On the dawn of a new year, here’s a look at Iran’s protest outburst in 2018

Al Arabiya

Year 2018 was like no other for the Iranian regime, beginning with massive protests and a nationwide uprising. While these protests have vanished from mainstream media headlines, they have certainly not ceased.

This ongoing movement came to life with the most serious and biggest opposition demonstrations since 2009, shaking the very pillars of this regime and signaling a society – described as a powder keg – ready to explode and bring an end to the clerics’ rule. This also sent a message to the international community, especially Washington, about the Iranian regime’s domestic vulnerability.

Cross-hairs shifting

Back in 2009, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was able to relevantly distance himself from the protesters’ wrath. In 2018, however, the Iranian people have brazenly taken their gloves off in their hallmark chants:
“Reformists, hardliners, GAME OVER”
“Death to Khamenei”

The streets of Iran have reached boiling point due to the accumulation of the regime’s failing domestic, economic and foreign policies. Ordinary Iranians are losing their purchasing power and reports indicate over 80 percent of the people are living below the poverty line.

An interesting hypocrisy on Tehran’s part is seen in officials’ invitation of the mass public to a “resistance economy,” while continuing their highly expensive foreign policy of providing support for dictators and terrorist groups such as Bashar Assad in Syria, the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen.

All the while, despite the claims made by the Iranian regime and its foreign-based pundits, the source of their miseries is crystal clear for the Iranian people, as voiced in their meaningful slogans.
“Our enemy is right here; they lie and say it’s America”

Bigger picture

Mashhad, a religious city in northeast Iran, was the launching pad of Iran’s 2018 protests, with protests initially focusing on economic dilemmas such as unemployment, poverty and skyrocketing prices.

Ever since, protests are snowballing across the country and knocking on the regime’s doors in Tehran, the capital. While demonstrators began targeting economic policies implemented by the government, Khamenei is feeling in the heat as protesters – including workers, college students, teachers, truck drivers, nurses and people from all walks of life – protest the country’s corrupt political system to the very top.

This is unveiling the very fragile nature of Iran’s regime, especially with US sanctions beginning to tighten the noose around the regime, mainly in regards to its funding of proxy forces across the Middle East.

Khamenei’s charade of blaming enemies was never welcomed by the Iranian people, particularly after witnessing billions go to arming sectarian militias across the region and fuel wars deemed unpopular by the Iranian people.
“Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, My life for Iran”
“Let go of Syria, think about us”

Main cause

US sanctions are finding their place in Khamenei’s speeches time and again, especially after Washington withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal back in May of 2018. Iran’s currency, the rial, has collapsed, to a point losing more than 80 percent of its value even prior to US President Donald Trump’s landmark decision. This goes to prove the regime’s policies, corruption and economic mismanagement are the main cause of the people’s suffering.

While Iran’s regime may claim otherwise, economic crisis in Tehran is the result of the “corrupt dictatorship” that has stolen billions of dollars from the public to spend on its Middle East adventures, ballistic missile proliferation and a controversial nuclear program.

Khamenei has learned his lessons both in 2009 and in 2018, hearing the people chanting for his fall and seeing his images burned in alleys across the country. A stark difference in 2018 is the harsh reality that Iran’s lower class – whom the regime claims to have support among – is furious over poor living conditions and are demanding change.

Protesters hold up letters, spelling “Human Rights,” during a rally to demand the release of political prisoners in Iran as part of a “Global day of action” in Berlin on July 25, 2009. (AFP)

 

With Tehran’s former mayor indirectly once saying this regime only represents four percent of the society, Khamenei’s concerns are real and his only solution are increased oppression. Khamenei has no doubt who is behind these protests.

“The incidents were organized” and carried out by the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran [PMOI/MEK], he said in January, although using a different term. “The [MEK] had prepared for this months ago” and “the [MEK’s] media outlets had called for it.”

In an attempt to contain the escalating protests, French President Emmanuel Macron was asked by his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani to take action against the PMOI/MEK in France, describing them as the force fomenting the ongoing strife. The French President declined.

The undeniable

As we speak, people from all walks of life are joining the ranks of those protesting this regime’s rule in one way or another. Even bazaar merchants, who played a significant role in the 1979 revolution, have launched numerous strikes to voice their opposition to the status quo.

Considered a center for conservatives in Iranian politics, Khamenei cannot deny that he and his regime have lost the support of not only the bazaar, workers, what is left of the middle class and … All the while, the lower class, while growing in numbers, are also growing in anger. This poses an undeniable threat for the ruling regime in 2019.

As the US further escalates sanctions against Tehran, the month of May signals the end of the six-month oil embargo waivers provided to eight countries importing Iranian oil. Should Washington decide to tighten the screw on Tehran, the regime’s economic woes will avalanche.

Iran’s ruling clerics may attempt to save face with claims such as closing the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf, where one third of the world’s shipping oil transits. All the while, Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guards are fully aware of the simmering fire of protests in the epicenter of every major city across the country.

Certain for 2019 is the fact that the Iranian people will further realize this regime is weakening. This will embolden their demands and increase the number and geography of protests across Iran.

The most potent force

The more protests in Iran, the more the international community will realize the regime is weakening to the point of no return. As Tehran’s economic isolation escalates, the more the people will see windows of major protests opening.

This is a deadly formula for the Iranian regime, evolving and expanding from 2018 to 2019, making this upcoming 12 months a year of promising developments for the Iranian people.

The longer Tehran continues the current freefall into economic crisis, the more current protests will transform into the most potent force functioning toward establishing meaningful change within Iran.

