Posts Tagged ‘Hassan Rouhani’

Khamenei Says Iran Foiled Insurgency to Overthrow the Islamic Republic

January 9, 2018

By Babak Dehghanpisheh

Reuters

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

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Iranian ex-president Ahmadinejad arrested for inciting unrest

January 7, 2018

ARAB NEWS | 

The former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is reported to have been arrested for inciting unrest. (AP)

TEHRAN: The former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is reported to have been arrested by authorities for allegedly inciting unrest against the regime, Al Arabiya reported, who were quoting earlier media reports with “reliable sources in Tehran.”

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The Iranian regime has reportedly arrested Ahmadinejad in Shiraz city for inciting unrest during the recent protests in the country and encouraging more demonstrations following statements he made earlier in Bushehr.
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Authorities are now seeking to place Ahmadinejad under house arrest with the approval of Ali Khamenei.
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During a visit to Bushehr city late December, Ahmadinejad had claimed Iran suffered from “mismanagement” and that the current president, Hassan Rouhani and his government, believed he “owned the land and that the people are an ignorant society,” the newspaper went on to report.
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“Some of the current leaders live detached from the problems and concerns of the people, and do not know anything about the reality of society,” they reported him saying.
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Protests put spotlight on Iran’s vast and shadowy Syria war

January 5, 2018

 

In this Sept. 27, 2017 file photo, thousands attend the state funeral of Mohsen Hojaji, a young Revolutionary Guard soldier beheaded in Syria by the Daesh group, in Tehran, Iran. (AP)
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BEIRUT: In demonstrations across Iran, chants are going up against the military’s vast and shadowy war in Syria, one of Tehran’s closest allies and a frontline state in its confrontation with its archenemy, Israel.
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Although the protests have focused on economic issues, demonstrators have also voiced strong opposition to the government’s policy of sending young Iranians to fight and die in Syria while spending billions of dollars on the military when they say the priority should be working to provide jobs in Iran and control the rising cost of living.
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Their slogans include, “Leave Syria, think about us!” and “Death to Hezbollah!” the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group that has been a key instrument of Tehran in Syria’s war.
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Syria saw its own domestic demonstrations morph into anti-government protests in 2011. They were met with a brutal crackdown by President Bashar Assad’s security services, sending the country into civil war.
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But as cracks appeared in Assad’s military, with soldiers refusing to fire on protesters and defecting to the opposition, Iran and later Russia stepped in to support their ally.
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Iran’s theocratic leadership has cast the effort as a religious war for Shiite Islam, an epochal struggle to defend the shrine of the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter in Damascus from Sunni jihadis, and to deal a crippling blow to what it says is a US-Israeli conspiracy to destroy Syria. But it is motivated by geopolitical concerns, too. Syria, bordering both Israel and Lebanon, is a key node to Iran’s network of deterrence against Israel.
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Tehran needs Damascus as both a conduit to and sponsor of Hezbollah, Iran’s vanguard force in the region.
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Today, Iran’s military and an array of regional militias under its command operate with wide latitude in the war against rebels and Daesh militants in both Syria and Iraq. It is also invested in the Gaza Strip and is accused of supporting Shiite rebels in Yemen.
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Military sacrifice
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Across Iran, banners honoring the young men who have died fighting in Syria hang over public spaces as a reminder of the sacrifice that has been paid.
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Imams memorialize the dead at Friday prayers, and media outlets pay tribute to the “martyrs” who have died “defending the holy shrine” of Muhammad’s daughter, Sayyida Zeinab, in the Syrian capital.
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In September, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, prayed over the casket of 25-year-old Mohsen Hojaji at a funeral broadcast nationwide, followed by a large rally in Tehran — moves crafted to stir patriotism in a country growing weary of the military venture in Syria. An image of Hojaji depicted him being welcomed into heaven by the third Shiite saint, Hussein, Muhammad’s grandson.
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Iran has not disclosed how many of its soldiers have been lost in Syria, but Mohammad Ali Shahidi, the head of the Martyr’s Foundation of the Islamic Revolution, which supports veterans and families of the dead, says more than 2,000 men have been killed, though roughly half of those are foreigners from Afghanistan and other nations fighting under militias organized by Tehran.
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In November, the semi-official Fars news agency reported the death of an Iranian brigadier general in Boukamal, a Syrian town overlooking one of the country’s main crossings into Iran. Fars said the general was killed by a mortar shell in a battle with Daesh militants.
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That same battle was directed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ own Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was shown in videos published on social media addressing fighters in Farsi. He had under his command Shiite fighters from Hezbollah and Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces’ militias, as well as Syrian army forces and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
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Syrian rebels say the Revolutionary Guard has directed several major battles on behalf of Assad’s forces and has bases from the south of the country to the north.
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Iran spends more than $12 billion annually on its military, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. It is understood to spend millions more on subsidies and exports to Syria, which has seen its economy shattered by the war.
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The protests now shaking Iran erupted after President Hassan Rouhani’s latest budget proposal disclosed cuts to local subsidies while preserving privileges for the military and religious institutions.
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Hezbollah and others
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Iran and Assad have depended on Hezbollah to do some of the toughest, special forces assignments in the Syrian war. But Tehran has also organized militias from Afghanistan, called the Fatimiyoun, and Pakistan, called the Zeynabiyoun, to fight in Syria. It promises Afghan refugees living in Iran wages and citizenship in exchange for a tour of duty in Syria.
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Syrian rebels say they are battling not just Syrian government soldiers, but Lebanese, Iraqi, and Afghani fighters, too. And Associated Press reporters have seen the flags of Afghan and Lebanese militias flying over military points outside Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.
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Syria’s rebels, boosted by calls for global jihad, are supported by scores of foreign fighters of their own.
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Human Rights Watch says Iran’s Revolutionary Guard has recruited Afghan refugee children as young as 14 to fight in Syria, identifiable by their tombstones in Iran. It says Iranian media memorialized child soldiers and hailed Iranian fighters as young as 13 in the Syria battle.
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Iran also leans heavily on the battle-hardened fighters of Iraq’s state-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Forces, which has been instrumental to defeating Daesh militants on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border and opening a corridor of Iranian influence that runs from Tehran to Baghdad to Damascus to Beirut.
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As in Iran, there is a risk in Lebanon and Iraq of popular blowback against a grinding military effort in Syria that has stretched on for nearly seven years.
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When Lebanese authorities pulled down illegal vendor stalls in a Hezbollah stronghold in south Beirut in October, residents took to the streets to excoriate Hezbollah’s leadership for failing to stand up for them, despite their sacrifices over Syria.
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“They should be planting a tree on each martyr’s grave,” a woman shouted to the cameras. “Every home has a martyr. Every home has a wounded veteran.”

