IF IRAN FALLS, ISIS MAY RISE AGAIN نيوزويك” تحذر: إذا سقطت إيران، سيصعد داعش مجدداً

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As disorder deepens in Iran amid widespread protests, fears are rising that the fall of Iran’s revolutionary Shiite Islamic Republic could lead to disaster in the region and the re-emergence of an even greater foe of the United States—the Islamic State militant group known as ISIS.

Violent protests sparked by a cut in gas subsidies continue to erupt across Iran, fueled further by a forceful crackdown on protesters from the government. The unrest, coupled with crippling U.S. sanctions and costly campaigns across the Middle East, has incensed those fighting for regime change from within the country, opening an opportunity for Iran’s enemies both at home and abroad to capitalize on this discord and vulnerability.

“Different groups hostile to the Iranian government, including ISIS, separatists or other ones, have and will take advantage of any unrest in the country,” Abas Aslani, a visiting scholar at the Istanbul-based Center for Middle East Strategic Studies and editor-in-chief of the Iran Front Page outlet, told Newsweek.

“They could find a way in this situation to bring more damage to the country,” he added. “This will not be limited to the groups, but also some foreign countries inside and outside the region will also use the opportunity for weakening or changing the regime in Iran and bring instability to the country.”

Iran has remained steadfast in the face of its foes foreign and domestic, and few expect the full demise of the government. But even those inside and outside Iran who support the rallies that continue day and night against the clerics running the nation fear the chaos alone could foster conditions for ISIS to breed.

“Any collapse or weakening of a state in the region is likely to fuel into more instability in the region,” Aslani told Newsweek. “This is also a concern of even opponents in Iran, in so that they are not sure in the case of the collapse of the current system in the country who will replace them and how the situation will be.”

iran protest isis daesh tehran embassy
An Iranian woman holds a cardboard cutout representing an ISIS member in chains, during a demonstration outside the former U.S. embassy in the Iranian capital Tehran on November 4 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis. On November 4, 1979, less than nine months after the toppling of Iran’s once-CIA-reinstalled shah, students overran the embassy complex to demand the United States hand over the ousted ruler after he was admitted to a U.S. hospital.ATTA KENARE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

To Iran, the fight against ISIS has always been an existential one. Just as the Pentagon began coordinating its own involvement in June 2014, Iran had begun mobilizing mostly Shiite Muslim militias in both Iraq and Syria to beat back lightning gains made by the Sunni Muslim insurgents that reveled in the slaughter of those deemed to be outside of their ultraconservative ideology.

This proved vital in turning the tide against the jihadis, who have been largely defeated in recent years.

“Iran was critical in providing logistical and advisory support to Iraqi paramilitary forces who battled ISIS in Iraq, particularly during the early days of the campaign,” Rodger Shanahan, a research fellow at the Lowy Institute’s West Asia Program and former director of the Australian Army’s Land Warfare Studies Centre, told Newsweek.

As for Syria, where ISIS spread amid an ongoing civil war, Shanahan said Iran’s support for President Bashar al-Assad “also meant that it has contributed to the anti-ISIS campaign, although it is fair to say that that was by no means the aim of their support for Assad and the targeting of ISIS has been sporadic at best.”

In fighting ISIS abroad, Iran managed to help dismantle the jihadis and broaden the Islamic Republic’s own support network of partnered forces also hostile to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. Establishing this so-called Axis of Resistance proved a major strategic victory, but it came at a steep price.

These campaigns cost Iran capital, both human and financial, and strict U.S. sanctions have choked up Tehran’s access to disposable income. Although the Iranian government is believed to still have access to considerable wealth to run its operations, the dual effects of a U.S.-imposed trade siege and domestic mismanagement have made life more difficult for everyday Iranians unable to take advantage of the economic reforms promised by President Hassan Rouhani.

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Iranians gather around a charred police station that was set ablaze by protesters during a demonstration against a rise in gasoline prices in the central city of Isfahan, November 17. Iran responded to violent protests with an internet blackout and a swift crackdown that continues to result in bloodshed, with some members of security forces among those killed.AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The Rouhani administration’s decision to cut fuel subsidies last month and ultimately transition to a welfare-based system had actually been in the works for some time and was supported by the International Monetary Fund. Still, the sudden shift was seismic for Iranians accustomed to cheap fuel and people have taken to the streets to protest in massive numbers.

