Posted tagged ‘Trump and Iran’

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.

Act 2 of Trump clampdown on Iran: Re-imposing sanctions lifted under nuclear accord

January 6, 2018

Act 2 of Trump clampdown on Iran: Re-imposing sanctions lifted under nuclear accord, DEBKAfile, January 6, 2018

On the heels of the first protests to hit the Iranian regime, Washington will turn the screw by negating financial benefits afforded by the nuclear deal.  To this end, President Donald Trump will use the deadlines he faces as of next week for certifying the Iranian nuclear deal and approving sanctions waivers. This intent was indicated by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in an AP interview Friday, Jan. 5.

Since the president had demanded that the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran be either “fixed or cancelled,” Tillerson said the administration was working with lawmakers on legislation for making it more acceptable to the president. Last October, Trump reluctantly waived sanctions for another three months. However, since sanctions relief was not incorporated in the nuclear deal, which Iran signed with six world nations three years ago, the US may set them aside without being accused of non-compliance. The US may therefore certify the framework while emptying it of the economic benefits the Obama administration granted, which funneled hundreds of billions of dollars to the Iranian treasury.

This is what Tillerson meant by “fixing” rather than “cancelling” the nuclear accord. He is charged with reformulating the deal, while upholding the Trump policy for countering Iran’s regional aggression and continuing support for anti-regime protests. These steps are components of the drawn-out, staged war of attrition the Trump administration has begun orchestrating against the revolutionary Shiite regime in Tehran for the year of 2018.

The following steps are already in the pipeline, DEBKAfile reports:

  1. President Trump may refrain this time from signing on to the sanction waivers, but may re-certify Iran’s compliance with the accord.
  2. The US Treasury Department has meanwhile announced new sanctions targeting banks, financial entities and officials – whether involved in Iran’s missile program or propping up the Revolutionary Guard Corps and its actions to suppress popular dissent.
  3. Washington will likewise target entities in the Middle East and beyond that serve Tehran and receive Iranian financial assistance and weapons. Examples are Lebanon, Hizballah, the Iraqi Shiite militias under Iranian command, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and others.
  4. A broad US strategy is now in place for halting or slashing American aid programs to entities and governments which refuse to cooperate with the administration’s policy objectives.
  5. Donald Trump’s original plan was to work closely with the Europeans on his drive against Iran. Since the European governments have not only opted out of cooperation but are flatly opposed to US support for the Iranian protesters, Washington is forging ahead on its own, without reference to any European capital.
    Trump has thus scrapped one of the basic principles which gave birth to the nuclear accord, close cooperation between the US, Russia and the leading European powers.
  6. The breakup of this transatlantic partnership confronts Russia’s Vladimir Putin with a dilemma. Lining up with Europe on Iran would place Moscow on a collision course with the Trump administration. That Moscow knows exactly what is at stake was evident in the remarks made by Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Jan. 4, in response to Washington’s call for a UN Security Council to discuss repression in Iran: “We warn the US against attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He also cautioned Washington against being “tempted to use the moment to raise new issues with regard to the JCPOA (the 2015 nuclear accord.)

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

January 1, 2018

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

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

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

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

What has changed? Donald Trump.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liberal Humiliation: Trump vs. Obama on Iran

December 30, 2017

Liberal Humiliation: Trump vs. Obama on Iran, PJ MediaRoger L Simon, December 29, 2017

(Please see also, Iranian Officials Inconsistent in Describing Protestors’ Motives and Goals. — DM)

Hundreds of thousands of supporters of opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi turn out to protest the result of the election at a mass rally in Azadi (Freedom) square in Tehran, Iran in 2009. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

Back in those pre-9/11 days when I identified as a liberal, the one thing I was sure drew all my then cohort together was opposition to fascism, whether secular or religious.

Boy, was I wrong and never was that more clear than in 2009 when the Green Movement demonstrators were marching through the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities, demanding freedom from the mullahs. The whole world was watching, as we used to say in the sixties, only their cause was purer than ours was then. The horrifying theocrats who ran the “Islamic Republic” regularly raped women in prison before they killed them, hanged homosexuals in the streets and tortured just about everyone else who didn’t comply with the edicts of their Islamofascist regime.

The students and others marching in the streets to overthrow these tyrants desperately wanted America’s help, specifically the support of our “oh-so-liberal-progressive” president. they shouted, “Obama, Obama, are you with us or are you with them?”

Obama was silent.

I can’t think of a moment I was more disgusted by the acts (inaction actually) of an American president. What did he stand for? What did we stand for?

Well, who knows? What we do know is he wanted to deal with Iran his way — whether to get the glory for himself or for other even less attractive reasons we will never know. He was secretly communicating with Ahmadinejad and Khamenei even before he took office, hinting at accommodation.

He wanted an Iran deal and he got it, the Iranian people and the U.S. Constitution be damned. (I have met several of the student demonstrators from that period who spent years being tortured in Tehran’s Evin Prison. Their faces resembled Picassos of the Cubist Period. They were the lucky ones. Their brothers and sisters just disappeared.)

Obama was silent for those students and millions of other decent Iranians. He wanted his deal so much that, as we know, he sent still more millions to the mullahs in cash, so they could use those dollars in any untraceable manner they wished — such as funding Hezbollah and the Houthis.

And speaking of Hezbollah, we all know now, due to reporting about Project Cassandra by Josh Meyer at Politico, that Obama was so determined to make his creepy deal that he acceded to the mullahs’ demand to pull the FBI off a detailed investigation of the Hezbollah thugs’ extensive involvement in the U.S. drug trade. Are we sick yet?

Now, it is being widely reported, the demonstrators are back in the streets of various cities in Iran. We don’t know the extent of the protests or where they are going. I’m a bit skeptical. The time was probably more ripe in 2009, but we can be hopeful. What we do know is that these demonstrators are complaining that money garnered from the Iran nuclear deal is not going to them, the Iranian people, to make their lives better, as promised, but to carry out the mullahs’ murderous military adventures across the Middle East. Was anything ever more predictable? (For ongoing updates, I recommend the Islamic State of Iran Crime Research Center.)

What we also know is that the Donald J. Trump administration has taken the exact opposite approach from the Obama administration to events in Iran. They are unqualifiedly — and immediately — supporting the demonstrators and democracy. Bravo!

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.

 

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.