What do Iran protests mean for President Rouhani? — “It’s not like Rouhani can wave a magic wand and it will all change.”

January 4, 2018

AFP

© IRANIAN PRESIDENCY/AFP/File / by Eric Randolph | Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has argued his liberalising reforms are necessary to clean up the economy

TEHRAN (AFP) – With protests appearing to die down in Iran, analysts say President Hassan Rouhani faces both challenges and opportunities for his efforts to reform the country.The leadership closed ranks as the past week’s unrest turned violent, blaming foreign enemies and “terrorist” exile groups.

But all sides of the political spectrum accept that deep undercurrents of frustration driven by unemployment, high living costs and perceived corruption have turned Iran into a tinder box.

Rouhani’s critics say he has abandoned the poor by seeking to raise fuel prices in his most recent budget, announced just a few weeks before the protests began.

In his budget speech, Rouhani said price rises were necessary to tackle unemployment, but parliament looks likely to reject the most controversial measures as they seek to show they are listening to the anger on the streets.

“The population can no longer support a hike in petrol prices. In the current situation, where people are confronted with such a range of daily, economic problems, such a raise is an error,” said Nasser Laregani, vice-president on the economic affairs commission, on Thursday.

A new online news agency appeared from nowhere this week with a slick video that quickly went viral, showing angry Tehranis criticising the government’s policies.

“Has Rouhani ever bought his own eggs, or meat?” says one man in his forties.

“I’m protesting against the theft, the money grabbing. Who is behind it? Those who live in palaces, those with millionaires in their cabinet,” adds an older man.

Rouhani has argued his liberalising reforms are necessary to clean up the economy and points to the fall in inflation — from around 40 to 10 percent — as a key success of his tenure since 2013.

He also points to a huge rebound in economic growth — which the central bank put at 12.3 percent last year — in the wake of the 2015 nuclear deal that lifted many international sanctions.

But much of this growth has been due to the return of oil sales that do not produce much employment.

This week’s protests suggest many Iranians have grown tired of waiting for the results to trickle down, while unemployment remains stuck at more than 12 percent overall, and nearly 30 percent for young people.

“People have had enough, especially the young people. They have nothing to be happy about,” Sarita Mohammadi, a 35-year-old teacher in Tehran, told AFP.

“People cannot afford to buy a house, to continue their education. They can no longer put up with the situation.”

– Stoking unrest in Mashhad –

Yet Rouhani could still pull a victory out of this week’s tumult, analysts say, especially if it forces conservatives to tame their criticism.

