Posts Tagged ‘Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’

The Pyongyang-Tehran Axis

March 15, 2018

Fixing or scrapping the Iran nuclear deal is the best thing Trump can do to denuclearize North Korea.

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES; BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Defying precedent and conventional wisdom, President Trump says he’ll meet in May with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Mr. Trump wants a sustainable deal that leads to North Korean denuclearization. The president’s critics scoff, and even his supporters are rightly skeptical. But Mr. Trump has conditions: His policy of maximum sanctions pressure will remain in place, Pyongyang must commit to the goal of denuclearization upfront, and it must refrain from missile or nuclear tests during talks. That may give him some leverage.

But if there’s one thing that would help Mr. Trump to succeed, it’s fixing the fatally flawed nuclear deal with Iran. The Iran-North Korea axis dates back more than 30 years. The two regimes have exchanged nuclear expertise, cooperated widely on missile technologies, and run similar playbooks against Western negotiators. The fear: Tehran is using Pyongyang for work no longer permitted under the 2015 nuclear deal while perfecting North Korean-derived missile delivery systems back home.

Iran and North Korea both began their pursuit by acquiring designs and materials from Pakistan’s infamous A.Q. Khan proliferation network. Reports of more extensive cooperation haven’t been confirmed: Iran reportedly sent its nuclear chief, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, to a North Korean nuclear test in 2013. Last summer North Korea’s second-highest-ranking official reportedly visited Iran for 10 days. In early 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Pyongyang and Tehran could be cooperating to develop a nuclear weapon.

Missile cooperation is extensive. Iran’s Shahab-3 nuclear-capable ballistic missile, whose 800-mile range means it can hit Israel, is based on North Korea’s Nodong missile. The 1,200-mile-range Khorramshahr missile, which Iran showed off last year, was derived from North Korea’s BM-25

For years Iran watched Pyongyang play the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations to advance its nuclear and missile programs. The Kim regime demonstrated how a relatively weak country could persuade the U.S. to yield on major concessions along a patient pathway to nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Islamic Republic followed North Korea’s lead when it negotiated the enrichment of uranium and potential reprocessing of plutonium on its own soil, crossing what for years had been an international red line. In exchange for short-lived restrictions on its nuclear program, missiles and conventional arms, Tehran will soon have industrial-size capabilities to enrich uranium and possibly reprocess plutonium for atomic weapons, nuclear-capable missiles, and hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

Mr. Trump appears determined to regain American leverage. On Jan. 12, he declared that he would reinstate the most powerful economic sanctions against Iran by May 12 unless Europe agrees to join the U.S. in fixing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. His demands: Eliminate the deal’s sunset provisions, constrain Iran’s nuclear-capable missile program, and demand intrusive inspections of Iranian military sites. All of these conditions would be tied to a snap-back of powerful U.S. and European Union sanctions if Iran was found in breach.

To date the Europeans have refused to budge, especially on the sunset provisions, perhaps not believing Mr. Trump will leave the deal. They are adamant that nothing must be done to jeopardize the JCPOA, which they see as an important foreign-policy accomplishment—not to mention a lucrative one, with billions of dollars of potential Iranian business for their companies.

If Mr. Trump caves in to European pressure on the sunset provisions, the agreement will grant Iran a legitimate nuclear program with weapons capability within a decade. In that case, the president will be hard-pressed to get North Korea to agree to permanent denuclearization. If he agrees to let Iran keep testing nuclear-capable missiles that threaten Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or Israel, North Korea will expect the right to test nuclear-capable missiles to hit South Korea, Japan and Guam. If he buckles on an Iranian nuclear breakout time of less than one year or on the development of advanced centrifuges that enable an easier clandestine nuclear sneak out, he will signal to Pyongyang that it, too, can withstand American pressure. Then Pyongyang can resume its march to nuclear-tipped missiles that hold America and its allies hostage.

Former Obama-administration officials warn that if Mr. Trump abandons their Iran nuclear deal, North Korea will view the U.S. as an untrustworthy partner. The opposite is true. The North Korean dictator wants to talk because the Trump administration’s campaign of maximum economic sanctions pressure is working.

But if the president agrees to a fictional fix to the JCPOA, or if he responds to a stalemate by backing down from the threat to reimpose maximum economic sanctions, North Korea will see Mr. Trump as a paper tiger. Conversely, if North Korea sees that Iran is held to tough nuclear and missile standards, backed by the credible threat of crippling sanctions, Mr. Trump will be better positioned to make it clear to Pyongyang that he means business.

The path to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula thus runs through Tehran. If Mr. Trump fixes the fatal flaws of the Iran deal, or even if he scraps it because the Europeans balk, his high-stakes North Korean gamble may yet succeed. Even if it doesn’t, he’ll have stopped Iran from following North Korea’s path to nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them.