ANALYSIS: What Iran fears even more than sanctions

Al Arabiya

Tensions in Iran’s society are running high due to increasing poverty, skyrocketing prices and unemployment, alongside escalating oppression. Public anger is on the rise due to drastic economic/social pressures and we are reaching the tipping point. This is far more alarming for those sitting on the throne in Tehran.

Schoolteachers, truck drivers, storeowners, farmers, sugar mill and steel workers are among the various branches of Iran’s restive society continuing to protest, launch long-term strikes and raise their demands in significant fashion.

Considering the fact that more than 80 percent of Iranians are living in poverty, there is no doubt these movements will evolve into a new uprising of unprecedented proportions.

Senior Iranian regime officials are fully aware of this developing reality on the ground. Not being in sync with the 21st century or the Iranian society, the only “solution” they deem possible is to increase their crackdown.

This will only fuel the fire already simmering deep within the Iranian populace.

Growing tension

The latest round of nationwide strikes, including launched by Iran’s hardworking truck drivers, have expanded to over 75 cities in at least 24 of Iran’s 31 provinces. Further concerning for officials and authorities is the support truckers enjoy among people from all walks of life.

Adding to the regime’s troubles are protests heard from the international community in response to its oppressive measures. Amnesty International has raised concern over the mass arrest campaign and secret executions launched by authorities in Khuzestan Province of southwest Iran.

Since 24 September, up to 600 Ahwazi Arabs have been detained incommunicado in a wave of arrests following a deadly armed attack that took place in Ahvaz, Khuzestan province, two days earlier.

“If confirmed, the secret executions of these men would be not only a crime under international law but also an abhorrent violation of their right to life and a complete mockery of justice, even by the shocking standards of Iran’s judicial system,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

The situation across the country is reaching a certain dangerous climax, a conglomerate of:

– Human rights violations and continuing crackdown,

– Poor economic management and institutionalized plundering of people’s wealth by state-linked institutions,

– A significant decrease in production due to skyrocketing imports,

– Officials neglecting vast poverty and the people’s needs, parallel to increasing unemployment,

– Adopting temporary remedies for the currency market while those linked to the regime are taking advantage of the mayhem and making huge profits.

Sounds of alarm

In Iran, members of parliament should not be considered the people’s representatives. Considering the fact that the Guardian Council (with strong links to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei) vets electoral candidates, these so-called MPs are merely seeking their own interests.

“Mr. President, what is your agenda for the teachers’ living conditions? And what have you done?” asked Shadmehr Kazemzadeh, a parliament member in a recent session.

Another member shouted in response, “Nothing! Nothing!”

The main concerns lies in the fact that the regime lacks any answers in response to escalating popular protests.

“Mr. Speaker, we were with the people for a few days and we had no answers for them in regards to economic issues, regarding skyrocketing prices… the truth is people are having problems in their lives,” said Haji Doleigani, another parliament member.

Push comes to shove

It is common knowledge in Iran that Khamenei enjoys a certain influence over the parliament, aka the Majlis. If there is even an iota of support in the Majlis for Rouhani’s government, this is not equivalent to a white check.

The factional disputes are the result of each current pointing fingers at others for the country’s dilemmas, all in fear of an escalation in public upheaval. Yet when push comes to shove, all government, provincial, city, town and village officials are in one front in the face of any security development threatening the regime.

Currently the media is mainly focusing on how US sanctions will influence the future of Iran. While doing so, it is necessary to remind ourselves the main reason for the Iranian people’s ongoing sufferings – being the regime – and the subject senior regime officials fear most, being protests by the people.

Mojtaba Zolnour, Majlis member from the city of Qom in central Iran, made interesting remarks in a recent TV interview.

“Today, in a period of sanctions, if we ask ourselves have we made progress or failed to do so, it would be a lie to claim we are making advancements. Why are we cloaking our incompetence behind the wall of sanctions?”

Protests in Iran have reached a point of no return. While the ruling may seek to wait out US sanctions in the hope of US President Donald Trump failing reelection in November 2020, it has no answers for Iran’s powder keg society.

Iran: Understanding the truck drivers’ nationwide strike

Al Arabiya

From September 23 we have been witnessing a new round of strikes launched by truck drivers throughout Iran and the movement quickly gaining a nationwide spirit. This is the fourth episode of such protests by truck drivers and owners in the past four months alone.

Understanding the potentially crippling impact of these strikes, able to literally bring the Iranian regime’s economy to a standstill and force it to its knees, a senior Iranian regime official on Saturday resorted to accusing the drivers of committing crimes and even voicing threats of execution for those continuing these protest strike.

This alarming development in itself resembles the Iranian regime’s very fragile rule and the days of Tehran’s rulers coming to an end.

Slow start

The first round of this protest movement was witnessed on May 22nd. Of course, Iranian regime officials resorted to their known tactics of deception and hollow promises, allowing authorities to bring this strike to an end on June 8th.

As the World Cub began during this period, news report shifted away from these protests. However, the truckers’ strike registered their demands and paved the path for the second round of such protests beginning in late July.

It is interesting how this second round of protests and strikes by Iran’s truck drivers made its way into joining the second major episode of the Iranian people’s nationwide uprising. The cities of Shapur in Isfahan Province, Karaj, Shiraz and Rasht were hosts to the most significant protests.

August 11th marked the day when this second round of the truckers’ nationwide strike in Iran began fading. All the while, the Iranian people’s protest movement made two specific advances with other branches of society joining the strike, including railway workers, and major rallies regaining force in the cities of Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Karaj, Arak, Homayunshahr, Ahvaz, Qahederijan, Mashhad, Najaf and Qarchak.