Many of his allies blame conservatives for stoking the unrest with months of attacks on his economic policies.

Mohammad Sadegh Javadihesar, a reformist analyst in Mashhad where the protests began on December 28, claimed Rouhani’s rivals had come to the city in the days before.

“A number of well-known opponents from the (conservative) Paydari faction came to Mashhad… in order to mobilise people to come out to the streets,” he told AFP.

“They highlighted temporary price hikes on commodities such as eggs or how the price of petrol is being increased.”

He said they wanted to build up anti-government protests ahead of pre-planned rallies on Saturday, ironically to mark the defeat of the last major protest movement in 2009.

“This was their aim which got out of hand,” he said.

First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri implied conservatives were behind the initial protests shortly after they began.

“They think by doing this they harm the government,” he said, but “it will be others who ride the wave,” he told the state broadcaster.

The conservatives have flatly denied the accusations, but the rumours alone could present an opportunity for Rouhani.

“I’m sure Rouhani’s government will get a degree of political capital out of this,” said Ellie Geranmayeh, Iran analyst for the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“If the rumours are true and the conservatives started this, then people will see them as inept, and ask how they can possibly manage the country,” she said.

Even if he emerges politically unharmed, Rouhani still faces an angry populace and few easy solutions.

“This crisis has created a new opportunity for changes, which is necessary because otherwise the consequences could be serious,” said Abbas Abdi, a Tehran-based analyst close to the reformists.

“But it’s not like Rouhani can wave a magic wand and it will all change.”

by Eric Randolph

Iran declares victory against anti-government protesters following week of unrest that left 21 dead

January 4, 2018

There are concerns that interference by the Trump administration may exacerbate political and economic situations in the future

By Kim Sengupta Diplomatic Editor
The Independnet

Iran declares victory against anti-government protests that left 21 dead

Huge counter-demonstrations have taken place against the protests in Iran with the head of the Revolutionary Guards declaring victory against “forces of sedition” which had sought to create “anarchy, insecurity and intrigue in the Islamic Republic”.

As what was described by the state media as “the revolutionary outburst of Iranian people against lawbreakers” took place in towns and cities, General Mohammad Ali Jafari announced that units of the Guards had been deployed in the three provinces of Isfahan, Lorestan and Hamadan, which had been the main centres of the demonstrations.

However, the week of marches and rallies which led to violence with 21 dead and more than 450 arrested has exposed deep divisions in the country which are likely to resurface. There are concerns that interference by the Trump administration may exacerbate political and economic situations in the future.

There is growing evidence that the days of upheaval were the result not just of economic hardship but the long-running power-struggle between hardliners and reformists, with groups outside the country attempting to exploit the violence.

It has emerged that Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, the father-in-law of Ali Raisi, the hardline candidate who lost in last year’s presidential campaign to the reformist Hassan Rouhani, has been ordered to appear before Iran’s National Security Council to be questioned about his role in a rally at Mashhad where the protests began last Thursday. Mr Alamolhoda has denied being ordered to appear, with his office calling such talk “rumours”.

Gatherings at Mashhad, a conservative Shia holy city, which is home to Mr Raisi and Mr Alamolhoda, started with slogans about rising prices which soon turned to ones against President Rouhani and his government.

Liberals claimed the rally was orchestrated by hardliners who lost control as demonstrations started across the country, with angry abuse directed at mullahs, the Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij militia.

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Iranian clerics take part in a state-organised rally against anti-government protests in the city of Qom, in south-west Iran (EPA)

But the publication of the government’s budget plans, including sections hitherto kept confidential, also appeared to have fuelled anger towards clerics and sections of the security forces.

They showed that billions of dollars of state money was going to hardline religious organisations, senior clerics and the Revolutionary Guards while cash subsidies were cut for the public, price of food and fuel rose, and public entities, including educational organisations, were privatised.

This was followed by a tweet from Hesamodin Ashna, a close advisor to President Rouhani, which focused on “the unbalanced distribution of budget” pointing out how much was being spent on religious institutions as well as the military.

Iranian forces are heavily engaged in Syria and in a much more limited capacity in Yemen. It is the expenditure incurred in these missions which are believed to have led to vocal criticism of aspects of foreign policy.

Many of those protesting stressed that their anger was not directed towards the Rouhani government, but the hardliners and the clergy.

The overall popular reaction may help the liberals in the long run, especially as the conservatives appear to be split.

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Iranians march in support of the government in Tehran on 30 December (AFP/Getty)

General Jafari made a point of putting some of the blame for the disturbances on a “ former official”. This is believed to refer to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the populist hardline former president, who has been vocally critical of officials, in particular Sadegh Amoli Larijani, the powerful head of the judiciary, as well as President Rouhani.