Mr. Goldberg is a senior adviser and Mr. Dubowitz chief executive at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Appeared in the March 15, 2018, print edition.




Iran in decisive shift in favor of relations with China and Russia — “Preferring East to West.”

February 26, 2018

From L: Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Russian President Vladimir Putin leave after posing for photos ahead of their trilateral meeting in Tehran, in this November 1, 2017 file photo. (AFP)
TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader has signalled a decisive shift in favor of relations with China and Russia, indicating that patience is running out with efforts to improve ties with the West.
One of the most popular slogans during the 1979 revolution was “Neither East nor West,” a defiant vow that Iran would no longer favor either of the world’s major forces at the time — American-style capitalism or Soviet Communism.
It was therefore striking to hear its current leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declare on February 19 that: “In foreign policy, the top priorities for us today include preferring East to West.”
Analysts say this does not change the basic idea that Iran refuses to fall under the sway of outside powers.
But it does suggest that the latest attempt at detente with the United States — represented by the 2015 nuclear deal in which it agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions — is running out of steam.
“Khamenei has repeatedly outlined that the 2015 nuclear deal was a test to see if negotiations with the West could yield positive results for Iran,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
“The leadership perceives the US as acting in bad faith on the deal. Khamenei’s statement signals a green light for the Iranian system to focus greater diplomatic effort on deepening ties with China and Russia,” she said.
Khamenei’s comments come at a critical moment, with US President Donald Trump threatening to tear up the deal and reimpose sanctions unless Iran agrees to rein in its missile program and “destabilising activities” in the Middle East.
Even before Trump, Iran felt Washington was violating its side of the bargain as it became clear that remaining US sanctions would still hamper banking ties and foreign investments, even blocking Iranian tech start-ups from sharing their products on app stores.
Tehran argues this violates a clause stating the US must “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran.”
“From day one, the US, the Obama administration, started violating both the letter and the spirit of the agreement,” said Mohammad Marandi, a political analyst at the University of Tehran.
He said Khamenei’s latest statement recognized the simple fact that relations with eastern countries were much stronger, particularly since Iran and Russia allied over the Syrian war.
“It’s a very different world now. Iran’s relationship with Russia and China and an increasing number of Asian countries is much better than with the West because they treat us much better,” he said.
“We are partners with Russia in Syria. We are not subordinate.”
Anger over foreign interference was a key driver of the 1979 revolution after more than a century of intrigues, coups and resource exploitation by the United States, Britain and Russia.
But despite being depicted by critics as dogmatic and uncompromising, the Islamic republic that emerged after the revolution has been surprisingly flexible in its foreign policy.
“At certain moments since 1979, Iran has taken a pragmatic approach to dealings with the United States when necessary or in its interest,” said Geranmayeh.
She highlighted the infamous Iran-Contra arms deal in the 1980s and cooperation in Afghanistan in 2001, as well as the nuclear deal.
Yet many hard-liners in Washington refuse to accept that Iran has ever been serious about rapprochement.
The American Enterprise Institute, a think-tank, this month released a series of articles calling for “a more confrontational policy toward Iran,” including the threat of regime change.
Its main justification was that “the men who run Iran’s foreign policy have no interest in a better relationship.”
But speaking in April 2015, three months before the nuclear deal was finalized, Khamenei explicitly said it could lead to a broader improvement in ties.
“If the other side stops its usual obstinacy, this will be an experience for us and we will find out that we can negotiate with it over other matters as well,” he said in a speech.
Iran’s oil sales have rebounded since the deal, and it has seen an uptick in trade with Europe.
But the threat of US penalties has helped deter many foreign investors and major banks from re-engaging with Iran.
European firms and governments remain far more vulnerable to pressure from Washington than their Chinese and Russian counterparts.
“If the Europeans don’t have the courage to stand up to the US then they shouldn’t expect to be partners with us,” said Marandi.
“If some doors are closed and some doors are open, we are not going to wait outside the closed doors forever.”

Torture, Suicide In Iran’s Prisons — “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”

February 22, 2018

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Above:  President Hassan Rouhani


The New York Times
FEB. 22, 2018

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons,” Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote in “The House of the Dead,” his semi-autobiographical novel about inmates in a Siberian prison camp. Iran continues to fail the Dostoyevsky test.

The Evin Prison in Tehran, where a long list of leaders, intellectuals and journalists have been detained over the years, added to its infamy this month with the so-called suicide of Kavous Seyed Emami, a leading environmentalist and academic.

