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The Iranian Protests

Protests broke out [1] in several cities across Iran last week:

The demonstrations began Thursday to oppose high unemployment and rising costs, including a 40 percent jump in the price of eggs. But they swiftly expanded to take on a system many protesters have said is corrupt.

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

At least two protesters have been killed [2] so far. The protests obviously show some significant discontent with the regime and economic conditions inside Iran, and frustration with both may have been made worse by unmet rising expectations. Based on initial reports, it appears that there is also some dissatisfaction with the government’s diversion of resources to foreign conflicts rather than using them at home. It remains to be seen how representative these protests are and how enduring they will be.

The key thing that U.S. politicians and policymakers need to keep in mind is that internal protests in Iran are not about us, and they are not an “opportunity” for us to exploit. The U.S. should publicly say as little as possible about the protests except to condemn the use of force against peaceful protesters, and it should not otherwise attempt to insert itself into the situation or interfere. There is not much that the U.S. could practically do in any case, and none of it would be helpful or constructive. The Trump administration in particular has no credibility with Iranians, and any expressions of support it offers are likely both unwanted by and harmful to the intended recipients. The administration cannot ban Iranians from the U.S. at the start of the year, and then suddenly pretend that it respects them and supports their aspirations at the end. It will be a serious error if the Trump administration concludes that the U.S. needs to “make up” for Obama’s handling of the Green movement protests, but after eight years of hawkish myth-making they might do exactly that. It would be far wiser and better for the U.S. and the Iranian people if our government allowed events in Iran to unfold without comment from Washington.

22 Comments (Open | Close)

22 Comments To "The Iranian Protests"

#1 Comment By Happy New Year Hopefully On December 31, 2017 @ 11:00 am

Yes, the last thing we need is an American-style f***-up in Iran like those in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen.

Iran is a big, serious country, and meddling in its political problems will bring even bigger and more serious consequences than our earlier and still-ongoing Middle East disasters – consequences and costs that we can’t afford to pay for and are incompetent to cope with.

#2 Comment By Ark712 On December 31, 2017 @ 11:14 am

I fully expect within the next few days there will be a set of articles from the Conservative Echosphere proclaiming Trump’s brilliant strategy of supporting the Iranian protests, which will be crushed, are a vast improvement of Obama’s failure to support protests that were crushed in 2009.

#3 Comment By liberal On December 31, 2017 @ 12:09 pm

Was waiting for DL to chime in.

Not unexpectedly, he said exactly what needs to be said.

#4 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On December 31, 2017 @ 12:13 pm

There are wheels within wheels here, and I don’t trust the view from Tel Aviv we so often get.

Talk softly, TR said. Good advice still.

#5 Comment By EliteCommInc. On December 31, 2017 @ 1:00 pm

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

‘nough said.

#6 Comment By Youknowho On December 31, 2017 @ 1:32 pm

I pointed out when they were complaining that Obama did not support the 2009 protests that such protests might be a death sentence for the protesters, being branded as U.S. puppets.

Wait and see is the best option. And do not make empty noise that will make the situation worse.

#7 Comment By Lenny On December 31, 2017 @ 1:57 pm

Bibi instructed his ministers to avoid making comments about Iran

Trump would be wise to do the same. Is he?

#8 Comment By TheRoosterLives On December 31, 2017 @ 2:02 pm

Nicely written.
The idea we can “make up” for mistakes of nearly a decade ago is impossible b/c its not the same protest. No need to do anything now but be prepared if there is regime change and allow and 3rd party to begin talks w/ whomever comes put of this. Any direct US intervention will only create distrust of the protesters w/ avg Iranians and cause their downfall.
Summary: if Iranians want change they will need to fight and die for it themselves.

#9 Comment By Mark VA On December 31, 2017 @ 2:10 pm

Persia is an ancient and sophisticated civilization that predates Islam by about a millennium;

Persians of today, if they wish, can draw on this rich civilizational heritage to interpret Islam in its light, rather than the other way around. Such a rare opportunity is available to only some of their co-religionists from other lands;

I think we, the outsiders, can beneficially comment on the aspirations of many Iranians today, if what we say is informed, non-inflammatory, and respectful of the universal aspects of Persian history.

#10 Comment By b. On December 31, 2017 @ 2:19 pm

“It remains to be seen how representative these protests are and how enduring they will be.”

Victoria Nuland might have a relevant e-mail to be leaked. I am sure that, now that we made it “known” the sanctions are working, there will be more of them – given that collective punishment is producing a good deal of “Good Deal” in Yemen.