All these developments acted as yet another reminder and wake-up call for Iranian regime authorities regarding the potential of such protests and how the Iranian people’s uprising continues to pose a major threat for the entire regime.

The Iranian truckers’ third round of protests showed how this movement has the ability or organize, plan and pursue their demands. (File photo: Reuters)

 

Advances

In the second round of their nationwide strike, Iranian truck drivers were able to – without issuing a public call to coordinate their measures – boost the Iranian nation’s uprising a major step forward.

Protests across many cities continued, reminding the general public and the world of how the Iranian regime cannot provide for the population’s basic needs. Employees of the renowned Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company in Khuzestan Province were able to force their employers to appoint their desired representatives to the company council.

The Iranian truckers’ third round of protests showed how this movement has the ability or organize, plan and pursue their demands in a very coordinated manner. This approach impacting the Iranian people’s broader protests, injecting an organized spirit and resulting in new concerns for the ruling clerical regime.

Launching on August 25th, the trucker’s third round of this nationwide strike saw the drivers expanding their organized protests from loading terminals to holding rallies outside of provincial town halls.

While Iranian authorities were able to yet again resort to deceptive measures to bring an end to the truckers’ new protests, September 23rd marked the latest re-launch of this initiative. Amazingly, this movement has spread to over 250 cities across the country in the span of just one week.

Concerning now for the regime is the undeniable political crisis engulfing the Iranian regime alongside the general public’s living conditions sinking to drastic and intolerable lows.

Conclusion

The Iranian people are proving time and again that the Dec/Jan uprising is very much alive and active. Truck drivers across Iran, continuing their nationwide strike, are playing a major role – at times described as an engine – keeping this movement up and running, and igniting further hope in the society.

Without a doubt this protest movement has proven its potential of sparking massive nationwide protests and launching an uprising against the ruling clerics.

The past four months are proving that the circumstances inside Iran have the potential of transforming even the simplest civil protests into major political rallies shaking the very pillars of this regime.

And considering the increasing nature of sanctions against Iran’s clerical rulers and their entire apparatus, this regime will never again have the capacity to overcome this growing wave of social unrest and dissent.

Warmongering Iran and its mounting regional and international isolation

Al Arabiya

The international and regional isolation against Iran is once again becoming a concern for the regime.

Global condemnations over a recent attack on Iraq-based Kurdish dissident groups and the executions of three Kurdish political prisoners resulted in a variety of rebukes concerning Tehran’s warmongering policies in the Middle East and their terrorism in the West.

As a result, the clerical regime is becoming weaker on the international stage like never before. Important now is how to evolve and raise the level to benefit the Iranian people.

Regional troubles

Last Monday, US Vice President Mike Pence condemned Iran’s missile attack in Iraqi Kurdistan. One day later, US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert added to this condemnation by describing the Iranian regime as a disrupting element in the region and a bad actor across the globe.

On that note, Iran’s malign influence in Syria came under fire in the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday as members warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib, the last area where Syrian opposition forces and millions of displaced civilians are located.

France, the Netherlands, Kuwait and Turkey called for a complete halt to military attacks by the Iran-backed Bashar Assad regime and Russia. US Ambassador Nikki Haley upped the tone against Russia, Iran and Assad, accusing these parties of not showing any interesting in reaching a political solution. Iran’s role in Assad’s bloody attacks will not go unnoticed, she warned.

Europe threatened

The Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) shed new light on the regime’s terror apparatus. At a press conference held in London on Wednesday, the NCRI provided new details over Tehran’s terrorist activities in the Green Continent, calling on European countries to close the Iranian regime’s embassies, as they are being used by Tehran as nests for their spies, and expel Iranian regime operatives from their soil.

Members of the British Houses of Lords and Commons took part in this press conference, emphasizing on the necessity to have Iran’s Vienna-based diplomat and other elements, arrested for their role in plotting to bomb the June 30th Iranian opposition convention in Paris, face justice. One MP presented a plan to the British Parliament condemning Iran’s terrorist activities in Europe.

Arab action

The Arab League also pitched in by condemning the Iranian regime’s meddling in regional countries. The 150th Arab League session ended this week with the Foreign Ministers Committee issuing a statement expressing grave concerns over Tehran’s provoking religions sectarianism in the Middle East.

The statement also condemned the Iranian regime’s support for Yemen’s Houthi militias and their launching of ballistic missiles into Saudi Arabia.

Interesting are the incoherent remarks heard form Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi, denying Tehran’s meddling and claiming this regime has “constantly called for a neighborly policy based on trust!”

Unprecedented tone

After enjoying eight years of unbridled appeasement from the United States under the Obama administration, eyebrows began raising in Tehran again after Washington held this regime responsible for any attack by its proxies in Iraq against U.S. interests.

The Trump White House issued a statement warning it will “respond swiftly and decisively” to any such attacks that render injury to Americans or damage to US facilities. The statement by the White House press secretary raised bold accusations against Iran of not preventing recent attacks targeting the US Consulate in Basra and the American Embassy compound in Baghdad.

A view of the Arab League headquarters during a meeting in Cairo on November 19, 2017. (AFP)

 

“Iran did not act to stop these attacks by its proxies in Iraq, which it has supported with funding, training, and weapons,” the statement reads.

“The United States will hold the regime in Tehran accountable for any attack that results in injury to our personnel or damage to United States Government facilities. America will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of American lives,” the statement adds.

