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The Iranian Protests and Washington's Opportunism


January 3, 2018
Daniel Larison / The American Conservative & teleSURtv & Juan Cole / Informed Content

Many of the problems racking Iran stem from long-standing US pressures, including an array of punishing economic sanctions. The near seven decades of US interference in Iran have included the orchestration of a military coup against a democratically elected government. The key thing that US politicians and policymakers need to keep in mind is that Iran's internal protests are not about us, nor are they an "opportunity" for us to exploit. Trump doesn't really care about Iran's troubled citizens.

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/larison/the-iranian-protests/

The Iranian Protests
Daniel Larison / The American Conservative

(December 31, 2017) -- Protests broke out in several cities across Iran last week. The demonstrations began Thursday to oppose high unemployment and rising costs, including a 40 percent jump in the price of eggs. But they swiftly expanded to take on a system many protesters have said is corrupt.

"Down with the dictator!" some demonstrators chanted, as they tore down posters of the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, in central Tehran. Protesters defied police from Kermanshah in the west to the holy city of Qom in the north and Ahvaz southwest of the capital, according to footage uploaded onto social media. Many of the images could not be confirmed.

At least two protesters have been killed so far. The protests obviously show some significant discontent with the regime and economic conditions inside Iran, and frustration with both may have been made worse by unmet rising expectations. Based on initial reports, it appears that there is also some dissatisfaction with the government's diversion of resources to foreign conflicts rather than using them at home. It remains to be seen how representative these protests are and how enduring they will be.

The key thing that US politicians and policymakers need to keep in mind is that internal protests in Iran are not about us, and they are not an "opportunity" for us to exploit. The US should publicly say as little as possible about the protests except to condemn the use of force against peaceful protesters, and it should not otherwise attempt to insert itself into the situation or interfere.

There is not much that the US could practically do in any case, and none of it would be helpful or constructive. The Trump administration in particular has no credibility with Iranians, and any expressions of support it offers are likely both unwanted by and harmful to the intended recipients.

The administration cannot ban Iranians from the US at the start of the year, and then suddenly pretend that it respects them and supports their aspirations at the end. It will be a serious error if the Trump administration concludes that the US needs to "make up" for Obama's handling of the Green movement protests, but after eight years of hawkish myth-making they might do exactly that.

It would be far wiser and better for the US and the Iranian people if our government allowed events in Iran to unfold without comment from Washington.



Tehran Slams 'Hypocritical' and
'Opportunist' US Support of Iranian Protesters

State media and Iranian government officials
pressed that Iranians have the right to protest

teleSURtv

(December 30, 2017) -- Spontaneous protests have swept Iran, with thousands taking to the streets for the third day throughout the country, with a spike in certain food costs the alleged impetus for the demonstrations.

Beginning at first on Thursday in the city of Mashhad, the protests have spread to other cities. Social media posts have appeared to spark the rallies, with soaring prices on items such as eggs and poultry driving people to demand better economic conditions.

State media and Iranian government officials pressed Saturday that Iranians have the right to protest and to be heard on social issues. And while police have arrested some protesters, the Revolutionary Guard has not intervened.

"Counterrevolution groups and foreign media are continuing their organized efforts to misuse the people's economic and livelihood problems and their legitimate demands to provide an opportunity for unlawful gatherings and possibly chaos," Iranian state TV said.

Earlier Saturday, a rally also took place to support Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other leaders, a demonstration that had been planned weeks in advance.

One demonstrator there, Ali Ahmadi, spoke incredulously of US economic sanctions on Iran and its damaging effects on the country.

"They always say that we are supporting Iranian people, but who should pay the costs?" Ahmadi asked, reported AP.

US President Donald Trump tweeted support for the spontaneous demonstrations, saying, "Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. The world is watching!"

Later on Saturday, the US State Department also backed the protests, stating, "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."

Iran's Foreign Ministry slammed the statements from the United States, with spokesman Bahram Qasemi remarking, "The noble Iranian nation never pays heed to the opportunist and hypocritical mottos chanted by the US officials and their interfering allegations on domestic developments in the Islamic Republic of Iran."

He further added that Iranians themselves are the biggest supporters of their country's security, with their mass participation in the country's election proof of such support.

"The vigilant attendance of people and their resistance against ill-wishers that US president Donald Trump stands on top will guarantee the country's developments," Qasemi added.

The official pointed to the near seven decades of US interference in Iran, including the orchestration of a military coup.

Therefore, Qasemi added, US officials are not in a position to sympathize with Iran and Iranians.




Top 5 Signs Trump Doesn't Actually Care about Iranian Protesters
Juan Cole / Informed Content

(December 31, 2017) -- Trump has tweeted as though he cares about the welfare of the Iranian protesters in small towns across that country who are upset about reduced government subsidies for commodities such as eggs and gasoline. His administration tried to prosecute protesters for laughing at VP Mike Pence.

The scattered rallies, mostly consisting of a few hundred people but sometimes swelling to 1,000, continued for a third day.

Here are the reasons for which these statements are hypocritical.
1. If Trump cared about Iranian dissidents, he would welcome those who want to flee to the United States. The more forthright and well known dissidents are at risk of long jail sentences or even death.

Instead, Trump has tried to ban Iranians from coming to the United States at all. If he won't let a grandmother come for her grandchild's wedding, how much does he care about Iranians?

2. The protesters are protesting economic hardship. But Trump and the Washington Establishment were all for imposing economic hardship on the Iranian public to pressure the government to give up its nuclear fuel enrichment program.

Under severe sanctions, which Trump doesn't think severe enough, some families stopped being able to afford imported medicines key to treating a family member. Some of today's economic problems are rooted in the American deep sanctions and in the GOP Congress's refusal to lift sanctions on Iranians after the government signed the nuclear deal.

3. Sympathizing with working people facing increased prices is not Trump's brand, and it is rich for him to pretend to care about them. Trump with his budget law has just plunged millions of Americans living in straitened circumstances into even more dire poverty and is trying to take health care insurance away from 26 million Americans.

Trump hasn't even gotten the electricity back on for American citizens in Puerto Rico because of his racism. So if Trump were in power in Iran, the people in the streets protesting would be treated much worse than they are now.

4. The protesters are complaining about the arbitrary, high-handed and authoritarian way that the clerical regime has run Iran. Trump does not object to any of those policies in principle. He just told the New York Times that, as president, he can do anything he wants and it is legal, and that he can suborn the Department of Justice.

Trump also wants to outlaw abortion in order to please his base of religious evangelicals and conservative Catholics. That the Iranian clerics make policy on irrational religious grounds is one of the things people mind about them, but how is Ayatollah Trump different?

5. Trump has allied himself, and aligned himself, with the Saudi royal family, which in turn is attempting to undermine Iran. Trump is backing Saudi Arabia's cruel and useless bombing campaign on poor little Yemen. That any Iranians would see Trump as sympathetic to them beggars belief.

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