The government’s reaction on the ground was swift and, against who officials claimed were rioters, deadly.

Amnesty International has estimated that more than 200 Iranians have been killed during the unrest and Brian Hook, the State Department’s special representative for Iran, placed the casualties at “many hundreds, perhaps over a thousand”—a figure far higher than other estimates provided by human rights monitors. No conclusive count exists and the Iranian government has disputed these numbers.

Those groups are “the biggest non-state threat to Iran today,” Ariane Tabatabai, an associate political scientist at the RAND Corporation and an adjunct senior research scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, told Newsweek. The most volatile border areas are Sistan-Baluchistan, Khuzestan and Kurdistan. Watchers worry that any escalation of insurgencies in these parts could propel Iran toward the sectarian strife seen in Syria.

“That’s part of what’s deterring many Iranians from outright pushing for regime collapse: The lessons of Syria loom large,” she added.

Insurgencies were waged by separatist Arab, Baluch and Kurdish militias for decades before ISIS, Al-Qaeda or even the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew the pro-West shah, who long-enjoyed the CIA maintaining his rule. The Islamic Republic has managed to keep these restive communities in line, but deadly attacks persist, such as a February bus bombing that killed up to 27 members of the Revolutionary Guard.

The operation was claimed by Jaish ul-Adl, which along with fellow Sunni Islamist group Ansar Al-Furqan, has taken advantage of previous periods of unrest in an attempt to undermine the Iranian government. ISIS, notorious for its ability to build bridges across continents, has actively sought to exploit these national struggles as it does in countries as far away as the Philippines.

The group’s reach within Iran remains fairly insignificant, Tabatabai added. She explained, however, that “ISIS has mostly focused its efforts in the areas with significant Kurdish and Arab minority populations—because these are populations that have been historically neglected if not repressed by the central authority.”

While eradicating adversarial forces and projecting its own influence abroad were integral motivations for Tehran’s entrance into the fight against ISIS, so was disrupting any potential nexus between the influential jihadi group and other opponents of Iran within the country itself. Shanahan told Newsweek that from the beginning, “Iran was concerned at the threat ISIS posed to Iranian territory, and the possibility of support for low-level insurgencies amongst Arab and Baluch Sunni groups inside Iran.”

Even with limited success in its infiltration, ISIS managed to strike at the heart of the Islamic Republic in June 2017 when several Sunni Kurdish militants aligned with the group staged twin attacks on the Iranian parliament and the shrine to the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, killing 18 people.

An attack last September at a Revolutionary Guard parade in Ahvaz commemorating the Iran-Iraq War—during which Saddam Hussein, too, tried to foster Arab separatism in Khuzestan—killed two dozen people, half of them soldiers, and was claimed by both ISIS and Ahvazi Arab separatists.

In response, Iran launched Zulfiqar and Qiam missiles that flew hundreds of miles across Iraq and into the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, an ISIS stronghold at the time assaulted by two rival campaigns led by the Syrian government and the U.S.-backed, majority-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces. The unprecedented strike was seen not only as a message to ISIS, but as a testament of Iran’s missile prowess directed toward its top three national foes.

us, iran, protests, mike, pompeo
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks alongside a photograph of demonstrations in Iran as he holds a press conference at the State Department in Washington, November 26. In a message addressed to protesters, Pompeo said: “The United States hears you. We support you and we will continue to stand with you in your struggle for a brighter future for your people and for your great nation.”SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Iran has often blamed the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia for fomenting discord within the country in an attempt to overthrow a government they view as destabilizing to the region. No conclusive evidence of such a conspiracy regarding the current demonstrations has emerged, although top Washington figures—such as former national security adviser John Bolton, a devout war hawk—have openly courted opposition forces like Ahvazi Arab separatists and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, or Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK).

All three experts interviewed by Newsweek said they believed the collapse of the Iranian government was unlikely in the near future, despite the “maximum pressure” campaign by the U.S. against it. Even for Washington, this may not necessarily be a bad thing: It has repeatedly learned that an enemy government’s loss of control often had far-reaching repercussions in the form of mass refugee flows, the formation of new, more powerful enemies, and costly military interventions to fight them.

The fall of Iran—a nation whose population is higher than all three of those war-torn nations combined—would likely have even more devastating side effects and give ISIS and other underground forces new room to operate.