On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian went a step further by emphasizing on Iraq’s sovereignty, and expressing grave concerns about Tehran’s missile program development and the transfer of these weapons across the region.

To add insult to injury and despite the Iranian regime’s claims of being able to confront US sanctions, the regime’s OPEC envoy is heard complaining over how Saudi Arabia and Russia are increasing their oil production.

This will eventually balance the oil market and make up for the loss of Iranian oil following the November 4 sanctions Washington has in schedule for Tehran. More insulting is how Russia is treating the Iranian regime even after Tehran’s rulers literally sold-out the Caspian Sea to Moscow.

Final thoughts

The status quo is quite telling about the Iranian regime’s isolation and impasse in the Middle East, and across the globe. This, coupled with nationwide protests and a social unrest inside Iran, provides a very expressive canvas of Tehran’s current balance of power.

Recent remarks by Hossein Alaei, former Revolutionary Guards chief of staff, refers to the Iranian regime’s challenging times.
“Today’s political and economic circumstances in Iran are inappropriate… the people are angry and the state must make important decisions,” he explained.

It goes without saying that the Iranian regime’s domestic crises, facing a powder keg society seeking to bring an end to the clerics’ rule, are of the utmost priority for those on the throne in Tehran.

As a result, regional and global isolation should evolve into the international community as a whole standing shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom and democracy.

ANALYSIS: What lies ahead for Iran’s simmering fire of protests?

The recent uprising sweeping across Iran is rattling the very pillars of the ruling regime. Despite claims and analysis of this movement coming to an end, senior Iranian officials and state media continue to express concerns about its impact, and what lies ahead.

Although many of these remarks are made in line with Iran’s hardliners targeting the government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, they reflect the undeniable reality that the people completely abhor the entire regime.

This indicates the protests, with people demanding higher salaries, employment, improved education and healthcare, an end to corruption and the regime in its totality, are far from over. The road ahead for Tehran will be very bumpy, to say the least.

‘Nothing but lies’

Saeed Zeebakalam, known for his ties to the faction loyal to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, shed more light on the people’s increasing anger.

“I believe the people are literally tired of five years of promises, deceits, we will do this and that; five years of smiles coupled with shams. This means from 2013 onward they are providing nothing but lies to the people. On a daily basis, the nation is witnessing skyrocketing prices, decreasing purchasing power and rising unemployment,” he said according to a state website.

Despite being dubbed as a moderate in the West, Rouhani’s ties with the clerical establishment dates back to the early days of this dictatorship, being one of the pupils of Iranian regime founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini himself.

Rouhani is best described as Khamenei’s latest character in his 29-year ventriloquist show. However, heard vividly in their recent chants of “Reformists, principalists, end of story,” the Iranian people have made it crystal clear their target is the regime in its entirety.

Stark warning

Gholamhossein Karbaschi, former Tehran mayor and close to Rouhani, is describing as useless his deceitful remarks and attempting to act as an opposition to Khamenei’s faction. The people’s daily dilemmas are the result of policies implemented by the ruling elite and now Rouhani’s cabinet, all igniting the flames of the current uprising, according to Karbaschi.

“Mr. Rouhani must target the roots of these problems. If various state officials say the protests must be taken into note, as if they are merely analysts or media commentators, no actions will be taken. The government must take practical measures to resolve the roots of the people’s demands,” he suggests.

His remarks are a stark warning to all factions of the Iranian regime to take these current protests seriously.

“It is very shameful for these protests and latest events to once again become the subject of internal quarrels between factions and individuals, and once again for the people to feel their problems have been forgotten,” he said to a semi-official news agency.

Of course, don’t be mistaken. This former Tehran mayor is not concerned about the Iranian people’s interests. He is providing advice on how to safeguard the ruling regime from the people’s growing wrath over policies and intense crackdown measures.

The current protests are a dangerously deep rift carrying an even more dangerous message for those sitting on the throne in Tehran.

Iran’s young generation establish the central, influential core of this ongoing uprising. Other state media write in this regard:

“Based on officials’ reports from a closed-door parliamentary session, the youth established the highest number of participants in the recent protests. The number of those arrested further proves this reality, meaning the detainees are mostly young and from the fourth generation following the 1979 revolution. This latest series of events show this storyline is far more complicated,” the article reads in part.

No solution

At a first glance, these remarks are made along the lines of Iran’s ongoing factional disputes. Looking deeper, we must not neglect this reality that such words reflect grave concerns among Iran’s ruling elite, all rendering from this latest wave of protests. For those familiar with Iran in the past four decades, this also indicates the clerical regime is facing a major impasse.

This regime’s officials and their media outlets all fail to provide any solution for the road ahead. The truth is harsh to accept for Tehran’s rulers, realizing the road ahead can only be navigated one step at a time, with a variety of dilemmas awaiting their every move.

Protests over intolerable economic conditions are set to continue on a daily basis, and escalate into major political demands. Put this parallel to Tehran’s increasing international isolation, from the ruling regime’s perspective you have a recipe for disaster.

Awaiting to explode

Establishing stability has now become an illusion at best in Iran. This regime is strong on oppression but institutionally fragile. This is crucial for all ruling systems, considering their needs to modernize and become effective.

Certainly, the regime has launched a major quelling. Yet the people are not showing signs of succumbing to the regime’s crackdown. The month of February will be a major faceoff, as the regime intends to hold a massive rallies in Tehran and other cities to launch its 40th year in power, and the people will most likely be boycotting the regime’s marches and seeking opportunities to voice their own protests yet again.

And the tendency is for them to become more frequent.

