in several major cities, including Mashhad, Neyshabur, Shahroud, and Yazd, rallied in the streets on Thursday against poverty, unemployment, and the rising cost of living. They carried signs with the slogans “Death to Rouhani, and Death to the Dictator,” the term “dictator” referring to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The protesters also denounced Iran’s promotion of violence around the Middle East.

The country is holding its breath in anticipation of events on Friday, the Muslim day of rest.

 People chant: “Akhoonds [Mullahs/ Shia clerics] be ashamed, and leave Iran”. Today when a Mullah popped up among crowd of people protesting financial corruptions of Islamic regime authorities in Mashhad, 2nd largest city of Iran
(Video at the link — DM)
 Journalist and author Babak Taghvaee tweeted on Thursday that when a Mullah (Shia cleric) popped up among crowd of people protesting financial corruption of Islamic regime authorities in Mashhad, the second largest city in Iran, people chanted, “Akhoonds (the Mullahs) be ashamed, and leave Iran.”

“Protesters in Iran chant ‘Reza Shah, Bless Your Soul’ – referring to Reza Shah the Great, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty, the nemesis of the clerics, the modernizer of #Iran,” Taghvaee tweeted, adding, “People of Mashhad shout ‘Islamic revolution was our mistake’ during their protests against corrupted authorities of Iran Islamic regime today.”

According to Taghvaee, calls for peaceful rallies to protest poor living condition and the corruption of the regime can be found in Instagram. Not only in large cities of Iran such as Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, and Tabriz, but people in small towns also support people of Mashhad ahead of Friday’s rallies.

According to IranFocus.com, Thursday’s demonstrators pointed to the billions the regime has spent on the war to keep Assad in power, and chanted, “Leave Syria, think about us.”

President Rouhani expected the nuclear deal of 2015 to restore Iran’s economy, as most international sanctions were lifted. But those economic benefits did not trickle down to ordinary Iranians, who believe their desperate economic situation is the result of government corruption and mismanagement.

An estimated 3.2 million Iranians are unemployed, out of a population of 80 million, with unemployment rates rising to 12.4% in 2017.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei blamed President Trump for Iran’s economic woes. Trump refused to certify that Tehran is complying with its nuclear deal and warned he would eventually terminate the deal. Trump also promised a more aggressive approach to Iran over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs, as well as its spreading terrorism in the Middle East.

Taghvaee tweeted Thursday that Iranian Police completely suppressed the protests in Mashhad people at 4 PM local time. Almost 50 people are arrested and tens of others were slightly injured. No one died.

The First Anti-American President

December 29, 2017

The First Anti-American President, PJ MediaMichael Ledeen, December 28, 2017

Donald Trump is certainly the opposite of an anti-American president, and he has no affection for our enemies. He has enabled the Ukrainians to fight, perhaps effectively, against the Russians. So why can’t he enable the Iranians to fight against the ayatollahs?

In the Ukrainian case we’re talking about military weapons; in the Iranian conflict the weapons are political. If the Iranians rose up against the regime when Obama entered the White House, you can be sure they are at least equally motivated to do it with Trump in office. There are many protests in Iran today, and the Khamenei/Rouhani regime has responded by executing half as many Iranians as in the past. We should relentlessly expose this mass murder, and we should publicize the ongoing protests.

The target audience for such exposes is the great mass of the population. Paradoxically, Iranians are better informed about events in Jerusalem and Washington than in Iranian Kurdistan, the southern oil regions, and cities like Mashad and Qom.

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Barack Obama will no doubt be chronicled, among other things, as the first anti-American president. No wonder; he’s the product of an educational system that has become increasingly radical and anti-American with each passing decade, and his mother was a stereotypical leftist anthropologist with a passion for the Third World.

The pattern is unmistakable. As Luis Fleischman notes, Obama wanted to make deals with our enemies, Iran being the most dramatic example. But just look at Latin America:

The Obama Administration tried to avoid confrontations with anyone it wanted to make a “historic deal” with. Most of these “historic deals” were intended to be made with enemies, as Obama desperately sought an agreement not only with Iran, but also with Cuba and reconciliation with Venezuela.

Thus, Obama failed to insist on the extradition of Venezuelan military and drug trafficker Hugo Carvajal from Aruba and the Syrian-born Venezuelan drug lord Walid Makled from Colombia. Carvajal was the chief of Venezuelan military intelligence and Makled is one of the most notorious drug traffickers in the Western Hemisphere. Makled himself disclosed his own cooperation with scores of the highest officials within Chavez’s government — including Carvajal himself, with the chiefs of the Venezuelan army and navy, as well as with dozens of Venezuelan generals.

The Obama people did not want to know the details of Venezuela’s collusion with the drug Mafiosi. If you have followed the story of the obstruction of the DEA investigation of Hezbollah, you will recognize the pattern. Indeed, it is part of the story.

It is also part of a bigger story: What is Trump going to do about Iran? The rhetoric on Iran is great. Inspirational, even. But as even “Mad Dog” Mattis says, there’s, well, more rhetoric, along with some sanctions:

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says Washington will deal with Iran through a “diplomatically-led effort,” a day after a top U.S. diplomat said Tehran was supplying weapons to the Huthi rebels in Yemen.

So we still don’t have an Iran policy worthy of the name, despite the welcome clarity the Trump people have brought to the subject. “Everywhere you find turmoil,” Mattis said following our UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s expose of Iran’s role in Yemen, “you find Iran’s hand in it.”

But then the secretary of Defense went on to embrace consciousness-raising.

Consciousness has long been suitably raised. There is no confusion about the nature of the Iranian regime or its intent to develop nuclear attack weapons or its savage repression of seventy-plus million people who would undoubtedly enter the ranks of the West if they could. But if we do not directly challenge the regime, no one else is going to do it.

Donald Trump is certainly the opposite of an anti-American president, and he has no affection for our enemies. He has enabled the Ukrainians to fight, perhaps effectively, against the Russians. So why can’t he enable the Iranians to fight against the ayatollahs?

In the Ukrainian case we’re talking about military weapons; in the Iranian conflict the weapons are political. If the Iranians rose up against the regime when Obama entered the White House, you can be sure they are at least equally motivated to do it with Trump in office. There are many protests in Iran today, and the Khamenei/Rouhani regime has responded by executing half as many Iranians as in the past. We should relentlessly expose this mass murder, and we should publicize the ongoing protests.

The target audience for such exposes is the great mass of the population. Paradoxically, Iranians are better informed about events in Jerusalem and Washington than in Iranian Kurdistan, the southern oil regions, and cities like Mashad and Qom.

All Iranians need this information, which shows them that they are not alone. The technology for such a campaign exists. It is the same as it was when we deployed it against the Soviet Union with such powerful consequences: our broadcasting network, starting with the Voice of America. Today, Farsi-language VOA is often a vehicle for anti-American polemics, since personnel is virtually unchanged from the Obama years. We need a thorough housecleaning, but there are few signs that our national security team understands its urgency.

Faster, please.