Posts Tagged ‘Rouhani’

Where is The Latest Iranian Revolution Headed?

January 13, 2018
BY JONATHAN SPYER
 JANUARY 13, 2018 07:47

The protests of the past two weeks are significant.

Where is the latest Iranian ‘revolution’ headed?

A WOMAN chants slogans during a protest against the visit of Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, outside the European Union Council in Brussels. (Francois Lenoir/Reuters). (photo credit: REUTERS/FRANCOIS LENOIR)
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It is still too soon to say that the wave has entirely spent itself. Demonstrations are still taking place, despite the IRGC’s announcement on Monday of an end to the unrest. In the cities of Sanandaj, Zahedan, Meybod, Abarkuh, Kordkuy, Aqqala, Alvand and Buin Zahra, among other centers, rallies were held. But the number of those attending the demonstrations is decreasing.

The wave of unrest was the most intensive to hit the country since 2009. Its details constitute evidence of broad alienation from the regime of a significant section of Iran’s youthful population. The unrest at its height spread to over 80 cities and towns. The average age among those arrested was 25. Demonstrators chanted anti-regime slogans and attacked facilities of the Basij paramilitaries and other regime-associated institutions.

Notably, Tehran’s costly policy of regional interference formed a focus for the protesters’ rage. Slogans such as “Leave Syria, think about us!” and “Death to Hezbollah!” were heard. More general anti-regime slogans, including “We don’t want an Islamic Republic” and “Death to the dictator” were also chanted by demonstrators.

The protests began in the pro-regime, conservative city of Mashhad. Their initial focus was new austerity measures introduced by President Hassan Rouhani. There is evidence that the initial instigators of the demonstrations were themselves from among the hard-line “principalist” opponents of Rouhani.

But these elements did not anticipate the rapid growth of the demonstrations or their intensity. The regime, clearly taken by surprise, reacted in

A NUMBER of conclusions can be drawn from the direction of events so far.

1. For those hoping for the downfall of the Islamist regime, a major absence in the Iranian context is that of a revolutionary “party.” This does not necessarily mean a formal political party but, rather, a revolutionary trend with a level of organization and popular appeal, a vision for the future and a broad strategy for defeating the Islamist regime. At present, nothing of this type exists in the Iranian context – neither as a network inside the country, nor as a widely respected focus on the outside.

Because of this absence, the 2009 protests, which were concerned with the apparently rigged reelection of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, were diverted through the election of the “moderate” Rouhani.

The current protests, meanwhile, which are economic in nature, may well be similarly diverted by a combination of a strong hand, some cosmetic concessions, and probably, ironically, also by the scapegoating of the “moderate” president.

Such diversionary moves are possible because of the dispersed and divided nature of the opposition. As long as no nucleus of political (and, probably, military) opposition to the regime emerges, it is difficult to see a way that a wave of unrest can smash the edifice of the Islamic Republic.

2. The regime has been keen, naturally, to blame the unrest on foreign agitators. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s Twitter feed suggested that a “pattern activating these events” was apparent. According to the supreme leader, a “scheme by the US and Zionists” with money from a “wealthy government near the Persian Gulf” (obviously Saudi Arabia) was responsible.

Given the Iranian regime’s penchant for interference in neighboring countries – with Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen chief among them – it is tempting to hope that the supreme leader’s fears are justified. There is, however, no actual evidence to support such a claim.

In US President Donald Trump’s recent speech outlining his national security strategy, he referred to Iran as “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism” and identified the need to “neutralize Iranian malign influence.”

One way to help the achievement of the latter goal would be to keep the Iranian home fires burning. Tehran foments unrest in neighboring countries in order to keep neighbors weak. There is now an opportunity to return the compliment. There are a variety of ways that this might be achieved – from ensuring that protesters and demonstrators remain organized and in communication with one another, to punitive means to disincentivize those countries and individuals assisting the regime in acquiring the means of repression.

3. Among the most difficult type of people to unseat from power through revolution are revolutionaries themselves – at least as long as the revolutionary elite does not begin to crumble from within. There are as yet no signs of this in Iran. Rather, the rising force within the elite is precisely that force most committed to the values of the Islamic Revolution of 1979 (and to spreading its influence into neighboring lands) – namely, the IRGC and associated hard-line figures.