From a logical perspective, the Iranian demonstrators’ demands are completely attainable if the regime manages its resources correctly, rechanneling funds from the military to the economy.

Knowing this regime, this is highly unlikely, and combined with the demonstrators’ antipathy, such an outcome has the potential of inspiring more protests. It is improbable that this simmering social movement will wait much longer to make its voice heard and demands met.

Iran is a powder keg, awaiting to explode at any moment.

Iran Protests: What We Are Learning

The future of Iran’s protests is on the minds of many as the fate of this strategically important state remains in limbo. This subject gains even more importance considering U.S. President Donald Trump’s upcoming Friday decision on the controversial Iran nuclear deal.

Iran’s state media claims the protests have come to an end, a result similar to that of 2009. Yet the world is witnessing how further cities and towns are expressing their abhorrence over the ruling elite.

This status quo is a struggle between the Iranian people literally fed up with this regime and a dictatorship weakened from domestic unrest, internal rifts and international pressures.

Escalating matters far beyond previous scenes of nationwide protests in 2009 and 1999 is the clear reference made by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to the party behind these rallies.

“As well as Washington and London, Khamenei blamed the violence on Israel, exiled dissident group People’s Mujahedin of Iran and ‘a wealthy government’ in the Gulf, a probable reference to Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia,” according to Reuters.

Tehran pointing fingers at Washington, London, Israel and the Saudis is nothing new. Yet Khamenei mentioning the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) is of quite significance, indicating the main source of his regime’s concerns.

This recent wave of protests is setting the grounds with new sets of rules and understandings.

1) The Iranian people no longer fear in expressing their true feelings, seen in the nationwide slogan of “Death to Khamenei.” Such a brave measure in the past would bear the potential of earning you a heavy prison term, if not a death sentence.

2) Unlike previous uprisings, these demonstrations are mushrooming across the country, reaching over 130 cities and towns, according to activists. Places less heard of before, such as Izeh, Dorud, Shahin Shahr and etc. are now seen leading the growing wave of protests. Brave demonstrators are threatening the regime’s very pillars to an extent that security forces have opened fire and killed dozens of protesters, arresting thousands, according to reports.

3) From the second day of this uprising protesters have shown their overcoming of prior fears through responding to the security forces’ attacks and quelling. State vehicles, motorcycles, makeshift police stations and other facilities are being set ablaze by protesters in response to the regime’s unbridled crackdown.

4) For years Iranian state media and its lobbies in the West have been claiming this entity enjoys vast popular support. Various campaigns, including a Twitter hashtag #بسيجي_نيستم (I’m not a Basiji), reveal the regime’s woes, as a growing number of Revolutionary Guards Basij paramilitary members are seen joining the protesters’ ranks.

5) Iran is showing a major vulnerability in its intolerance of social media platforms. The government is filtering the popular Telegram messaging app – said to have 40 million members in Iran – in yet another attempt to prevent protesters from joining force and the entire population from receiving unfiltered information from the outside world.

This makes the necessity of providing unrestricted access to the Iranian populace all the more vital.

6) In far contrast to 2009, the U.S. administration is powerfully standing alongside the Iranian people. This nation continues to suffer from the wounds of Obama extending his hand to Khamenei in their time of need. This time around, however, President Trump and senior administration officials are standing shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people’s legitimate demands while placing Tehran on notice.

To some extent the Iranian people also enjoy the support of Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. More effort is necessary in this regard, as European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is meeting today with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to discuss the fate of the Iran nuclear deal, and only discussing human rights violations in Iran and the recent protests very briefly.

7) Despite the detention of over 3,000 protesters, the Iranian people are not silent. As in Tehran, families and other protesters are seen demanding the release of political prisoners and recently detained demonstrators. On January 9th, facing escalating demands outside the notorious Evin Prison, authorities had no choice but to release four political prisoners. This has the potential of becoming a turning point in the regime’s crackdown against protesters.

8) Iran is known for four decades of human rights violations. The referral of this highly sensitive dossier to the United Nations Security Council in less than a week after the spark of these protests is a point of no return for Tehran, knowing the issue of human rights violations, restricting freedom of speech and internet access will no longer go unnoticed by the world’s highest decision making body.

9) Speaking of no return, the myth of Iran’s “reformist” and/or “moderate” currents is now considered an issue of the past. This hurdle, dating back to the presidency of Hashemi Rafsanjani and even the prime ministry of Mir Hossein Mousavi in the 1980s, has been preventing any serious discussion of regime change. The “reformist” illusion is now evaporating as protesters are heard chanting, “Reformist, principalists, end of story.”

10) Parallel to all other developments, the nature of many outlets and social media channels is surfacing, making it clear for all who is who, and their affiliations to the ruling regime. The past two weeks have been crucial in making it crystal clear for the Iranian people which outlet of any kind provides unbiased information, and which merely are beating the regime’s drums, according to activists.

11) In another reference to 2009, on December 30th of that year Tehran launched a pro-regime rally claiming of ending the “sedition”. Each year this day has been an opportunity for the regime to stage such marches and provide hand-picked images to the outside world, in its claiming of a vast social base. To this day Tehran has being failing to stage a pro-regime rally worthy of dubbing as a strong response to the nationwide protesters demanding regime change.

As a result, two weeks into the groundbreaking protests, this popular movement is proving it bears the capability of overcoming previously impossible odds. In response, the ruling regime has no solution to provide for the people’s valid demands, while lacking the will of resorting to all-out crackdown, fearing Iran’s powder-keg and a strong international response.