#11 Comment By IranMan On December 31, 2017 @ 3:18 pm

Great commentary as always. One aspect of these demonstrations/unrest that do not appear in the Western media is the regime’s behind the scenes hand in organizing/controlling such events. There are no slogans shouted by the demonstrators that have not been heard sine the last demonstrations or endlessly argued among the Iranians in their gatherings at home, in taxis, etc. The fact these demonstrations started in Mashhad (Mash-had) is very curious since that where the next Iran’s president, Raisee, may come from. The demonstrations were suppose to focus on economic travails of the Iranian people during Rowhani’s administration, and for the Raisee camp to promise they’ll fix them. The addition of the political slogans is a given. Nothing happens in Iran without political commentary.

Unfortunately the US, regardless of the so-called president Trump’s stupid commentary, has lost all credibility in Iran. I’m sure the regime is hoping for any sing of assistance by the US to start clamping down more seriously.

In short, the regime is using these events as a pressure cooker release valve.

#12 Comment By Mia On December 31, 2017 @ 4:38 pm

You are right, of course, but also note Trump’s double standard. For the NFL protests, which was hardly even disrespectful and was pointing out serious concerns, Trump pushed for boycotts and NFL owners to fire them. But now that it’s happening on foreign soil, Trump’s all for it, isn’t he? There needs to be a lot more self-examination going on in the US over what we mean by freedom and how we define things here versus “over there.” We can’t even ask for an honest conversation over here with a peaceful protest without being labeled malcontents who need to be punished…but protests are great overseas.

#13 Comment By Ark712 On December 31, 2017 @ 4:59 pm

In response to my earlier comment at 11:14 am. It didn’t even take a day.


#14 Comment By Fran Macadam On December 31, 2017 @ 6:18 pm

Protests don’t necessarily imply fatal regime weakness. After all, western democracies “enjoy” them all the time. Seems we had massive ones after the last election ourselves. Or after the police arrest someone. Some of ours result in extensive property damage, mass arrests and even death. Or were those organized by the Russians? Or Soros? LOL

#15 Comment By BobS On December 31, 2017 @ 8:56 pm

IranMan, I agree that this is not quite the event (inside of Iran) that western media is making it out to be. However, it will be exploited by the US to rationalize our unilaterally abrogating the nuclear treaty and to pressure other governments to levee sanctions.
I’ve tried to keep an open mind with respect to ‘Russia-gate’, but when I look at the way the Trump administration is systematically alienating historic allies (and seemingly delivering all of Eurasia to China and Russia) while at the time doing what it can to undermine confidence in the FBI, I do wonder at the motivation.
I’m predicting that at some point in the next 3 years (possibly when the General Assembly votes to admit Palestine) the Trump administration withholds US funding to the UN, whereupon China readily comes up with the ‘chump-change’ that will increase it’s influence even more.

#16 Comment By Realist On January 1, 2018 @ 3:18 am

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

That is is true, but the US can never resist an opportunity to get involved in other countries affairs. As a matter of fact the CIA is probably behind the protests.

#17 Comment By Hexexis On January 1, 2018 @ 2:22 pm

“And do not make empty noise that will make the situation worse.”

Unfortunately, we have a President who’s made a career of empty noise (go Google his 1980s threats to buy majority stock in big companies; only to sell what little he did have when the price of the stock rocketed for a day or two). For all we know, Pres. Trump still thinks Iran’s holding U.S. embassy hostages: he remains obsessed w/ all the Ford-Carteresque bad news of the 1970s; his first years running Trump Org.

#18 Comment By rayray On January 1, 2018 @ 9:53 pm

And you have the famous story with Trump and the USFL where his hot air and animus literally bankrupted a league.

And we all know the stories of how his “business genius” ended up destroying dozens and dozens of Real Estate partners over the years – to the point where no American real estate investor will get near him.

#19 Comment By Dan Green On January 2, 2018 @ 10:05 am

Best we review what went wrong supporting killing both Saddam and Gaddafi . That didn’t pan out.

#20 Comment By Moi On January 2, 2018 @ 11:09 am

Sorry, Daniel, but we don’t do noninterference.

#21 Comment By rayray On January 2, 2018 @ 1:25 pm

@Dan Green
What are you talking about? Halliburton did great.

#22 Comment By Taras 77 On January 2, 2018 @ 1:33 pm

Excellent advice in article!
Not at all confident that neocons in admin/foreign policy establishment can resist meddling at high risk of making matters much worse-it is in neocon dna;
same for mossad, netinyahoo’s lies notwithstanding.