The protests in Iran, which started due to a hike in the price of fuel, are continuing and have now taken a political turn. The number of protesters has increased, as have their demands for the regime’s overthrow.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, voiced support for the decision to raise fuel prices. He also blamed the wave of protests on the “enemies of the revolution,” while President Hassan Rouhani said the state “should not allow lawlessness” in the face of “riots.”
In a parallel development, the security authorities announced they would respond firmly to “acts of sabotage” and, according to Iranian news agency Fars, more than 1,000 people have already been arrested. Iranian sources estimated the death toll at between 36 and 75 after security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas in an effort to disperse protesters in Tehran’s Khomeini Square. There was also unrest in other cities, where the protests were called “gasoline uprisings.” A policeman in Kermanshah died of his wounds following a confrontation with protesters.
The ongoing unrest is not the first time Iranians have taken to the streets to express their anger and dissatisfaction. Iran witnessed protests in 2017, but they were suppressed, with the protesters being dispersed and their demands left unaddressed. Before that, Iran witnessed the “Green Movement” in 2009 after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a second term as president; repressive measures were also used to quell those protests.
The current state of affairs is that Iran is enduring its worst economic situation since the 1979 revolution. The country’s difficulties are due to the US sanctions that were put in place after Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal. That withdrawal was, of course, quick to arouse European concern.
It is clear that the regime, which has refused to understand the underlying messages of the protests in Iraq and Lebanon, is also categorically refusing to understand similar messages sent by the Iranian protests. Officials were quick to talk of sabotage directed from outside the country in order to justify the suppression of protests. The difficulties experienced by Iran are very serious and very real. They threaten the country’s economy and its ability to play its role in the region.
It has been 40 years since the birth of the Khomeinist regime and its bitter harvest of millions of deaths in public wars: The Iran-Iraq War, the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, and other clandestine wars waged by it creating, embracing, supporting and facilitating Iranian involvement with international terrorist organizations. Included here is Al-Qaeda, whose relationship with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is no secret, nor is the involvement of the sons of Osama bin Laden, Saif Al-Adel, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and Saleh Al-Qaraawi, Abu Hafs Al-Mauritani, and dozens of others who were hosted by the IRGC on Iranian territory.
Not only that, but Iran has formed Shiite gangs to undermine the structure of the national states in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. It has spread a poisonous sectarian atmosphere and used a consistent approach to plunder the wealth of these countries in order to serve its own aggressive policies.
The kingdom of terrorism — which goes by the name of the Islamic Republic — is also responsible for much evil in Western countries. We note the operations of the IRGC in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, the US and, of course, Latin America. Iran’s activities in those countries have stretched from political assassinations to the drug trade to espionage and the penetration of digital systems, i.e., cyber warfare.
Today the people of Iraq have revolted against Iranian agents and so far they have paid with more than 300 lives. The people of Lebanon are also rebelling against their government, but the problem there is that the political structure is controlled by the pro-Iranian Hezbollah.
What will be the future of the Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese revolutions? We do not know, but there is no doubt that the position of Western countries in all these areas is shameful and dishonest. The West apparently believes that the intervention of Arab countries, such as Saudi Arabia, would spring from sectarian or nationalist motives, yet at the same time the regime in Tehran is allowed to kill hundreds of thousands and completely change the demographics of the affected countries.
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri is a political analyst and international relations scholar.
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