As a result, conditions are set for fundamental regime change in Iran. In these new circumstances, even the smallest protest rally bears the power of a massive demonstration by reigniting hope in people’s hearts and stretching the regime’s resources, making it incapable of delivering the response it needs to quell this ongoing uprising.

Change should be realized by the Iranian people. The U.S. and the international community, however, should provide unrestricted internet access to all Iranians and impose meaningful sanctions against the ruling regime, with the state radio and television IRIB network.

How To Correctly Support The People Of Iran

Iran is at a turning point. All parties are before a major decision. Anything short of supporting the Iranian people’s legitimate demand for regime change would be tantamount to betraying a nation suffering for nearly forty years under a brutal and repressive regime willing to resort to all measures to remain in power.

We must put all differences aside and focus on the main issue at hand: the Iranian people’s demands for regime change, heard vividly through their “Death to Khamenei” chants, in reference to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. They should receive the support they deserve in realizing this rightful objective.

This is of vital urgency as the country judiciary chief, Sadeq Amoli Larijani, is calling for decisive action against the protesters. For those unfamiliar with the language used by senior Iranian regime officials, this is a prelude to major crackdown.

In 1999 the so-called “reformist” former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami ordered the intense quelling of college students demonstrating across the country.

In 2009, the government of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, known as a hardliner, also presided a massive crackdown of protesters demanding their votes back following that year’s controversial presidential election results.

Current President Hassan Rouhani, dubbed as a “moderate,” was then the secretariat of the regime’s Supreme National Security Council, specifically ordering security forces to take decisive action against the protesters.

This shows there is no difference between so-called moderates/reformists and hardliners in Iran. Both factions have no tolerance for even peaceful protesters.

Voices continue to support the policy of former U.S. president Barack Obama in staying clear from supporting the 2009 uprising in Iran, and thus not allowing the regime to blame the U.S.

Where did that lead? Throughout the Obama tenure we continued to witness provocative measures by the Iranian regime domestically and abroad.

“… the regime will seek to paint protesters as foreign agents regardless of the reality. The best way to counter this is not to remain silent but to ensure that U.S. statements of support are broadly multilateral and are backed with more practical steps,” as explained by Michael Singh, the Lane-Swig Senior Fellow and managing director at The Washington Institute, in a recent Washington Post read.

Human rights violations continued and under the watch of Rouhani – whom the Obama administration displayed as a figure to cooperate with – Iran has been witnessing at least 3,500 executions and counting.

The regime’s state media continued to broadcast slogans of “Death to America” and the Revolutionary Guards test-fired missiles.

Iran’s regime is notoriously known for its belligerence in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, and against the billions of dollars provided to terrorist proxies like Hezbollah.

This clerical regime is also described as a staunch supporter of terrorism constantly destabilizing the Middle East, driving forward a completely unnecessary ballistic missile and nuclear program under the pretext of self-defense and nuclear energy.

All this is coming out of the Iranian people’s pockets, and the lives of so many executed, tortured and imprisoned inside the country, and millions killed, wounded, jailed and displaced throughout the region.

There is a variety of arguments about how to move forward and what policy to adopt vis-à-vis a regime in Iran that is literally resorting to brute force against its own people (of course, the Iranian people do not consider this their own government).

The language Iran’s regime understands is through political and economic relations.

  1. The West, especially Europe, and other partners Iran has relations with, must condition all relations with Tehran to the immediate stoppage of crackdown measures, the release of all political prisoners, including recently detained protesters and activists.
  2. The Iranian people must be allowed to voice their opinions, especially regarding this regime. This means providing unrestricted internet access across Iran to allow activists report the truth of the people’s demands for regime change and the regime’s massive crackdown against peaceful protesters.
  3. Iran’s oil and gas exports must come under all-out sanctions to deprive this regime of the very revenue it allocates so drastically to domestic oppression, destructive foreign meddling and other notorious bellicosities.

It is the time for the world to unite in encouraging the protesters in Iran, having them realize they are not alone in their struggle.

ANALYSIS: How these protests in Iran differ from 2009

Starting Thursday, anti-government rallies beginning in Mashhad, northeast Iran, are mushrooming in several major cities of Tehran, Tabriz, Isfahan and Shiraz, and dozens of towns across the country.

These rallies are in sharp contrast to the 2009 episode where former U.S. president Barack Obama refused to support the massive demands for sweeping change.

At the time, the controversial reelection of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sparked nationwide rallies with protesters demanding their votes back. Today, however, beginning with economic demands as people are reaching the very limits of their tolerance, demonstrators are seeking economic necessities and escalating their expectations to fundamental regime change.

“Death to Khamenei”

Large crowds are turning out in Kermanshah, in the west, in Rasht, in the north, in Isfahan, southcentral Iran, and Hamadan and elsewhere.

Social media posts are providing up-to-date reports of rallies spiraling into a general outcry against the ruling elite and policies inside the country and abroad.

Protesters are seen chanting, “Death to Khamenei,” in a clear reference to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and targeting the very pillars of this regime.

 

Slogans are showing popular resentment giving way to escalating rage, exposing the regime’s vulnerability far beyond the scope of many Western analysts’ prior arguments.

Interesting is the fact that protesters are defying all odds and standing up for their rights despite warnings and repressive measures by state security forces.

“Death to Rouhani,” “Clerics Must Go” are continuing the earlier chants of “Leave Syria, start thinking about us” and “Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, my life for Iran.”

This shows the scope of the people’s abhorrence of the ruling state’s policies, as Tehran allocates billions of dollars in revenue from oil and gas exports to belligerence abroad, including propping the Assad regime in Syria, the Lebanese Hezbollah, Shiite militias in Iraq and the Houthis of Yemen.