There is, however, apprehension among reformers that attempts would be made by the hardliners to portray the protests as being directed by foreign powers.

Western European states have turned down a US plan to sign a joint declaration condemning the Iranian government. But Donald Trump has maintained his Twitter offensive, one of the latest instalments promising Iranian people unspecified help.

Sohrab Norouzi, a building contractor from Isfahan who wants economic reform, said: “That is the biggest worry, saying that we are being influenced by outsiders. No one in his right mind would take Trump seriously, but the principalists [conservatives] will use him to try and discredit genuine protest.

“I have not experienced this, but I have also heard that there have also been messages to cause trouble from some extremists outside the country. This is something we need to avoid as well.”

Grand Ayatollah Khamenei has blamed the protests on “enemies of Iran”, declaring “all those who are at odds with the Islamic Republic have utilised various means, including money, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatus to create problems for the Islamic system, the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Revolution”.

General Jafari blamed “anti-revolutionaries”, “monarchists” and forces supposedly “announced by [Hilary] Clinton to create cultural, economic and security threats against Islamic Iran”.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/iran-protests-latest-revolutionary-guards-rouhani-forces-of-sedition-a8140606.html

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Revolutionary Guards deployed to crush Iran demonstrations

January 4, 2018

A portrait of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with shoe marks over it is seen during a protest on Wednesday in Paris in support of demonstrations in Iranian cities. (AFP)

LONDON/WASHINGTON: Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards deployed forces on Wednesday to three provinces to put down an eruption of anti-regime unrest as US President Donald Trump assured the demonstrators of support “at a suitable time.”

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The protests, that have rattled the clerical leadership and left 21 people dead, began last week out of frustration over economic hardships suffered by the youth and working class. Now they have evolved into a rising against the powers and privileges of a remote elite, especially Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
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Defying threats from the judiciary of execution if convicted of rioting, protests resumed after nightfall with hundreds hitting the streets of Malayer in Hamadan province chanting: “People are begging, the supreme leader is acting like God!”
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Videos carried by social media showed protesters in the northern town of Nowshahr shouting “death to the dictator” — an apparent reference to Khamenei.
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Iranian opposition leaders in the UK are “disgusted” at the failure of British politicians, including Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn to condemn regime brutality as the death toll continues to climb seven days after protests began in Iran.
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“Both the prime minister and the opposition party here have stayed completely silent when Iranian youth are being slaughtered in the streets of Iran,” said Laila Jazayeri, director of the Association of Anglo/Iranian Women in the UK.
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Three members of Iran’s intelligence forces were killed in clashes in the western city of Piranshahr on Wednesday, Mehr news agency reported, citing a statement from the Revolutionary Guards.
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The three died “in a fight with anti-revolutionary elements,” the statement read.
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The statement did not say if the fight was related to the anti-government protests in Iran.
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In a sign of official concern about the resilience of the protests, the Revolutionary Guards commander, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, said he had dispatched forces to Hamadan, Isfahan and Lorestan provinces to tackle “the new sedition.”
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In a state-sponsored show of force aimed at countering the outpouring of dissent, thousands of Iranians also took part in pro-regime rallies in several cities on Wednesday morning.
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State television broadcast live footage of rallies in cities across the country, where marchers waved Iranian flags and portraits of Khamenei, Iran’s paramount leader since 1989.
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They accused the US, Israel and Britain of inciting protests, shouting, “The seditionist rioters should be executed!”
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Trump, who has sought to isolate the Tehran leadership, reversing the conciliatory approach of predecessor Barack Obama, said Washington would throw its support behind the protesters at a suitable time.
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“Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!” Trump wrote in the latest of a series of tweets on Iran’s turmoil.
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The protests seem to be spontaneous, without a clear leader, cropping up in working-class neighborhoods and smaller cities, but the movement seems to be gaining traction among the educated middle class and activists who spearheaded the 2009 revolt.
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More than 100 Iranian woman activists voiced support for a new uprising in a statement on Wednesday. Several prominent Iranian lawyers, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, urged Tehran to respect people’s right to freedom of assembly and expression, guaranteed under the constitution.
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Some labor unions as well as minority Kurdish opposition groups have also thrown their weight behind the protests.
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In Geneva, the UN human rights chief urged Iran to rein in security forces to avoid further violence and respect the right of protesters to freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly.
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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern about the loss of life and called for the security forces and demonstrators to avoid further violence, his spokesman said in a statement.
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Germany’s government said protests “deserve our respect.” A spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said Berlin is closely watching developments in the country.
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5 Ways To View The protests In Iran

January 2, 2018

 

BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN

The Jerusalem Post

 JANUARY 2, 2018 18:13

The following are five ways to look at the protests emerging in the Islamic Republic in debates among experts.