Dr. Seyed Emami, 63, who came from an old clerical family, was a dual Iranian and Canadian citizen. He had received his doctorate from the University of Oregon and returned to Iran in the early 1990s to teach sociology at Imam Sadeq University in Tehran, where Iran’s future elite is educated.

He helped found the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation, Iran’s most important environmental organization, with the encouragement of the United Nations and the Islamic Republic, especially Kaveh Madani, the deputy head of the country’s Department of Environmental Affairs.

On Jan. 24, Dr. Seyed Emami, Mr. Madani and Morad Tahbaz, an Iranian-American businessman, were arrested. Dr. Seyed Emami was accused of spying for the United States and Mossad. Two weeks after his arrest, prison authorities informed his family about his death. “This person was one of the accused, and given he knew there is a torrent of confessions against him and he confessed himself, unfortunately he committed suicide in prison,” Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, a prosecutor in Tehran, told an Iranian news agency.

Dr. Seyed Emami’s relatives raised doubts about the claim that he committed suicide, but the regime forced them to bury him without an independent autopsy.

Dr. Seyed Emami became a victim of the political struggle between President Hassan Rouhani and moderate reformers who have become increasingly concerned about environmental issues, especially dams, and die-hard conservatives among the Revolutionary Guards who are reluctant to slow down such rural projects.

When Hassan Firuzabadi, a former chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces and a military adviser to the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was asked by the Iranian press about the arrests of the environmentalists, he spoke about Western spies using lizards and chameleons that could “attract atomic waves” to spy on Iran’s nuclear program.

The increasingly common “suicides” by prisoners stem from Iran’s inordinate reliance on “confessions” in convicting defendants.

Iranian judges treat “confessions” as the “proof of proofs,” the “mother of proofs” and the “best evidence of guilt.” The use of forced confessions began in the last years of the shah’s rule, in the 1970s, but drastically increased after the Iranian revolution in 1979. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini regarded them as the highest proof of guilt.

I analyzed numerous legal cases and around 300 prison memoirs for a book about forced confessions. To obtain such “confessions,” interrogators in Iran rely heavily on psychological and physical pressures. They — like fellow interrogators elsewhere — scrupulously avoid the word torture (“shekanjeh” in Persian). In fact, the Iranian Constitution explicitly outlaws shekanjeh. Instead, interrogators describe what they do as “ta’zir” (punishment). Innumerable prison memoirs detail this process. It can be described as Iran’s version of “enhanced interrogation.”

Prisoners are asked a question, and if their answer is unsatisfactory, they are sentenced to a specific number of lashings on the ground that they had lied. These whippings can continue until the desired answer is given — and committed to paper. According to a letter circulated by some 40 members of Parliament, hallucinatory drugs now supplement these traditional methods.

In the 1980s and the 1990s, detainees were routinely shown on television reading their confessions, but the broadcasts were mostly stopped after most Iranians concluded that they were staged. The confessions continue to be used in court, however.

Detainees have a limited number of options in the face of interrogation. They can submit, even before the instruments of enhanced interrogation are displayed. They can undergo prolonged agony, which may lead to death, if inadvertently — interrogators want a confession, not a badly damaged corpse, which can cause political embarrassment. The detainees can accept a plea bargain and “admit” to a lesser transgression in return for release or a lighter sentence.

After the disputed presidential elections in 2009 in which the right-wing populist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prevailed over reformist opponents, many — including visitors from abroad — gave “exclusive” interviews to the regime press confessing to sundry transgressions, especially helping foreign powers conspiring to bring about “regime change.”

Detainees have also agreed to public confessions and tried to insert phrases that undermined the whole ritual. A prisoner — later executed — declared in 1983 that he had been recruited into the K.G.B., the Soviet intelligence agency upon his arrival in Russia in 1951. He would have been aware that anyone versed in the topic would know the K.G.B. was created three years later, in 1954.

A former Khomeini follower said in his public confession in 1987 that he had resorted to black magic and the occult to spread cancerous cells among clerical leaders he opposed.

In 1984, leaders of the Communist Tudeh Party who had been arrested after criticizing Iran’s war with Iraq, vociferously thanked their “benevolent guards” for “opening their eyes,” providing them with books that debunked their previous ideology, and transforming prisons into “universities” and “educational institutions.” One stressed that the prison wardens had given them “shalaqha-e haqayeq,” or lashes of truth.

They confessed to “high treason” for adopting alien ideologies and failing to study properly the history of their country. They also held themselves “personally responsible” for “treasonable mistakes” made by the left in the distant past, such as during the constitutional revolution of 1906, which took place long before they were born.