The rising, militant elements within the regime were themselves participants as young men in the revolution of 1979. Even if there were a similarly determined and organized leadership seeking to make revolution against the Islamic Republic, it would find this cadre a tough nut to crack. And as we have seen above, currently there is not.

Nevertheless, the protests of the past two weeks are significant. They point to the sharp fissures within Iranian society and the extent to which the regime is detached from large sections of the population and its wants and needs.

The guardians of the Islamic Republic of Iran have in recent years proved masters at identifying and exploiting the fissures in neighboring societies. The field is now ripe for this process to turn into a two-way street, depending on the will and the ability of Iran’s opponents to recognize the opportunity and make use of it.

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Iran rejects any change to nuclear deal

January 13, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers could not be renegotiated

TEHRAN (AFP) – 

Iran on Saturday rejected any modification of its nuclear deal with world powers after US President Donald Trump demanded tough new measures to keep the agreement alive.

Iran “will not accept any amendments in this agreement, be it now or in the future, and it will not allow any other issues to be linked to the JCPOA,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, using the 2015 deal’s technical name.

Trump again waived nuclear-related sanctions on Friday — as required every few months to stay in the agreement — but demanded European partners work with the United States to “fix the deal’s disastrous flaws, or the United States will withdraw”.

He said the new deal should curb Iran’s missile programme and include permanent restrictions on Iran’s nuclear plants, removing expiration dates due to kick in after a decade.

But Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the 2015 deal could not be renegotiated.

“JCPOA is not renegotiable: rather than repeating tired rhetoric, US must bring itself into full compliance — just like Iran,” Zarif tweeted immediately after Trump’s speech.

The statement from his ministry further criticised new sanctions on 14 individuals announced by the US Treasury on Friday over human rights issues and Iran’s missile programme.

In particular, placing judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani on the sanctions list “crossed all red lines of conduct in the international community… and the government of the United States will bear responsibility for all the consequences of this hostile move”.

Iran argues that continued US sanctions on non-nuclear areas such as human rights and missile testing have effectively barred Iran from gaining many of the financial benefits expected from the deal.

Zarif has said Trump’s aggressive stance on the deal and Iran generally have also violated the commitment to “refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalisation of trade and economic relations with Iran” in the accord.

Related:

Iran rejects Trump’s demand for change in nuclear deal

January 13, 2018

Associated Press | 

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

TEHRAN: Iran says it won’t accept any changes to its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers after President Donald Trump vowed to pull out of the accord in a few months if European allies did not fix its “terrible flaws.”

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In a statement carried by the state-run IRNA news agency Saturday, the Foreign Ministry says Iran “will not accept any change in the deal, neither now nor in future,” adding that it will “not take any action beyond its commitments.”
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On Friday Trump extended the waivers of key economic sanctions that were lifted under the agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear program. But he said he would work with European allies to remove so-called “sunset clauses” that allow Iran to gradually resume advanced nuclear activities in the next decade.

Israel’s intelligence chief: Israel Has Eyes, Ears and Even More in Iran

January 9, 2018

Yossi Cohen says Iran’s economic woes are pushing people out into the streets, but one must temper expectations and that protesters are faced with opposing forces

By Tali Heruti-Sover Jan 09, 2018 1:42 PM
Haaretz

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Head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen in a committee meeting on June 8, 2017.

Head of the Mossad Yossi Cohen in a committee meeting on June 8, 2017. Emil Salman
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Mossad chief Yossi Cohen said Tuesday at a Treasury event that Israel “has eyes, ears and even more” in Iran. Cohen addressed the ongoing protests in Iran, saying that Iranian civlians are protesting the Islamic Republic’s current economic woes “because despite high expectations from the popular [President Hassan] Rohani, he has not managed in the eyes of a large part of the population to improve the economic situation.”

Cohen added that “this reality is pushing people out into the streets, but one must temper expectations. I would like to see a revolution, but the protesters are faced with opposing forces. Meanwhile, we are seeing that Iran is spending more and more on security in order to push its aspirations of spreading influence throughout the Middle East.”

According to Cohen, there have been dramatic changes in the U.S. understanding of the situation in the Middle East since the beginning of U.S. President Donald Trump’s term, as well as a process of strengthening ties between Israel and the U.S.