For now, the threat of ISIS appears to be under control. But worsening economic woes resulting from U.S. restrictions and political infighting among Iran’s own hard-liners and moderates ensure the militant group will continue to root for, if not actively seek out, Iran’s capitulation.

نيوزويك” تحذر: إذا سقطت إيران، سيصعد داعش مجدداً

توم أوكونور

من المرجح أن يكون لسقوط إيران آثار جانبية مدمرة أكثر، وهذا سيمنح داعش والقوات المتطرفة الأخرى مساحة جديدة للعمل.

“نيوزويك” تحذر: إذا سقطت إيران، سيصعد داعش مجدداً

رأت مجلة “نيوزويك” الأميركية أنه مع تزايد الفوضى في إيران وسط احتجاجات واسعة النطاق، تتصاعد المخاوف من أن سقوط الجمهورية الإسلامية الشيعية الثورية في إيران يمكن أن يؤدي إلى كارثة في المنطقة وظهور عدو أكبر للولايات المتحدة هو تنظيم “داعش”.

وقالت المجلة إن الاحتجاجات العنيفة الناجمة عن خفض الدعم عن الوقود لا تزال تندلع في جميع أنحاء إيران، مما زاد من حدة القمع القوي للمتظاهرين من الحكومة. وأدت الاضطرابات، إلى جانب العقوبات الأميركية المشددة والحملات المكلفة في جميع أنحاء الشرق الأوسط، إلى إثارة غضب أولئك الذين يقاتلون من أجل تغيير النظام من داخل البلاد، مما أتاح الفرصة لأعداء إيران في الداخل والخارج للاستفادة من هذا الخلاف والضعف.

وقال عباس أصلاني ، باحث زائر في مركز الدراسات الاستراتيجية في الشرق الأوسط ومقره إسطنبول لـ”نيوزويك”: “هناك مجموعات مختلفة معادية للحكومة الإيرانية، بما في ذلك داعش والانفصاليون أو غيرها، وستستفيد من أي اضطرابات في البلاد”. وأضاف “يمكنهم إيجاد طريقة في هذا الموقف لإحداث مزيد من الضرر للبلاد. لن يقتصر هذا على المجموعات، ولكن أيضاً ستستغل بعض الدول الأجنبية داخل المنطقة وخارجها الفرصة لإضعاف النظام أو تغييره في إيران وجلب عدم الاستقرار إلى البلاد”.

ورأت المجلة الأميركية أن إيران بقيت صامدة في وجه خصومها الأجانب والمحليين، ويتوقع القليلون الزوال الكامل للحكومة. لكن حتى أولئك داخل وخارج إيران الذين يدعمون المسيرات التي تستمر ليلاً ونهاراً ضد رجال الدين الذين يديرون البلاد يخشون من أن الفوضى وحدها يمكن أن تعزز الظروف لنمو “داعش”.

وقال أصلاني لنيوزويك: “أي انهيار أو إضعاف دولة في المنطقة من المرجح أن يؤدي إلى مزيد من عدم الاستقرار في المنطقة. هذا مصدر قلق حتى للمعارضين في إيران، حتى أنهم غير متأكدين في حالة انهيار النظام الحالي في البلد من الذي سيحل محله وكيف سيكون الوضع”.

وأضافت “نيوزيويك” أنه بالنسبة لإيران، كانت المعركة ضد “داعش” دائماً وجودية. وكما بدأ البنتاغون في تنسيق مشاركته في حزيران / يونيو 2014، بدأت إيران في حشد الميليشيات التي يغلب على سكانها الشيعة في كل من العراق وسوريا للرد على المكاسب السريعة التي حققها المتمردون “الجهاديون السنة” الذين قاموا بذبح أولئك الذين يُعتبر أنهم خارج نطاقهم أيديولوجيتهم فائقة التشدد.

وقال رودجر شاناهان، وهو زميل باحث في برنامج غرب آسيا التابع لمعهد لوي ومدير سابق لمركز دراسات الحرب البرية في الجيش الأسترالي، قال لمجلة نيوزويك:

“ثبت أن هذا أمر حيوي في قلب المد ضد الجهاديين، الذين هُزموا إلى حد كبير في السنوات الأخيرة. لقد كان لإيران دور حاسم في تقديم الدعم اللوجستي والاستشاري للقوات شبه العسكرية العراقية التي حاربت داعش في العراق، خاصة خلال الأيام الأولى للحملة”.

