Posted tagged ‘Iranian corruption’

The Ayatollah Empire Is Rotting Away

January 7, 2018

The Ayatollah Empire Is Rotting Away, TabletEdward N. Luttwak, January 7, 2018

 

There is no need to laboriously negotiate a new set of sanctions against Iran—strict, swift, and public enforcement of the restrictions that are already on the books is enough. Every time a South Korean regime-related deal is detected, the offenders need a quick reminder they will be excluded from the United States if they persist. In this, as in everything else, it is just a matter of getting serious in our focus on Iran.

Obama was serious in his courtship of the ayatollahs’ regime. Trump should do the same to bring the regime to an end, faster

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Ronald Reagan, who outraged the Washington elite and frightened European leaders by flatly refusing coexistence with the Soviet Union, lived to see its sudden decline and fall. There is a fair chance that Donald Trump, who contradicts Barack Obama and Europe’s leaders by refusing coexistence with Iran’s ayatollah empire, will also have the satisfaction of seeing the dissolution of a regime that Obama among many others preferred to accommodate.

Whether or not this past weekend’s mass demonstrations in Iran will spread, whether a second revolution is imminent or not, the numbers for the ayatollah empire just don’t add up. A breakdown is materially inevitable.

With some 80 million people, and with oil accounting for 80 percent of its exports, Iran would need to export some 25 million barrels a day to make a go of it, but it can barely export 2.5 million. That would be luxuriously ample for the likes of Abu Dhabi with fewer than 800,000 citizens, but it is a miserable pittance for Iran, with a population more than 100 times as large.

Iran cannot even match the $6,000 income per capita of Botswana. That most fashionable of safari destinations is a fine and well-governed country to be sure, and far from poor by African standards—but then its citizens are not required to pay for extensive nuclear installations, which are very costly to maintain even in their current semi-frozen state, or for the manufacture of a very broad range of weapons—from small arms to ballistic missiles—for which much expensive tooling is imported daily from the likes of our own dear ally South Korea. Neither is Botswana mounting large-scale military expeditions in support of a foreign dictator at war with 80 percent of his own population or providing generous funding for the world’s largest terrorist organization, Hezbollah, whose cocaine-smuggling networks and local extortion rackets cannot possibly cover tens of thousands of salaries. The ayatollah empire is doing all those things, which means that average Iranians are actually much poorer than their Botswanian counterparts.

You would never know it looking at photographs of Tehran, one more bombastic capital city fattened on intercepted oil revenues and graft, but Iran is dirt poor. I recently saw Iran’s general poverty at first-hand driving through one of Iran’s supposedly more prosperous rural districts. In an improvised small market next to a truck stop, several grown men were selling livestock side by side, namely ducks. Each had a stock of three or four ducks, which looked like their total inventory for the day.

That is what happens in an economy whose gross domestic product computes at under $6,000 per capita: very low productivity, very low incomes. The 500,000 or so Iranians employed in the country’s supposedly modern automobile industry are not productive enough to make exportable cars: Pistachio nuts are the country’s leading export, after oil and petroleum products.

The pistachios bring us directly to Iran’s second problem after not-enough-oil, namely too much thieving by the powerful, including pistachio-orchard-grabbing Akbar Hashemi “Rafsanjani,” former president and a top regime figure for decades.

Akbar Hashemi was not being immodest when he claimed the name of his native Rafsanjan province for himself. He became the owner of much of it as huge tracts of pistachio-growing orchards came into his possession.

His son Mehdi Hashemi is very prominent among the aghazadeh (“noble born”), the sons and daughters of the rulers. He preferred industrial wealth to pistachios, and his name kept coming up in other people’s corruption trials (one in France), until he finally had his own trial, for a mere $100 million or so. But the Rafsanjani clan as a whole took a couple of billion dollars at least.

The Supreme Leader Khamenei himself is not known to have personally stolen anything—he has his official palaces, after all. But his second son, Mojtaba, may have taken as much as $2 billion from the till, while his third son, Massoud, is making do with a mere 400- or 500-hundred million. His youngest son, Maitham, is not living in poverty either, with a couple of hundred million. The ayatollah’s two daughters, Bushra and Huda, each received de-facto dowries in the $100 million range.

This shows that the regime is headed by devoted family men who lovingly look after their many children, for whom only the best will do. It also cuts into the theoretical $6,000 income per Iranian head, because some “heads” are taking a thousand times as much and more.

That is one motive for today’s riots—bitter anger provoked by the regime’s impoverishing and very visible corruption, which extends far, far beyond the children of the top rulers: thousands of clerics are very affluent, starting with their flapping Loro Piana “Tasmania” robes—that’s 3,000 euros of fancy cloth right there.

Much of the economy is owned by bonyads, Islamic foundations that pay modest pensions to war widows and such, and very large amounts to those who run them, mostly clerics and their kin. The largest, the Mostazafan Bonyad, with more than 200,000 employees in some 350 separate companies in everything from farming to tourism, is a very generous employer for its crowds of clerical managers.