“We see a good change that may take Israeli security interests further into account, and by doing so it will help our struggle to change the direction of Iranian influence.”

On Sunday, the Israeli security cabinet convened for a long meeting on the situation on the Lebanese and Syrian borders. Senior Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, expressed concerns over developments on the northern front amid Iran’s growing influence in the region. Israel is also concerned about the replenishment of the Assad regime’s missile arsenal, which was almost entirely used up fighting the rebels, and the establishment of Iranian weapons plants in Syria and Lebanon

 

Tali Heruti-Sover
read more: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.833884

US security experts back Iran nuclear deal, as Trump faces deadlines

January 8, 2018

US President Donald Trump speaks about the Iran deal from the Diplomatic Reception room of the White House in Washington, DC. Trump announced he will not certify the Iran nuclear deal and warned that the US could leave the Iran deal ‘at any time.’ (AFP)

WASHINGTON: Retired US military officers, members of Congress and former US ambassadors were among 52 US national security experts who signed a letter released on Monday urging President Donald Trump’s administration not to jeopardize the international nuclear deal with Iran.

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Trump faces deadlines related to the deal starting late this week, including deciding whether to reimpose oil sanctions lifted under the 2015 agreement. He will make the decision as Iran’s government deals with protests over economic hardships and corruption.
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Signers of the letter, organized by the National Coalition to Prevent an Iranian Nuclear Weapon, included Richard Lugar, a former Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Paul O’Neill, who served as Treasury secretary under Republican President George W. Bush; Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency, and Admiral Eric Olson, former commander of Special Forces.
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“We support the rights of Iranian citizens to free speech and peaceful protest and we condemn the use of force against peaceful demonstrations,” the letter said.
“In responding to developments in Iran, now and in the future, the US should be careful not to take any steps that might undermine the JCPOA (nuclear agreement) which remains vital to US national security,” it said.

Iran president says he’s all-in on reform push after unrest — But many dismiss his pronouncements as “too late”

January 8, 2018
 
Eric Randolph | A handout picture provided by the office of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani shows him sitting next to Economy Minister Masoud Karbasian during a meeting on January 8, 2018

TEHRAN (AFP) – 

President Hassan Rouhani went all-in on Monday with a push for greater civil liberties in the wake of the deadly unrest that rocked Iran in recent days.

“The problem we have today is the gap between officials and the young generation,” he told officials, according to the presidency website.

“Our way of thinking is different to their way of thinking. Their view of the world and of life is different to our view. We want our grand-children?s generation to live as we lived, but we can’t impose that on them.”

It was a radical call to arms for change, one that has grown more pressing for the reformist faction as it became, for once, the target of the protests that swept the country for several days over the new year.

Although many of the slogans turned against the Islamic system as a whole, chants of “Death to Rouhani” showed that many had lost faith in his promise of gradual reform.

Since May, his failure to appoint any women to his cabinet or make any progress on freeing political prisoners has left many disillusioned with the moderate president and his reformist allies.

Rouhani was quick to say the unrest called for urgent efforts to improve the government’s transparency and liberalise its conservative-skewed media.

He said internet restrictions, including the block placed on Iran’s most popular social media app Telegram midway through the unrest, should “not be indefinite”.

“Saying that the complaints of the population are limited to economic questions is an insult and will send us down the wrong path,” he said Monday.

The reformist faction has backed this line, with many calling for greater freedom to protest peacefully.

Monday’s reformist papers all focused on the Tehran city council decision to set aside a dedicated place for protests on the model of Hyde Park in London or Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.

But many dismissed the idea as a gimmick.

“What about other cities?” wrote conservative analyst Nasser Imani in the government’s Iran newspaper.

“The main problem is we lack a culture of criticism,” he said, calling for the security forces to “gradually have less fear of people’s rallies”.

– ‘Are demands not clear?’ –

Hardliners, who have repeatedly attacked Rouhani’s austerity policies, say all the talk of civil liberties is a distraction from the “simple problems” of the poor.

“Are the demands not clear? Why must a worker who has not been paid for 10 months go to a certain place to shout for his rights?” demanded the hardline Kayhan newspaper on Monday.