Witnessing no change in their basic living standards following the nuclear deal highly boasted by the Obama administration with Iran, people across the country are showing their demands must receive the regime’s acknowledging.

Major rifts

The Iranian regime no longer enjoys the benefits of a policy based appeasement and rapprochement pioneered by the Obama White House. While the Iranian people remember the international community’s failure to support their cries for freedom back in 2009, what started with support from Senator Tom Cotton is avalanching into a flowing stream of support.

The Trump administration, understanding the negative impact of engagement with the Iranian regime, is pursuing a policy of firm action and resolve vis-à-vis Tehran, and now standing alongside the Iranian people’s demand for change.

Two other factors differing in Iran from 2009 is the major rift within the regime’s ruling apparatus and the spreading nature of these protests in cities and towns throughout Iran, encouraging protesters to overcome prior fears of state crackdown.

In 2009 Khamenei placed his weight behind Ahmadinejad, an element of his own apparatus, making him capable of directing a massive crackdown and quelling the protesters’ demands.

As we step into 2018, the case is far different. Khamenei realizes the harsh reality of major rifts crippling his regime’s ability domestically and abroad. The Iranian regime understands very well how opening fire on protesters will fuel the protests’ flames, and yet taking no such action will allow the nationwide uprising to expand.

New realities

At first, understanding the price of opening fire on protesters, officials were seen resorting to various practices such as dispatching hordes of security forces on foot and on motorcycles, threatening to take action.

Posts on social media, however, indicate low morale amongst security forces unwilling to open fire upon protesters even if ordered to do so.

A member of the regime’s ultraconservative Basij, a paramilitary unit of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), is seen placing down his baton and taking off his jacket, leaving a not indicating how he is no longer willing to attack his fellow countrymen.

Yet scene from various cities show protesters attacking police stations, tipping over police vehicles and setting police motorcycles ablaze.

Reports from Ahvaz in southwest Iran show how protesters are braving all odds and showing their anger against the regime’s forces.

The people in Iran are also threatening to take up arms in response to any crackdown by the regime. This truck driver vividly explains the people have and are ready to use guns and bullets to attack anyone attacking the protesters.

Reports on Saturday night from Lorestan province indicate security forces opened fire on protesters and killed up to six individuals. Posts show protesters, continuing their rallies even after sunset, carrying the bodies of two apparently dead individuals most likely shot by regime’s authorities.

The road ahead

Unfortunately, the international community, and especially the West, are continuing to pursue short-term economic gains at the cost of the Iranian people’s very lives.

Such parties seek ties with the so-called Iranian moderates from the times of former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami, and now Rouhani. This is only rendering a deteriorating situation for the Iranian people, with executions skyrocket to at least 3,500 during Rouhani’s tenure, and Western parties failing to reach their desired goals.

Protesters are currently responding to such a myth of moderates inside the regime, chanting, “Reformists, Principalists, End of Story.”

Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi is hailing the protests, saying in part “The ongoing protests in different cities against the regime reveal the explosive state of Iranian society and the people’s desire for regime change.”
The international community should now adopt and meaningfully impose crippling economic sanctions targeting key regime institutions and cut Tehran’s remaining lifelines, in particular the IRGC. It should also make it clear that the Iranian regime will face dire consequences in the case of a violent quelling of protests.
The international community should also formally recognize the Iranian people’s demand for regime change and the legitimacy of the organized resistance pursuing this objective.

 

Iran: a minefield for workers facing major safety conditions

The regime in Tehran is not concerned about workers & is the world’s record-holder in work-site accidents

Incidents taking place at work sites have always threatened the lives of #Workers, and the regime under the mullahs in #iran is the record-holder in this regard. Workers in this country are paying enormous prices in their effort of making a living.

  • Tehran: 238 workers died from March to September 2016
  • West Azerbaijan Province: 64 workers died at construction sites in a span of 10 months, in addition to 1,083 others injured
  • Lorestan Province: 59 workers died in six months, signaling a 55% increase
  • 800 workers died across the country in construction sites in the span of 6 months

Unfortunately, this list continues.

Iran is the record-holder in working incidents across the globe, leading to a whopping 15,000 workers killed or injured throughout a 12-month span. This means 41 incidents each day, and 5 or 6 workers losing their lives on a daily basis. Building construction workers have the highest number of deaths amongst workers and each year nearly 1,200 such workers lose their lives in this regard. However, the reason behind these work incidents is that the basis of all the regime’s activities are based on plundering and profiting from ordinary people’s hard work, and what Iranian regime officials could care less about is workers’ lives and safety.

Iran and insurance

Moreover, many workers, and especially building workers that work in workshops with less than 10 employees, are not covered by incident insurance. Most of these type of workers are forced to give into harsh labor conditions in order to make ends meets, and such ends bring about higher risks of working incidents. And as always, this regime’s Labor Ministry continuously claims to inspect all workshops on a regular basis, and safety incidents have actually decreased!

One only needs to remind these Labor Ministry authorities about the atrocious Plasco building fire incident in Tehran where 600 production units were left completely uninspected and none of the complaints were ever answered to. Why? Because the entire Plasco building belonged to the regime’s “Mostazafan Foundation”, linked to the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and where regime officials were plundering ordinary people.

And the future holds?