That is why the crowds have been shouting insults at the clerics—not all are corrupt, but high-living clerics are common enough to take a big bite out of that theoretical $6,000 per capita.

But the largest cause of popular anger is undoubtedly the pasdaran, a.k.a the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), an altogether more costly lot than the several hundred aghazadeh or tens of thousands of high-living clerics. The IRGC’s tab starts with the trillion dollars or more that the pasdaran-provoked nuclear sanctions cost before the Obama team agreed to lift them and continues with the billions that Iran still loses annually because of the ballistic-missile sanctions that Trump will never lift. Then there are the variable costs of the pasdaran’s imperial adventures, as well as the fixed cost of pasdaran military industries that spend plenty on common weapons as well as on “stealth” fighters and supposedly advanced submarines that exist only in the fantasies of regime propagandists. Pasdaran militarism and imperial adventures are unaffordable luxuries that the demonstrators very clearly want to do without—hence their shouts of “no-Gaza, no-Syria.”

Whatever happens next—and at least this time the White House will not be complicit if it ends in brutal repression—the ayatollah empire cannot last. Even despite Obama’s generous courtship gifts, the Iranian regime cannot just keep going, any more than the USSR could keep going by living off its oil.

So what can be done to accelerate the collapse? Broad economic sanctions are out of the question because they would allow the rulers to blame the Americans for the hardships inflicted by their own imperial adventures. But there is plenty of room for targeted measures against regime figures and their associates—the State Department list of sanctioned individuals is far from long enough, with many more names deserving of the honor. (Iran is not North Korea; it is not hard to find names and assets and to make them public.)

Above all, very much more could be done to impede the pasdaran and their military industries. Many European and Japanese big-name companies are staying away from Iran because the missile and terrorism sanctions persist—and to avoid displeasing the United States. They should. But the South Koreans whom we defend with our own troops totally ignore U.S. interests in regard to Iran and have therefore emerged as the lead suppliers of machinery and tooling for the pasdaran weapon factories. Nor do they hesitate to sell equipment that can be adapted to military use in a minute or less, as in the case of the airfield instrument landing system and portable ILS/VOR signal analyzer that the Korea Airports Corp. has just agreed to supply to Iran’s Tolid Malzomat Bargh.

There is no need to laboriously negotiate a new set of sanctions against Iran—strict, swift, and public enforcement of the restrictions that are already on the books is enough. Every time a South Korean regime-related deal is detected, the offenders need a quick reminder they will be excluded from the United States if they persist. In this, as in everything else, it is just a matter of getting serious in our focus on Iran.

Obama was serious in his courtship of the ayatollahs’ regime. Trump should do the same to bring the regime to an end, faster.

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.

Would Iranians really bring back the Shah?

January 3, 2018

Would Iranians really bring back the Shah? American ThinkerMonica Showalter, January 3, 2017

[T]here once was another Iran, one where women had freedoms; living standards were rising; human rights were improving (he learned that the Shah’s much vilified SAVAK secret police, for instance, committed far fewer crimes than Soviet-linked propagandists had claimed); and the country was integrated with, not isolated from the world community.  The Shah, Cooper argued, really did want to see his country advance in the world, and he enacted many democratic reforms.

Is it really that far-fetched that the [deceased] Shah[‘s son, Reza Pahlavi] might be seen as a legitimate alternative for Iran?  Not with these current things going on.  Right now, U.S. policymakers should be ignoring the Stanford establishmentarian elites on Iran and reading Cooper’s book as fast as they can.

He appears to have no ulterior motive other than doing what he can to help his countrymen in Iran and his willingness to become the necessary catalyst to dislodge the current brutal regime.  Reza Pahlavi wants the Iranian people to rise up against the regime and establish a parliamentary democracy based on democratic values, freedom, and human rights.

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Pundits have marveled at what a big surprise it is that ordinary Iranians have revolted against the mullahs.  It’s a surprise to them, but no surprise to American Thinker’s readers, whose Iranian contributors have kept us posted for years about what is really going on in Iran.

Just look at these pieces by Hamid BahramiReza ShafieeHassan MahmoudiAmil Imani, and Shahriar Kia.  Over and over again, these writers warned there is a problem, and now Iranians’ protests against corruption, soaring prices, environmental ruin, Revolutionary Guards thuggery, poverty, and bank collapses have become the “surprise” story of the day.

One writer at Politico correctly noted that the “surprise” stems from reporters covering only Tehran’s elites, not the doings in the hinterlands.  The hinterlands, of course, are where the trouble started, beginning in Mashhad, and these are the parts of the country American Thinker’s writers have been bringing us information on.  These writers showed long ago that what we are seeing now isn’t your garden-variety protests of city elites seeking “reform” or “fair elections.”  These protests are smaller, but they’re the real kind, revolutionary ones, actual calls for the overthrow of the regime and the initiation of a new government.  Protests now aren’t coming from the comfortable elites who just want a little bit of tweaking.