Earlier reformers, led by President Mohammad Khatami, tried between 1997 and 2005 to pass legislation to prevent the use of torture in prison. But such attempts were swept away with the election of Mr. Ahmadinejad in 2005. President Rouhani, now embarrassed by the arrest of his environmentalist allies, is eager to channel the concerns of reformers about the use of torture. He has supported the 40 deputies who have protested prison “suicides” and has set up a committee to investigate the death of Dr. Seyed Emami. Time will show whether this committee has any teeth.

Irrespective of the findings of Mr. Rouhani’s committee, what Iran needs is a radical reform of its legal procedures to ensure that its courts will stop the use of “confessions” and instead rely on verifiable independent and collaborative evidence.

Ervand Abrahamian, an emeritus professor of history at City University of New York, is the author of “Tortured Confessions: Prisons and Public Recantations in Modern Iran.”

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Khamenei Says Iran Foiled Insurgency to Overthrow the Islamic Republic

January 9, 2018

By Babak Dehghanpisheh


BEIRUT (Reuters) – Iran has foiled attempts by its foreign enemies to turn legitimate protests into an insurgency to overthrow the Islamic Republic, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday.

Comments on his Twitter feed and in Iranian media underscored the establishment’s confidence that it has extinguished the unrest that spread to more than 80 cities in which at least 22 people died since late December.

“Once again, the nation tells the US, Britain, and those who seek to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran from abroad that ‘you’ve failed, and you will fail in the future, too.’” Khamenei tweeted.

A handout photo provided by the office of Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on January 2, 2018, shows him delivering a statement in the capital Tehran.
Image copyright AFP

The Revolutionary Guards, the military force loyal to Khamenei, said on Sunday security forces had put an end to the unrest that it said had been whipped up by foreign enemies.

At least 1,000 people have been arrested in the biggest anti-government protests for nearly a decade, with the judiciary saying ringleaders could face the death penalty.

Khamenei said U.S. President Donald Trump was grandstanding when he tweeted support for protesters he said were trying “to take back their corrupt government” and promising “great support from the United States at the appropriate time!”

The Iranian leader tweeted: “… this man who sits at the head of the White House – although, he seems to be a very unstable man – he must realize that these extreme and psychotic episodes won’t be left without a response.”

As well as Washington and London, Khamenei blamed the violence on Israel, exiled dissident group Mojahedin-e-Khalq and “a wealthy government” in the Gulf, a reference to Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia.

Khamenei has called the protests – which were initially about the economy but soon turned political – “playing with fireworks”, but he said citizens had a right to air legitimate concerns, a rare concession by a leader who usually voices clear support for security crackdowns.

“These concerns must be addressed. We must listen, we must hear. We must provide answers within our means,” Khamenei was quoted as saying, hinting that not only the government of President Hassan Rouhani, but his own clerical leadership must also respond.

“I‘m not saying that they must follow up. I am also responsible. All of us must follow up,” Khamenei said.

Reporting by Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

Iran’s Guard claims victory against anti-government protests

January 7, 2018

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps troops march during the annual military parade marking the start of Iran’s 1980-88 war with Iraq in Tehran in September 2015. (AFP)

TEHRAN: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Sunday that the nation and its security forces have ended the wave of unrest linked to anti-government protests that erupted last month.

Price hikes sparked protests in a number of cities and towns late last month, and at least 21 people were killed in scattered clashes. The protests, which vented anger at high unemployment and official corruption, were the largest seen in Iran since the disputed 2009 presidential election, and some demonstrators called for the overthrow of the government.
The Guard is a powerful paramilitary force loyal to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Many of the demonstrators protested against the Guard’s massive budget, its costly interventions across the region, and against the supreme leader himself.
Hundreds of people have been detained since the protests began. They include around 90 university students, reformist lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency.
Iranian lawmakers held a closed session on Sunday in which senior security officials briefed them on the protests and the conditions of the detainees, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.
“It was emphasized that foreign elements, and in particular the United States, played a basic role in forming and manipulating the recent unrest,” IRNA quoted lawmaker Jalal Mirzaei as saying.
The United States and Israel have expressed support for the protests, which began on Dec. 28 in Iran’s second largest city, Mashhad, but deny allegations of fomenting them.
In recent days, government supporters have held several mass rallies across the country to protest the unrest.

Iran’s Protests — After Removing The Fake News, What Do We Know

January 5, 2018

Some myths surrounding the Iran protests don’t matter, and some are just wrong. Avoid fake news: there are many viewpoints worth examining, regarding protests in particular and Iran in general

By Tamar Eilam Gindin Jan 05, 2018 8:42 AM

Iranians shop at Tehran's ancient Grand Bazaar on January 4, 2018.

