OPINION: Iran, protests and Trump

Isaac Martin, Political Contributor

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Dec. 28 of yesteryear marked the first day of street protests in Iran starting in the country’s second largest city, Mashhad. Despite attempts to quell them, the protests spread like wildfire and, by Dec. 30, had reached Tehran. Before the birth of the new year, protests had erupted in over 50 cities in 27 provinces, inciting swift responses from both their home government and the U.S.’ Tweeter-in-chief.

The Persian regime quickly cracked down on the protestors, disabling access to social media including Instagram and Telegram a platform used by half of Iran’s 80 million people making communication with the outside world exceedingly difficult. Since the start of the demonstrations, over 3,500 Iranians have been arrested, according to Iranian lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi. But, not all of Iran’s leaders are as willing to admit the country’s blemishes.

Iran’s head of Foreign Ministry, Javad Zarif, tweeted on Jan. 2 that:

“Iran’s security and stability depend on its own people, who—unlike the peoples of Trump’s regional ‘bffs’—have the right to vote and to protest. These hard-earned rights will be protected, and infiltrators will not be allowed to sabotage them through violence and destruction.”

Thinly veiled in Zarif’s tweet is an attempt to delegitimize the protests by invoking the boogeyman of Iran: external instigators. In 1953, the CIA backed a coup to reseat Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and from that time on, every hint of dissent is quashed by the ayatollahs under the pretense of a foreign conspiracy. For the clerics, it is easy to pin the tail on the donkey of the ‘Great Satan’ but harder to confront reality of legitimate grievances.

Protests revolve around three primary concerns: government repression, foreign conquests and a soporific economy.

In the wake of the U.S. Nuclear Deal, Iran has seen stringent sanctions lifted and $100 billion transferred into its economy from the purgatory of international law. The average Iranian, however, has yet to see the benefits of this deal. Instead, they suffer from an unemployment rate greater than 12 percent, rampant embezzlement, a youth unemployment rate of approximately 40 percent and a spike in food prices.

Morale in Iran has deteriorated to the point where despairing citizens are even selling their organs for cash.

Instead of investing the proceeds of the Nuclear deal into their own people, Iran’s 12-member Council of Guardians seems to have diverted the money into their own pet projects. Two months after the deal, Iran offered a $1 billion line of credit to Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad. Iran has backed the Syrian strong man since the start of the 2011 uprisings. Iran is also providing substantial support to the Houthi rebels, Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups across the globe. This growing hegemony is not necessarily welcomed with protestors decrying their leaders external conquests while neglecting the homeland.

On Dec. 31, President Donald Trump tweeted his support of the protesters in a gesture that bolstered the movement and angered many in both Tehran and Washington D.C. A stance of solidarity with the people is merited considering the conditions of Iran (widely considered to be one of the least free countries in the world). While the protests may have simmered down for now, we ought to offer continued support to this nation beleaguered by corrupt leaders.

Questions? Comments? The author would love to hear from you at [email protected]