5 ways to view the uprisings in Iran

Iranian Americans and opponents of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hold protests outside of UN headquarters on the day Rouhani addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, US, September 20, 2017. (File Photo). (photo credit: REUTERS/AMR ALFIKY)

Since the protests that broke out in Iran in late December, analysts and commentators have struggled to comprehend what has motivated them and how to interpret what is happening. Interpretation has also been burdened by the past, including questions about the Iran Deal, the past US administration and previous Iranian protests.

The following are five ways to look at the protests emerging in debates among experts. What is clear is that there is no consensus on Iran and that there is tremendous pressure to craft one or two narratives in the media about who is protesting and why.

Is Iran like other countries with protests?

Esfandyar Batmanghelidj of the Europe Iran Forum wrote on December 30 that the west should be wary of bandwagoning on this as a “revolution in the making that needs support and solidarity.” He argued that Iran’s protests are comparable to those in Brazil, Mexico and Thailand. Iran is not a special case, he argued, and that the protests occurred because of a regime that failed to support civic institutions, but failed to do so.

Frida Ghitis, a world affairs columnist at CNN, disagrees. “Anyone who thinks Iran is a normal middle-income country, comparing to Mexico, Brazil, Thailand, is blind to the stark reality that Iran is, in fact, extremely different. It uses its funds to fight wars in other countries, imprisons political candidates, tells women what to wear.”

Iran vs. Saudi Arabia 

Iran’s regime has accused Saudi Arabia of supporting the protests. Supreme National Security Council head Ali Shamkhani has claimed that 27% of the hashtags for the protests in Iran were created in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Arabia vs. Iran narrative has dominated some circles of discussion. Sam Tamiz, who has written on Iran at The National Interest says “I’m receiving a lot of comments from non-Iranians saying that the protests in Iran are being fomented by US/Israel/Saudi Arabia.” He says the comments come from “professionals from within Western political and economic institutions.” Alireza Nader, Senior Policy analyst at Rand Corporation, argues that the protests were instead spontaneous and transcend the concept of “reformists vs. hardliners,” and are unrelated to Saudi Arabia.

Who is driving what?

Carnegie Endowment Senior Fellow Karim Sadjadpour argues that commentators are missing some important points. He writes on January 1 that while in 2009 around 1 million Iranians had smart phones outside Tehran, today 48 million do. He was surprised that protests had emerged in pro-government religious cities such as Qom and Mashhad, “akin to national anti-Trump protests in Kentucky.”

He points to a video by Armin Navabi of women chanting “you raised your fists and ruined out lives. Now we raise our fists,” a reference by women protesters to the failures of their parents generation and the 1979 revolution. He says we should pay attention to the “indignities of women living in Iran,” and not just focus on the claims that poverty drives the protests.

Who are the protesters?

Gissou Nia, who spent 6 years documenting the treatment of minorities and marginalized communities in Iran, urges people to ask questions about Tehran-based sources. “Not everything revolves around Tehran and the midde/upper class.” She notes that many journalists over the years in Iran have been reluctant to cover groups outside Tehran. “They didn’t think it related to most Iranians’ concerns. Perhaps, but Iran is the sum of all its parts and the concerns of all these communities,” she tweeted on January 1.

Maziar Bahari, a journalist and filmmaker involved with Iran Wire, wrote on January 2 that 90% of the protesters arrested were born between 1992 and 2004. “All these utterly poor people say that they know someone who’ve been to the protests,” he writes. He says that many of the protesters also reference the 1979 revolution even quoting Ayatollah Khomeini “it is the revolution of the oppressed against the oppression.”

What should outsiders do?

The general trend among Iran watchers has been that the West and others should tread carefully in supporting the demonstrations.

The Guardian writes “Iran’s enemies would be wise not to wish for regime change,” why The New York Times asks “how can Trump help Iran’s protesters? Be quiet.”  Sadjadpour argues on Twitter in favor of carefully crafted statement of solidarity and “mobilize allies who have good ties to Iran – EU, Japan, India, S. Korea etc – to deter massive crackdown.”

Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin claims that the US tweeted support for Syrian protesters in 2011 only to then leave “them to be slaughtered.” Others have drawn comparisons with how the US let down anti-Saddam protesters in 1991 or Iranian protesters in 2009.

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Iran’s Theocracy Is on the Brink

January 2, 2018

Every decade the Islamist regime has been in power, an uprising has cost it an element of its legitimacy.