Iranians shop at Tehran’s ancient Grand Bazaar on January 4, 2018. ATTA KENARE/AFP

Over the past week, the Israeli and international media have been busy with the developments in Iran. We’ve had it all: Mountains of commentary, strident headlines and a lot of “fake news.” Now, with reports describing a calmer atmosphere with less demonstrations, the time has come to put things in order and focus on a few viewpoints that are worth examining, both regarding the protests in particular and the events in Iran in general.

The protests began on December 28, 2017

Not true. The violent disturbances have been going on for a few months, but were not frequent or noteworthy enough to receive media attention. In one incident they desecrated a mosque (this happened during Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar); in another, they beat up a religious leader; elsewhere, a protest against corruption featured slogans in support of the Shah. What began on December 28 was a large wave of protests all over Iran.

As a result of the heavy media coverage of the protests against corruption in Mashhad, other demonstrators took to the streets. The very same day, three more centers of protest sprung up, and on the next day other cities joined in; the day after that, December 30, they reached Tehran.

What is unique about this wave of protests is that none of the demonstrations was very large. There were no photographs of protesters filling the streets from end to end, but the demonstrations are still very widespread. The hashtag accompanying them is “#ProtestsEverywhere.” According to calls for protests on various channels of the messaging app Telegram, the protests are happening in hundreds of places.

This time, they protests are about the economy

Partially true – very partially. The first protests really were about the high cost of living (the price of eggs and poultry went up by tens of percent recently), against corruption (people’s life savings were wiped out from their pension funds) and against the economic situation in general. They expressed general disappointment that the nuclear deal did not bring about an improvement in their personal financial situation. This may also be one of the reasons that at the beginning, the regime allowed protesters to “let off steam” without cracking down on the demonstrations with a heavy hand, as it knows how to do and has done in the past.

But at the moment that more demonstrators joined in and the protests spread to other parts of the country, it very quickly became clear that the economic issue was just a very small part of the Iranian people’s pain and demands for change.

From the original cries of “Death to [President Hassan] Rohani” and “Put the corrupt to death,” they moved on to economic slogans with a shade of politics, such as “The people are begging and [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei acts like God,” and “Forget Syria, look at our wallets.” From there they moved on to clearly political slogans: “They turned Islam into stairs and are trampling us on the way up,” “Death to the dictator” and “Reformists, conservatives – the jig is up.”

This wave of protests is not just about economic issues, and it would be impossible to satisfy the protesters even with far-reaching economic reforms. They want to be rid of the Islamic Republic and become a secular democracy.

The public believes that the demonstrations were started by the regime but got out of control

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No obvious winners in Iran after protests — But there could still be losers

True! So why is this played down? Every Iranian I’ve talked to about the demonstrations has told me that the conservatives, the real ones holding power (with Khamenei as their representative), started these demonstrations in order to get rid of Rohani. Many people can’t distinguish between Iran and the Islamic Republic, so how can they distinguish between different government branches and different competing ideological factions? The president, one should remember, is the head of the executive branch. He doesn’t make important decisions on his own but carries out the policies that are dictated by the leader, a conservative. He has very little room to maneuver. Conservatives don’t like Rohani because he’s too moderate, too open to the West and his supporters expect the government to do more to protect human rights (which he can’t deliver but they can still hope for).

The demonstrations started in the periphery, not in Tehran; they focused on economic issues, with people calling for “death to Rohani”; and they weren’t immediately suppressed. These facts led Iranians to one conclusion: The first demonstrators were there on behalf of the regime, but then things got out of hand.

Incidentally, Iranian leaders are saying that their enemies, namely Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia, are inciting people to demonstrate.

In 2009 the protesters had leaders, but there aren’t any this time around

Partially right, but irrelevant. There are more differences than similarities between the demonstrations happening now and those that took place in 2009. In addition to the wider geographical range and the smaller number of demonstrators, the main difference is that in 2009, the argument was that people voted for one president (and remember: the president executes but the leader decides) but got another. The very act of voting is considered by many to be a vote of confidence in the regime, which is why many opponents don’t even bother to vote. Since the 2009 elections there has been a steady rise in voter turnout – opponents of the regime realized that if they want to have any influence, they should cast a ballot. The regime uses the high turnout rates as an indication of public support for the system.

The current demonstrations are an unequivocal and sweeping expression of non-confidence in the system and a demand that it be changed. In 2009 Mir-Hossein Mousavi (the candidate not elected) and Mehdi Karroubi were the reason people went out to demonstrate, but they didn’t lead the demonstrations. It’s hard to lead when you’re spirited away. But if the demonstrations had succeeded, it’s clear who would have won and in what capacity. The demonstrations happening now are against the system. There must have been some leadership since it seemed that they were planned and coordinated. The #restartIran movement, which began with a violent protest a few months ago, had a leader – Mohammed Hosseini, an exiled TV personality – but there is no real plan or leader for the day after, if it ever comes.