Now with eyes on Iran, one essay, published six months ago at American Thinker, stands out: Amil Imani’s piece titled “Is Reza Pahlavi the Only Hope to Overthrow the Mullahs?

On the surface, it sounds ridiculous that anyone would want to bring back a king, even as a constitutional monarch in a democracy.  But it’s real.  Here is an account by Voice of America about the rise of the late Shah’s son, Reza Pahlavi, a smart, photogenic, democracy-oriented leader, waiting in the wings as an alternative to the corrupt, sneering mullahs.

 As Imani noted:

Reza Pahlavi is the son of the late Shah of Iran.  I have never had the honor of meeting or speaking with him, although I judge any man based on what he says and what he does.

As I watched this man grow and become a seasoned politician, my admiration for him grew stronger.  In my opinion, Mr. Pahlavi has become the very asset that the opposition has needed for many years.

He appears to have no ulterior motive other than doing what he can to help his countrymen in Iran and his willingness to become the necessary catalyst to dislodge the current brutal regime.  Reza Pahlavi wants the Iranian people to rise up against the regime and establish a parliamentary democracy based on democratic values, freedom, and human rights.

American Thinker’s writers, most recently Hassan Mahmoudi, have noted that in the shouted slogans in the crowds, many were calling for the return of the Shah.  Russian propaganda organ Sputnik has noted the phenomenon in the streets, too.

It’s worth noting that kings are easily understood by average people and for that reason have appeal, especially in light of the failure of the current regime.

I have one story of my own that suggests that a return to the Shah may not be as far-fetched as it seems.

An old friend, Andrew Scott Cooper, spent years of research to write a fascinating scholarly book about the last days of the shah of Iran, titled The Fall of Heaven, published by Henry Holt & Co. last year.  He actually managed to reach and interview the former shabanu, or, queen, of Iran, Farah Diba, who was living in exile in Europe.  From that, he wrote a fascinating, unique account of the Shah’s last days, largely told through her eyes.

It was a sympathetic analytic history, intended, as he told an audience at the Nixon Library last year, to show that there once was another Iran, one where women had freedoms; living standards were rising; human rights were improving (he learned that the Shah’s much vilified SAVAK secret police, for instance, committed far fewer crimes than Soviet-linked propagandists had claimed); and the country was integrated with, not isolated from the world community.  The Shah, Cooper argued, really did want to see his country advance in the world, and he enacted many democratic reforms.

Naturally, saying something out of the ordinary, or contradicting the conventional wisdom, is a good way to get panned, and so publication of the book was followed by several critical book reviews – in the top papers, often by Iranian-Americans affiliated with the elite establishment centers of Iran research, such as Stanford.  These were scholars who had an interest in maintaining the conventional wisdom and who may have had interests getting contracts from the mullahs.  These are the same people whom policymakers and newspaper editors tend to consult as experts and were the people who said all was well; just stay out of Iranian affairs and let them handle it.  In addition, there was a creepy campaign on Amazon to drive down the ratings of the book by similar people who had never even read it – and Amazon put a stop to it.  What this all showed is that there existed a large entrenched establishment with an interest in maintaining the status quo, and its operators were aghast at the idea – now being shouted in the streets of Iran – that maybe bringing back the Shah could be good.  Of course, they hated this louche idea.

But this came against another subplot of the publishing of this book, which was that a hell of a lot of those books, thousands of them (showing Iranians their own history and teaching them that Iran was once a very different place), somehow got smuggled into Iran, and the locals lapped them up.

As a result of this, within a few days, a full Farsi translation of the book will be coming out, which should stoke conversation about this in Iran even further, given the interest shown.  Publishers don’t publish books in non-Western languages if they don’t think they will sell.  Obviously, the publishers knew that something big is going on and published the costly translation.  Iranians, starved of information about their own history, are likely to lap this up just as they lapped up the English-language version.

Given what is going on in Iran now, call it fat on the fire.

Don’t think there hasn’t been wild interest on this side of the hemisphere, too.  Iranian-Americans on the West Coast flooded an author’s event held at the Nixon Library last year in September, shortly after the publication of Cooper’s book.  It was standing room only, and it’s important to note that the Nixon Library is not all that close to where most Iranian-Americans live in the Los Angeles area, which is Beverly Hills and its outskirts.  The Nixon Library is about an hour’s drive away from that in Yorba Linda, Calif., and it’s an arduous drive, through a truck-convoy-route highway.  Here is a photo I took of how the audience that night looked:

Here is Andrew Cooper signing copies of his book – which sold out with a line waiting.

Is it really that far-fetched that the Shah might be seen as a legitimate alternative for Iran?  Not with these current things going on.  Right now, U.S. policymakers should be ignoring the Stanford establishmentarian elites on Iran and reading Cooper’s book as fast as they can.

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.

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.”

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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.