A protester at the University of Tehran, Dec. 30.
A protester at the University of Tehran, Dec. 30. PHOTO: STR/EPA-EFE/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK
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Iran has a peculiar habit of surprising Americans. It has done so again with the protests engulfing its major cities. The demonstrations began over economic grievances and quickly transformed into a rejection of theocracy.

The slogans must have unsettled the mullahs: “Death to Khamenei!” “Death to Rouhani!” “We will die to get our Iran back!” Imperialism has not revived the regime’s legitimacy, as the protesting Persians pointedly reject expending their meager resources on Arab wars: “Death to Hezbollah!” “No to Gaza, not Lebanon! Our life only for Iran!”

However the events on the streets unfold, their most immediate casualty will be the presidency of Hassan Rouhani and its false claim of pragmatic governance. In the aftermath of the Green Revolution of 2009, which rocked the foundations of the Islamic Republic, a sinister argument gradually pervaded Western salons and chancelleries. The convulsions of that summer, the claim went, were over no more than electoral irregularity. With the election of the so-called moderate Mr. Rouhani in 2013, the system rebalanced itself. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his allies supposedly learned some hard lessons on the need to yield to popular mandates. Iranians want gradual change, we have been told, and believe that the system’s own constitutional provisions and plebiscites can be used to nudge it toward moderation.

Then, last week, Iranians took to the streets.

Every decade of the Islamist regime’s rule has seen one of its political factions lose its legitimacy through national uprisings. In the 1980s, the Islamic Republic waged a determined civil war against liberals and secularists who sought to redeem the revolution’s pledge of a democratic order. The student riots of 1999 ended the reformist interlude and Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, which had promised that the expansion of civil society and elections would harmonize faith and freedom. The reformists lingered as discredited enablers of a repressive regime, but no one believed in their promises of change from within. The hard-liners offered their own national compact, one that privileged economic justice over political emancipation. But the tumultuous presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad produced only corruption and bellicosity.

Then came Mr. Rouhani and his centrist disciples with their pledge to revive the economy, primarily through foreign investment. Mr. Rouhani needed a nuclear agreement to lift debilitating sanctions and stimulate commerce. The Obama administration was happy to deliver, and Iran received tens of billions of dollars in financial dividends, including $1.7 billion in paper currency.

Instead of channeling that wealth into productive uses, Ayatollah Khamenei, the clerical establishment and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps consumed much of it on foreign adventurism and corruption. Mr. Rouhani made a crucial mistake: overpromising and underdelivering on both economic and political reforms. His modest experiment in centrist rule has come crashing down, taking with it his injunction that all must trust the system. The regime is at an impasse. It has no more political actors—no establishment saviors—to offer its restless constituents.

As with the Soviet Union in its last days, the Islamic Republic can no longer appeal to its ideals; it relies only on its security services for survival. That is deadly for a theocracy, by definition an ideological construct. Ideological authoritarian states need a vision of the future by which their enforcers can condone their own violence. The theocracy’s vast patronage system will not cure this crisis of legitimacy. In many ways, Mr. Rouhani was the ruling clergy’s last gasp, a beguiling mullah who could enchant Westerners while offering Iranians some hope. That hope has vanished.

In the coming weeks, many in the commentariat will advise the Trump administration to remain silent and stay on the sidelines, as the Obama administration did in 2009. They will recommend that it is best to let the Iranian drama play itself out. If American officials weigh in, the argument goes, the regime would brand its detractors as agents of a foreign power.

Such stale prescriptions miss the point that Iranians are looking toward America to support their struggle. Democratic dissidents always do so. In that regard, Iranians are no different from non-Muslim dissidents from the former Soviet Union to communist China, who have struggled against tyranny and ardently welcomed American and European support.

Barack Obama has been rightly castigated for his silence during the Green Revolution. President Trump is right not to follow his predecessor’s discredited path. The White House should continue issuing condemnations daily, including through Persian-language media outlets, and follow up with sanctions targeting corruption and human-rights abuses. Congress should rediscover its once-bipartisan determination to hold the regime accountable for its crimes and push America’s European allies to overcome their mercantile greed and support Iranians striving to be free from theocracy.

The Islamic Republic is a relic of a century that yielded multiple ideological regimes claiming to have mastered the forces of history. By now most of them are history. Mr. Trump entered office with an understanding of the Islamic Republic’s profound threat to American security. The most consequential legacy of his presidency may be a Middle East free of its most powerful unsavory regime.