Iranians miss the Shah

Partially true, but the analyses are wrong. It’s true that there were slogans such as “Reza Shah [the father of the last Shah, who ruled between 1925 and 1941], rest in peace,” “no one is accountable in Iran without a king,” and even “O king of Iran, return to Iran,” but Iranians don’t really want a return to a monarchy. Most supporters of the monarchy are in exile. Iranians who miss the shah don’t miss a good era – only one that was less bad. There were also serious infringements on human rights and no freedom of expression during the shah’s time, and torture in prisons was a routine matter. The aim of the current demonstrations is to achieve a secular democracy or an Iranian republic, not a monarchy.

Religious people support the regime, only secular people oppose it

Not true. The regime is ostensibly a religious one. The supreme leader has to be an ayatollah and most presidents were religious figures with a rank of Hajat al-Islam (one lower than an ayatollah). However, secular people are also among its supporters. These are people who receive benefits from the regime and have something to lose if it falls. They aren’t necessarily religious. Moreover, there are ayatollahs who don’t recognize Khamenei’s religious title, since he obtained it under some more lax conditions – and he didn’t write a book of rulings like other ayatollahs. There are some ayatollahs who are in prison, and some that the regime leaves high and dry, depriving them of influence. Each such ayatollah has followers who are religious but oppose the regime. From slogans heard in the streets this week one may understand that people believe that Islam was stolen from them and misused.

We have a good idea what is happening

Not true. Not only can we not predict the future, but we don’t even know what is going on in the present. Different pictures emerge from the various people I talked with in Iran, depending on where they are and the extent of their involvement in the demonstrations. Some talk about the internet being blocked or slowed while others say there have been no changes and everything is functioning as usual. Demonstrations always look bigger when they’re filmed from the inside. The most reliable source we have for developments in Iran are social media and various Telegram channels, but there, too, everyone has their own agenda. For example, the incident of a 13-year-old boy who was shot dead in the city of Khomeyni-Shahr was adopted by both sides. Demonstrators say: Look, these are the people the government calls “troublemakers.” Regime supporters say that he was shot by protesters. The demonstrators are more violent this time. They shoot at security forces, break storefront windows and burn banks, stores and offices associated with the regime.


In one of the video clips shown on the original Amed news website (the site constantly gets shut down and subsequently reopens under a new name – the current one is Amed 3), policemen are breaking car windows in order to lay the blame on the demonstrators. In another video, a wounded person says that he saw demonstrators breaking bank windows and berated them for using violent tactics. In response, he says, they tell him that they are policemen. They shoot him and tell him to go and say that he was shot by the police. A user on Twitter reported that police officers are breaking windows and torching stores in order to then blame the protesters. One analysis from Iran claims that hooligans took over the demonstrations, which were supposed to be quiet and orderly, and that they are utilizing the disturbances in order to damage private businesses.

If we don’t know what is happening in the present, we certainly can’t know the future. The West did not predict the 1979 revolution and what came after it. This wave of demonstrations – even though people’s dissatisfaction is known to all analysts and pundits – caught everyone by surprise.

Dr. Eilam Gindin is an Iran researcher at the Shalem Center.

Tamar Eilam Gindin
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Unrest in Iran dies down

January 4, 2018


© Atta Kenare, AFP | File photo of head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Mohammad Ali Jafar.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2018-01-04

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards chief announced the “end of the sedition” Wednesday as tens of thousands rallied in a show of strength for the country’s Islamic rulers after days of deadly unrest.

But even as state television aired footage shot from helicopters of the support for Iran’s clerically overseen government, videos emerged showing the anti-government unrest that has swept major cities has also spread to the countryside in the nation of 80 million people. It was unclear however when the videos were taken.

Protests over economic problems broke out in Iran’s second city Mashhad last week and quickly spread across the country. At least 21 people have been killed in the unrest and some five hundred have been arrested by authorities.

Revolutionary Guard chief General Mohammad Ali Jafari said the Guards intervened “in a limited way” against fewer than 15,000 demonstrators nationwide and that many had been taken into custody.

“A large number of the troublemakers at the centre of the sedition, who received training from counter-revolutionaries… have been arrested and there will be firm action against them,” he said.

His declaration came after major rallies by regime supporters.

Chants of “Leader, we are ready” were heard as images showed thousands marching in the cities of Qom, Ahvaz, Kermanshah and elsewhere.

The demonstrators waved Iranian flags and pictures of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as placards saying “death to seditionists”.