There was an unprecedented intervention from the head of the basij — the volunteer arm of the Revolutionary Guards — who called for “convincingly tangible” efforts to fix the budget in favour of the “young, disadvantaged and vulnerable”.

To Rouhani’s chagrin, the budget he announced in December has become the first victim of the protests, with parliamentarians already ruling out the unpopular hike in fuel and utility prices.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani described the increases as “absolutely not in the interests of the country”.

He called instead for emergency measures to support the poor and tackle unemployment, which currently stand at 12 percent, and closer to 30 percent for young people.

Rouhani has bristled under the criticism, saying Monday: “The task of parliament is to complete the budget, not to change the nature of its objectives.”

Iran’s limited finances simply could not deal with everything at once, he said: limiting inflation, capping taxes, reducing unemployment and looking after the poor.

“I don’t know a single economist with the wider public interest in mind who denies the need to increase fuel prices,” said reformist Abdollah Ramezanzadeh in a tweet.

Rouhani vowed to mend Iran’s battered economy during his campaign, and said the 2015 nuclear deal he secured from world powers had already relieved the country of crippling sanctions and allowed growth to return.

But with much of the resulting growth coming from oil sales — which produces few jobs — and renewed uncertainty about Iran’s international position since the arrival of US President Donald Trump, his wider policies look imperilled.

by Eric Randolph

Anti-regime protests continue in Iran — Despite Supreme Leaders Saying It Was Over — The uprising is “deep-rooted” and “the regime is doomed.”

January 5, 2018

Iranian opposition groups hold a demonstration in support of protests in Iranian cities outside the prime minister’s residence in London on Thursday. (AN photo)

JEDDAH/LONDON: Anti-regime protests in Iran continued Thursday as the country’s London-based Nobel Peace Laureate Shirin Ebadi came out in support of the demonstrators.

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“If the government has not listened to you for 38 years, your role has become to ignore what the government says to you now,” Asharq Al-Awsat, a sister publication of Arab News, quoted Ebadi as saying in an interview published Thursday.
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She said Iranians should stay on the streets, and the constitution gives them the right to protest.
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In a separate interview with Reuters, Ebadi urged the US and international community to support the nationwide protests with political sanctions and not economic measures that could hit the general population.
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Hours later, Washington imposed sanctions on five Iranian companies it alleges are working on part of Iran’s illegal ballistic missile program.
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Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin linked the measure to ongoing anti-government protests, arguing that Iran ought to spend more on public welfare rather than banned weapons.
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“As the Iranian people suffer, their government and the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp) fund foreign militants, terrorist groups, and human rights abuses,” he said.
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The US also requested a UN Security Council emergency meeting on the unrest in Iran to be held on Friday, diplomats said. Washington asked that the meeting be scheduled at 3 p.m. (2000 GMT).
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In London, Iranian opposition groups gathered outside Prime Minister Theresa May’s residence to call for the UK government to support protesters in Iran.
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The protests in Iran, which began because of economic hardships suffered by the young and the working class, have evolved into an uprising against the powers and privileges of a remote elite, especially Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
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Even though the regime is playing down the protests, analysts and opposition figures said there has been no let-up in the demonstrations.
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“If anything, the uprising is gaining momentum and the protests are intensifying,” Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program, told Arab News.
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“Despite Khamenei’s insistence that anti-regime protests are dying down, the Iranian people in different cities are still taking to the streets,” Shahbandar said.
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“Dozens of cities are still seeing clashes between peaceful protesters and the regime’s security forces. We can expect mass protests on Friday. This regime is in serious trouble as the uprising enters its second week.”
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Shahriar Kia, a human rights activist, political analyst and People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) member, told Arab News that it is “ridiculous” of the regime to claim that the protests are dying down.
“The regime wants to boost the morale of its demoralized forces. It’s simply wishful thinking on its part,” he said.
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“Despite the regime’s brutality, the protests have continued and as of today, we’re receiving reports of protests from across the country,” he said. “The Iranian people are determined to continue the protests with a view to achieving victory,” Kia said.
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“Of course, this isn’t a straight road and one would expect ups and downs, but the protesters won’t give up until the regime is overthrown,” he said.
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The protests spreading to 115 cities, the speed at which they turned political, and the slogans chanted by protesters, demonstrate that the uprising is “deep-rooted” and “the regime is doomed,” Kia said.
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Shirin Ebadi on Iran protests: ‘Government cannot silence the hungry forever’

January 5, 2018

Anti-government protests in Iran have grabbed global headlines over the past several days. In a DW interview, Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi urges Iranians to pressure Tehran to hold a referendum on their political future.