Mr. Dubowitz is chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Mr. Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/irans-theocracy-is-on-the-brink-1514823059

Iran’s Protersters back in The Street At Nighfall Monday — Iranian people “hungry” for freedom

January 1, 2018

AFP

Latest update : 2018-01-01

Fresh protests broke out as night fell in Tehran on Monday, local media reported, a day after 10 people were killed in violence across the country.

The latest demonstrations came despite President Hassan Rouhani‘s vow that the nation would deal with “rioters and lawbreakers”.

US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticised Tehran over four days of demonstrations, said it was “time for a change” and that the Iranian people were “hungry” for freedom.

Restrictions remained on reporting inside Iran, but social media reported a heavy police presence on the streets of central Tehran as small groups of protesters were seen running and chanting anti-regime slogans.

It followed the deadliest night yet on Sunday as state television reported six people killed by gunfire in the western town of Tuyserkan, and a local lawmaker said two people had been shot dead in the southwestern town of Izeh.

Two others, including a teenage boy, were run down and killed by a fire engine protesters stole in the western town of Dorud, the state broadcaster said, bringing the total death toll in the protests to 12.

Rouhani tried to play down the unrest which began in second city Mashhad last Thursday and quickly spread across the country to become the biggest test for the regime since mass protests in 2009.

“This is nothing,” Rouhani said in a statement on the presidency website.

“Our nation will deal with this minority who chant slogans against the law and people’s wishes, and insult the sanctities and values of the revolution,” he said.

‘EXPECTATIONS [ABOUT ECONOMIC CHANGE] WERE NOT MANAGED’, SAYS FRANCE 24’S SANAM SHANTYAEI

Pro-regime rallies were held across several towns and cities, but videos on social media showed seemingly widespread anti-government protests on Sunday in cities including Kermanshah, Khorramabad and Shahinshahr.

A school for clergy and government buildings were torched in the northwestern town of Takestan and videos showed police using tear gas and water cannon to disperse a small protest in Tehran’s Enghelab Square on Sunday evening.

The authorities did not give details on who was responsible for the fatal shootings.

‘Country must have discipline’

The authorities have confirmed more than 400 arrests since the outbreak of the unrest, of whom around 100 have been freed.

Judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani joined Rouhani in warning against illegal action.

Image result for Judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, Iran, photos

Judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani

“Those who have rightful demands must be guided in lawful ways and those who riot and commit sabotage and chaos and set fire to public property… must be confronted decisively,” he told the state broadcaster.

“The country must have discipline,” Larijani added.

Image result for Judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, Iran, photos

Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani (R) with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei

Verifying rumours and videos remained challenging because of travel restrictions and sporadic blocks on mobile internet and popular social media sites including Telegram and Instagram.

The protests began as demonstrations against economic conditions in second city Mashhad on Thursday but quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole, with thousands marching in towns across Iran to chants of “Death to the dictator”.

Trump, a fierce critic of Tehran, used one of his first tweets of 2018 to again lash out at a favourite target.

“Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama administration,” Trump tweeted, referring to the nuclear pact agreed under his predecessor Barack Obama.

“The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!”

Living costs, unemployment

After initial silence, state media began showing some footage of the demonstrations on Sunday, focusing on young men attacking banks and vehicles, an attack on a town hall in Tehran and images of a man burning the Iranian flag.

Rouhani came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, but high living costs and a 12 percent unemployment rate have left many feeling that progress is too slow.

“We have no problem bigger than unemployment. Our economy needs an operation. We must all stand together,” Rouhani acknowledged on Monday.

The authorities have blamed external forces for fomenting violence, saying the majority of social media reports were emanating from regional rival Saudi Arabia or exile groups based in Europe.

Authorities ruthlessly put down the 2009 protests, which followed a disputed presidential election that gave hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term. At least 36 people were killed in the 2009 unrest, according to an official toll, while the opposition says 72 died.

In the years since, many middle-class Iranians have abandoned hope of securing change from the streets.

But low-level strikes and demonstrations have continued, with groups such as bus drivers, teachers and factory workers regularly protesting against unpaid wages and poor conditions.

(AFP)

Iran protesters rally again despite warning of crackdown

January 1, 2018

 

A handout photo provided by the office of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on December 31, 2017 shows Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani attending a cabinet meeting in the capital Tehran. (AFP)

LONDON: Anti-government protesters demonstrated in Iran on Sunday in defiance of a warning by authorities of a crackdown, extending for a fourth day one of the most audacious challenges to the clerical leadership since pro-reform unrest in 2009.