Currently, the truth is that construction workers and those working on seasonal contracts are quite numerous and they are not insured. Many rallies held by these workers are for the exact reason of protesting these very policies adopted and employed by regime employers. The irony is that insurance money is deducted from workers’ salaries and yet no insurance is provided, making them unable to seek medical care in appropriate hospitals. As a result, it is completely clear that such a high number of working site incidents is another sign of how workers face such harsh conditions in Iran under the mullahs’ regime.

Of course, when regime officials and their inner circle enjoy enormous salaries and embezzle billions what is left for Iran’s deprived workers is nothing but suffering, poverty, and hardship. The constant protest, seen increasing these days by these workers and other walks of life, are against such cruelty imposed by the regime.

Originally published in blasting news

Iran’s Supreme Leader Sees the Beginning of a New Era

By Shahriar Kia

Following a rocky first month in Trump-Iran relations, it’s significant that Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has chosen to maintain a substantially low profile. Comprehending the threat of vast changes in Washington, Khamenei also knows he cannot show weakness to his dwindling social base already terrified of major changes in the new U.S. administration’s policies vis-à-vis Iran following Obama’s eight years of appeasement.

In recent remarks, Khamenei even said there is no difference between the Obama and Trump administrations (!) and “the real war is the economic war, the sanctions war.”

These are interesting observations from Khamenei, and they should be considered deceptive, because he understands fully well that with Obama gone, so are the concessions the previous White House provided to his regime. Khamenei’s own change in reactions is further proof, as he is seen choosing his words quite carefully.

“To pass this stage, Iran has two options ahead. First, to strongly counter-react in areas in which the United States has vital interests, and the second is for Iran to act within the frameworks laid out by the United States in order to continue to have a role in the region and get out of the harnessed state. No doubt, the second option would ensure more strategic advantages for Iran.” (Jahan-e-Sanat, February 20)

During the Obama years, Khamenei himself used strong terms in threatening American interests across the globe. He went as far as saying that his regime would “raze” Haifa and Tel Aviv to the ground, wasting no time in lashing out at any threats. This also showed how Obama’s appeasement policy failed miserably.

Now that Khamenei is receiving “on notice” level warnings from Washington, he is in fact completely terrified to use any strong terms. However, he is resorting to a new tactic of claiming there being “no difference” between the Obama and Trump administrations. From January 20th onward, Khamenei has repeatedly made such remarks about the two administrations.

This comes at a time when the supreme leader and his inner circle used believed sanctions could have no impact. Such a shift in tone seen in Khamenei is the index that a policy of firm language against Iran, parallel to economic pressures through sanctions, can bring this regime to its knees.

On the other hand, we are witnessing that Tehran’s lobbies, and those who capitalized on massive economic gains rendered through the appeasement policy, are desperately speaking out against any sanctions, and especially the possible designation of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a foreign terrorist organization.

The IRGC controls much of Iran’s economy, and yet Tehran’s lobbies have gone the distance in claiming its blacklisting will threaten America’s interests in Iraq and other countries hosting U.S. bases, and also endangering so-called “moderates” in the face of “hardliners.”

This is nothing but fake news, signaling that not only officials in Tehran, but their decreasing number of international correspondents, are concerned about Obama’s appeasement policy coming to an end.

A firm policy against Iran goes far further than only containing this regime’s nuclear ambitions and foreign meddling. Such a shift can also fuel the Iranian people’s increasing protests against this regime. The exact opposite of Obama turning his back to the 2009 uprising in Iran.

Recent protests in Ahvaz and other cities resembles the Iranian people’s hatred of this regime and their thirst for change.

Ended Sunday, February 20, the Munich Security Conference condemned the Iranian regime for disrupting security and stability in the region. The delegations in the conference had one sentence in common when speaking against the Iranian regime: the Iranian regime is the biggest state sponsor of terrorism in the world, said by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence as well as Saudi FM Adel al-Jubeir. Also, Turkish finance minister Mevlut Chavushoghlu put this same issue another way while pointing to the regime’s interventions in Syria and Iraq. “Iranian regime is seeking sectarianism in the region”, he said.

The new alliance of Arab nations, and especially the participation of Turkey, has raised major concerns among senior officials in Tehran as a strong front against its terrorism and meddling in other countries is formed.

The formation of such a front is a sign of significant policy changes in Washington. This appears to be a step in the direction of regaining the trust lost amongst U.S. allies during the Obama tenure to confront Iran’s terrorism and meddling in the Middle East.

Etemad, for instance, writes on February 21: “the leaders and elite in Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Turkey had this vision in recent years that with Barack Obama as President, the US administration wouldn’t take any specific measure against Iran in order to put Tehran under pressure.”

Military drills and hollow saber rattling by IRGC commanders during the past few days shed light on Iran’s fear and severe weakness of developments in the makings with the incoming policy alterations in Washington.

What needs to be understood is  that we are already at the beginning of a new era where the regime in Iran will no longer benefit from an appeasement policy that allows it to both increase its domestic crackdown and foreign warmongering, such as Iran’s involvement in Syria, and continuously threaten to abandon ship on the accord aimed at curbing the Iran nuclear program.

This provides a golden opportunity for the international community to begin standing shoulder to shoulder with the Iranian people and its organized resistance under the leadership of Maryam Rajavi, a Muslim woman who represents a tolerant and democratic Islam against a fundamentalist version of Islam advocated by the mullahs’ regime. Bringing an end to the appeasement policy and, as being recently weighed by the Trump administration, designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a foreign terrorist designation are necessary steps in a long overdue roadmap.

Shahriar Kia is a political analyst writing on Iran and the Middle East. He is the member of the Iranian opposition, the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, also known as the MEK). He graduated from North Texas University.

Originally posted in American Thinker