Iran, Teheran, Protest (Getty Images)

The unrest in Iran in recent days has turned the world’s attention to the state of affairs in the Islamic theocracy. At least 21 people have died and hundreds have been arrested since December 28, as protests over economic woes turned into anger against the regime, with attacks on government buildings and police stations.

Iran’s political establishment has closed ranks against the unrest, with even reformists condemning the violence. The government, and above all Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has insisted that the protests are being orchestrated from outside the country.

The government has reported that it has put an end to the “sedition,” and Thursday saw massive pro-government marches and a very heavy police presence across the country.

Meanwhile, online messaging and photo sharing platforms Telegram and Instagram have been blocked on mobile phones, having been interrupted soon after protests began. At the request of the United States, the UN Security Council is holding an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the wave of protests in Iran.

In an interview with DW, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi spoke about the demonstrations and the political reform process in Iran.

DW: Anti-government protests in Iran seem to have waned, due to the massive presence of security forces everywhere. Do you believe these demonstrations have the potential to turn into a major movement?

Shirin Ebadi: The presence of the Iranian people on the nation’s streets is supported by the rights guaranteed to them by the constitution of Iran. According to the constitution, marches and gatherings do not require permission. But the Iranian government has always ignored the rights of the people. At the moment, because of the suppression and violence of the government, the presence of people on the streets has diminished.

But I must say that in the small towns, people are still out on the streets demonstrating. Even those that have returned to their homes will go back on to the streets again and that time is not far away.

They will shout openly that they are idle, hungry and lacking economic prospects. The government cannot silence the hungry forever and have to listen to the people.

The vast majority of society has not joined hands with the anti-government protesters. The middle class has stayed away and remains skeptical. Why?

Iranische Anwältin und Menschenrechtsaktivistin Shirin Ebadi (picture alliance/Photoshot/ Luciano Movio/Sintesi)Ebadi: ‘My recommendation to the people is to avoid violence, but to use their legal rights and to raise pressure on the government’

The middle class has supported the protests in their own way. But the political leadership was in the hands of neither the middle class nor the economic elites.

The elites supported the protests by publishing a statement. Human rights defenders, lawyers and writers issued statements in support of the protesters. Some artists expressed their support, too. But do not forget that the popular uprising was intense this time round, as people protesting on the streets had nothing to lose. In contrast, people who have something to lose are always more cautious. The middle class has not starved like the people coming on to the streets. But they also backed the protests.

In Iran, it appears that most people are dissatisfied about the present state of affairs, but many say they don’t see an alternative to the current political set up. As a human rights activist, what in your view should be the first steps that government has to pursue to reform the political system?

There are clear demands. The Iranian people want a referendum held freely under the auspices of the United Nations to express their demands and say what kind of government they want.

Read more: Opinion: Is the end near for Iran’s theocracy?

It is natural that the government did not care for the demand of referendum until now. But people must peacefully address their demands by engaging in a civil struggle and pressuring the government to hold a vote and implement the will of the people.

My recommendation to the people is to avoid violence, but to use their legal rights and to raise pressure on the government. For example, if they have money in the bank, they should withdraw the money from the bank. Such a move would damage the economics of the state banks – and they would get to the brink of bankruptcy.

Or do not pay for water, gas, taxes and municipality services to pressure the government economically. This form of non-violent protest is not dangerous, because no one is killed or arrested, but the government is under pressure and forced to give in to the will of the people.

Shirin Ebadi is an Iranian lawyer, a former judge and human rights activist. For her contributions to democracy and human rights, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.

The interview was conducted by Shabnam von Hein.

http://www.dw.com/en/shirin-ebadi-on-iran-protests-government-cannot-silence-the-hungry-forever/a-42039279

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
Haaretz

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
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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

Image may contain: 1 person, beard, eyeglasses and hat

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.

Really?

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
read more: https://www.haaretz.com/middle-east-news/iran/.premium-1.833155

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