Though the anti-regime demonstrations began as protests against a faltering economy, they soon turned against the regime as a whole, presenting the biggest test for the authorities since mass demonstrations in 2009 sparked by disputed elections resulted in bloodshed.

While many Iranians denounce the violence that has accompanied some demonstrations, they echo the protesters’ frustration over the weak economy and official corruption.

US exerts pressure

A White House official, who asked for anonymity, said Wednesday the administration would look for “actionable information” to try to begin imposing sanctions on those responsible for any crackdown.

US President Donald Trump insisted Iranians were trying to “take back” their government, extending a drumbeat of encouragement for the protests.

“You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!” he tweeted, without offering any specifics.

Iran’s UN Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo said in a letter that the US government “has stepped up its acts of intervention in a grotesque way” in Iran’s internal affairs and accused Washington of violating international law and the principles of the UN charter.

AFP journalists reported a heavy police presence still on the streets of central Tehran, along with a large number of Revolutionary Guards.

It remains difficult for journalists to piece together what’s happening beyond the capital, especially as the government has blocked both the photo-sharing app Instagram and the messaging app Telegram, which protesters have used to organize their demonstrations and share footage.

Telecoms Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi said Telegram would only be unblocked if it removed “terrorist” content.

The political establishment has closed ranks against the unrest, with Khamenei on Tuesday saying the regime’s enemies were “always looking for an opportunity and any crevice to infiltrate”.

Even reformists in Iran, who backed the 2009 protests, have condemned the violence and the support the demonstrations have received from the United States.

But they also urged the authorities to address economic grievances.

“Officials must acknowledge the deplorable situation of the country as the first step to hearing the protesters,” tweeted Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, whose father Mehdi Karroubi has been under house arrest for almost seven years for helping lead the 2009 demonstrations.

‘Some freedom in Iran’

Many Iranians appear to have been turned off by the violence, which has contrasted with the largely peaceful marches in 2009.

Rouhani came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, but high living costs and unemployment have left many feeling that progress is too slow.

Rural areas, hit by years of drought and under-investment, are particularly hard-hit.

On the streets of the capital, there is widespread sympathy with the economic grievances driving the unrest, particularly an unemployment rate as high as 30 percent for young people.

“People have reached a stage where they can no longer tolerate this pressure from the authorities,” said Soraya Saadaat, a 54-year-old jobless woman.

But some Tehranis said claims from the US that they were desperate for freedom were overblown.

“We do have some freedom in Iran,” Hamid Rahimi, a 33-year-old bank employee told AFP.

“If the people of Iran have something to say, it’s about economic problems. They want to see their demands, what they voted for, fulfilled.”

Mojtaba Mousavi, a Tehran-based political analyst, said Iranians do not generally support violence, no matter how unhappy they are with their government.

“There are certainly Iranians who aren’t happy with certain policies, frustrated people who would like to protest against their economic situation, but history shows none of these people support violence and subversion,” he said.

In 2009, authorities ruthlessly put down protests against the re-election of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At least 36 people were killed, according to an official toll, while the opposition says 72 died.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP)

What Israeli Intel Really Thinks About the Iran Protests

January 3, 2018

Tens of thousands of Iranians breached barriers of fear and have taken to the streets, but the regime hasn’t yet responded in full force

Amos Harel Jan 03, 2018 12:15 PM

An attack on Iran police station in Qahdarijan, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018

An attack on Iran police station in Qahdarijan, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 /AP

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Six days into the wave of protests that is shaking Iran, Israeli and Western intelligence services are still hesitant to provide an answer to the main question that is keeping their political masters busy: Do these new circumstances present a window of opportunity for the first time since the failed Green Revolution in 2009 to bring down the Iranian regime?

The information coming out of Iran is still too fragmented to provide a clear picture. The government is disrupting access to the messaging app Telegram, which protestors used at the beginning to coordinate their moves. At the same time, internet traffic in Iran has been lagging, even though those opposed to the Islamic regime have managed to find ways to bypass this problem to a certain extent.

But as time goes by, a few aspects of the protests are becoming clearer according to Israeli and Western intelligence services’ analyses.

Tens of thousands of people have participated in the demonstrations. The numbers are still nowhere near the hundreds of thousands who took part in the Green Revolution protests, but those demonstrations were concentrated in Tehran and led by students and the middle class. This time, the protests began mostly with the lower classes and have spread throughout almost all of Iran to many distant towns that the regime now finds difficult to control. It seems that for a significant group of people, the barrier of fear has been breached – something that did not happen in the past and prevented similar action since the brutal repression of the protests nearly nine years ago.