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Giving his first public reaction to the protests, President Hassan Rouhani appealed for calm, saying Iranians had the right to protest and criticize the authorities.
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But he warned, according to official media: “The government will show no tolerance for those who damage public properties, violate public order and create unrest in the society.”
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Tens of thousands of people have protested across the country since Thursday against the Islamic Republic’s government and clerical elite.
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Police in the center of Tehran fired water cannons to try to disperse demonstrators, according to pictures on social media.
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Demonstrations turned violent in Shahin Shahr in central Iran. Videos showed protesters attacking the police, turning over a car and setting it on fire. Reuters could not immediately verify the authenticity of the footage.
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There were also reports of demonstrations in the western cities of Sanandaj and Kermanshah as well as Chabahar in the southeast and Ilam and Izeh in the southwest.
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Demonstrators initially vented their anger over economic hardships and alleged corruption, but the protests took on a rare political dimension, with a growing number of people calling on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down.
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Iranian security forces appear to have shown restraint to avoid an escalation of the crisis. Two people have been killed and hundreds arrested.
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The protests were the biggest since unrest in 2009 that followed the disputed re-election of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
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Videos showed people in central Tehran chanting: “Down with the dictator!” in an apparent reference to Khamenei.
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Protesters in Khorramabad in western Iran shouted: “Khamenei, shame on you, leave the country alone!“
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The government said it would temporarily restrict access to the Telegram messaging app and Instagram, owned by Facebook Inc. , state television said. There were also reports that mobile access to the Internet was being blocked in some areas.
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“Iran, the Number One State of Sponsored Terror with numerous violations of Human Rights occurring on an hourly basis, has now closed down the Internet so that peaceful demonstrators cannot communicate.
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Not good!” US President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday.
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The White House said in a statement later on Sunday that the Iranian people’s “voices deserve to be heard.”
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“We encourage all parties to protect this fundamental right to peaceful expression and to avoid any actions that contribute to censorship,” the statement said.

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BREAKING TABOO

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An Iranian reached by telephone, who asked not to be named, said there was a heavy presence of police and security forces in the heart of the capital.
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“I saw a few young men being arrested and put into police van. They don’t let anyone assemble,” he said.
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A video showed a protester being arrested by police while a crowd shouted: “Police, go and arrest the thieves!” in the northwestern city of Khoy.
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In the western town of Takestan, demonstrators set ablaze a Shiite Muslim seminary and the offices of the local Friday prayers leader, state broadcaster IRIB’s website said. Police dispersed protesters, arresting some, ILNA news agency said.
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Demonstrators also shouted: “Reza Shah, bless your soul.” Such calls are evidence of a deep level of anger and break a taboo. The king ruled Iran from 1925 to 1941 and his Pahlavi dynasty was overthrown in a revolution in 1979 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s first leader.
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High prices, alleged corruption and mismanagement are fueling the anger. Youth unemployment reached 28.8 percent this year.
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Economic indexes have improved under Rouhani’s government and the economy is no longer in dire straits. But growth has been too slow for an overwhelmingly youthful population, far more interested in jobs and change than in the Islamist idealism and anti-Shah republicanism of the 1979 revolution.
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The demonstrations are particularly troublesome for Rouhani’s government because he was elected on a promise to guarantee rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
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His main achievement is a deal in 2015 with world powers that curbed Iran’s nuclear program in return for a lifting of most international sanctions. But it has yet to bring the economic benefits the government promised.
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Ali Asghar Naserbakht, deputy governor of Tehran province, was quoted as saying by ILNA that 200 protesters had been arrested on Saturday.
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’CARRIED AWAY BY EMOTIONS’
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Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi said some of those arrested had confessed “they were carried away by emotions and set fire to mosques and public buildings,” adding they would face severe punishment.
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“After giving thousands of martyrs for the Revolution, the nation will not return to dark era of Pahlavi rule,” he said.
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Police and Revolutionary Guards have in the past crushed unrest violently. The new protests could worry authorities more because they seem spontaneous and lack a clear leader.
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Yet analysts say Iran’s leaders believe they can count on support from many of the generation that took part as youths in the 1979 revolution because of their ideological commitment and the economic gains they have made under the government.
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In apparent response to the protests, the government backed down on plans to raise fuel prices, promised to increase cash handouts to the poor and create more jobs in coming years.
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“We predict that at least 830,000 jobs will be created in the new year,” government spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said on state television on Saturday night. He gave no details. About 3.2 million Iranians are jobless.
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Protesters also expressed anger over costly interventions in Syria and Iraq, where Iran is engaged in a proxy war for influence against regional rival Saudi Arabia.
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“Big protests in Iran,” Trump said in a tweet earlier on Sunday. “The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism.”
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Rouhani said the US president had no right to sympathize with Iranians since he “called the Iranian nation terrorists a few months ago.”