The high cost of living may have been the original motivation for people to take to the streets, but it is far from the only one. The anger against rising prices has added to the accumulating despair of young people who are educated yet unemployed. In the background is a long-time bitterness for a large part of the Iranian public over the Islamic regime’s strict enforcement of religious laws. The most remarkable visual emblem of the protests so far – and their escalation will certainly bear other symbols – is the video clip in which a young woman removes her head covering in the middle of a demonstration and waves it in the air.

The Iranian government’s efforts to set in motion and finance the export of the Islamic revolution to other countries has created great anger among the public. In a few cases, protestors were filmed burning pictures of General Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Al-Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who has been lauded as a national hero after the defeat of the Islamic State and the successes of the Assad regime in the civil war in Syria. Raising the prices of eggs and gas at a time when Iran is providing billions of dollars in aid to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hezbollah, Shi’ite militias in Iraq and the Houthi rebels in Yemen has been the focus of the protesters’ anger.

As of Tuesday evening, the Iranian regime still has not used its full force to put down the protests. It appears that like the foreign intelligence agencies, the Iranian authorities had not predicted the timing of the breakout of public fury. Even though the regime responded violently in a number of cities, and about 20 people have been reported killed so far, it is far from the aggressive means used to quell the 2009 protests. It looks as if the regime is still in the containment stage and has yet to loosen the reins on its offensive forces.

This is also due to Iranian foreign policy: The supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his circle are still very worried about U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to cancel the nuclear deal. To repulse Trump, the Iranians need the Europeans. The European Union may have remained silent so far in response to the killing of protesters – which is morally grating – but using more force could well lead to new complaints about human rights violations and complicate Iran’s situation vis-a-vis the Europeans.

The sanctions are still important. The ones imposed by the United States at the beginning of this decade hurt the Iranian economy and forced the leadership in Tehran to agree to the nuclear deal, which delayed the Iranian nuclear program. The accumulated damage from the sanctions can still be felt, and it is impeding the rebound capabilities of the Iranian economy.

For now, Trump has expressed his support for the protestors in an almost incidental manner in his tweets, between his fights with the media and his efforts to take credit – for instance, for commercial aviation safety since he took office. But a reconsideration of the sanctions because of Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program and human rights violations could provide a real tailwind for the protesters.

There is even a bonus as far as Trump is concerned: This is exactly what the Obama administration did not do in 2009, when it watched somewhat apathetically from a distance as the Green Revolution collapsed. And for now, Israel is still not in the picture.

Amos Harel
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Pro-government crowds rally in Iran after days of unrest

January 3, 2018


© Hamed Malekpour, Tasnim News, AFP | Iranians hold portraits of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during an earlier pro-government rally in the capital, Tehran, on December 30, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2018-01-03

Tens of thousands gathered in cities across Iran on Wednesday in a massive show of support for the government after days of deadly unrest, state television showed.

Crowds chanted “Leader, we are ready” as images showed vast numbers marching through the cities of Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Gorgan and elsewhere.

The crowds waved Iranian flags and pictures of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as placards reading “Death to seditionists”.

“We offer the blood in our veins to our leader,” was another popular chant.

The rallies followed several days of unrest — initially sparked by protests over economic problems but quickly turning against the regime as a whole — in which 21 people lost their lives and hundreds were arrested.

The unrest has remained focused on provincial towns and cities, with only sporadic protests reported in the capital, Tehran.

The demonstrations are the largest seen in Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election.

Breaking his silence on the unrest, Khamenei blamed foreign “enemies” for the demonstrations in a speech on Tuesday.

Shortly after, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, urged the international community to speak out on the unfolding protests in Iran, saying the US would seek emergency UN talks on the situation.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Trump denounces ‘brutal and corrupt’ Iranian regime

January 2, 2018


© AFP/File | President Donald Trump is denouncing Tehran’s “brutal and corrupt” regime


President Donald Trump praised Iranian protesters on Tuesday for acting against Tehran’s “brutal and corrupt” regime after days of bloody unrest, while also lashing out at his predecessor Barack Obama.

“The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime,” Trump tweeted, a day after calling for regime change in the Islamic republic.

“All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their ‘pockets.’ The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The US is watching!”

The comments were Trump’s latest criticism of, and hint of a possible US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — that was a signature foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration.

Trump has been vocal on Twitter about the protests in Iran since they erupted last week.

On Monday, he said it was “time for change” in Iran and that the country’s people were “hungry” for freedom.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has hit back at Trump’s comments, saying the US leader — whose “whole being is against the nation of Iran — has “no right” to sympathize with protesters.

Protests began in Iran’s second largest city Mashhad and quickly spread to become the biggest challenge to the Islamic regime since mass demonstrations in 2009.

Iranian officials have said online accounts in the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia are fomenting protests, which Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed on the country’s “enemies.”