أما بالنسبة لسوريا، حيث انتشر داعش وسط حرب أهلية متواصلة، قال شاناهان إن دعم إيران للرئيس بشار الأسد “عنى أيضاً أنها ساهم في الحملة ضد داعش، رغم أنه من الإنصاف القول إن هذا لم يكن بأي حال من الأحوال هدف دعمهم للأسد وكان استهداف داعش متقطعاً في أحسن الأحوال “.

وقالت “نيوزويك” إنه في قتال “داعش” في الخارج، تمكنت إيران من المساعدة في تفكيك الجهاديين وتوسيع شبكة دعم “الجمهورية الإسلامية” للقوات الشريكة المعادية لـ”إسرائيل” والسعودية والولايات المتحدة. وقد أثبت إنشاء ما يسمى محور المقاومة هذا انتصاراً استراتيجياً كبيراً، لكنه جاء بسعر عالٍ.

فقد كلفت هذه الحملات رأس المال الإيراني، البشري والمالي، وفرضت عقوبات أميركية صارمة على وصول طهران إلى عائداتها المتاحة. ورغم أنه يُعتقد أن الحكومة الإيرانية لا تزال لديها إمكانية الوصول إلى ثروة كبيرة لإدارة عملياتها، إلا أن الآثار المزدوجة المتمثلة في الحصار التجاري الذي تفرضه الولايات المتحدة وسوء الإدارة الداخلية جعلتا الحياة أكثر صعوبة بالنسبة للإيرانيين العاديين غير القادرين على الاستفادة من الإصلاحات الاقتصادية التي وعد بها الرئيس حسن روحاني.

وتنقل المجلة عن أريان طباطبائي، وهي عالمة سياسية مشاركة في مؤسسة راند وكبيرة الباحثين المشاركين في كلية الشؤون الدولية والعامة في جامعة كولومبيا، قولها إن هذه المجموعات المتمردة هي “أكبر تهديد من غير الدول لإيران اليوم”. فأكثر المناطق الحدودية اضطراباً هي سيستان – بلوشستان، وخوزستان وكردستان. ويشعر المراقبون بالقلق من أن أي تصعيد لحركات التمرد في هذه الأجزاء يمكن أن يدفع إيران نحو الصراع الطائفي الذي شوهد في سوريا. وأضافت “هذا جزء مما يردع الكثير من الإيرانيين عن الدفع الصريح من أجل انهيار النظام: دروس سوريا تلوح في الأفق”.

وقد شنت التمردات من قبل الميليشيات العربية الانفصالية والبلوشية والكردية لعقود من الزمن قبل ظهور تنظيمي داعش والقاعدة أو حتى قبل الثورة الإسلامية في إيران عام 1979 التي أطاحت بالشاه الموالي للغرب ، الذي كان يتمتع لفترة طويلة بدعم وكالة الاستخبارات المركزية الأميركية (سي آي إيه)، التي حافظت على حكمه. تمكنت “الجمهورية الإسلامية” من الحفاظ على هذه المجتمعات المضطربة في خطها، لكن الهجمات المميتة لا تزال قائمة، مثل تفجير حافلة في فبراير / شباط الماضي الذي أسفر عن مقتل ما يصل إلى 27 من أعضاء “حرس الثورة الإسلامية”.

وقد تم تبني هذه العملية من قبل “جيش العدل”، الذي استفاد مع زملائه من جماعة “أنصار الفرقان” الأصولية في فترات سابقة من الاضطرابات في محاولة لتقويض الحكومة الإيرانية. لقد سعى “داعش”، الذي اشتهر بقدرته على بناء الجسور عبر القارات، بنشاط إلى استغلال هذه الصراعات الوطنية كما يفعل في بلدان بعيدة مثل الفلبين.

ورأت طباطبائي أن وصول “داعش” داخل إيران لا يزال ضئيلاً إلى حد ما. وأوضحت، مع ذلك، أن “داعش ركز معظم جهوده في المناطق التي تضم عدداً كبيراً من الأقليات الكردية والعربية – لأن هؤلاء هم  (على الأقل) السكان الذين تم إهمالهم تاريخياً، هذا إذا لم تقمعهم السلطة المركزية”.

وفي حين أن القضاء على قوات الخصوم وتوقع نفوذها في الخارج كانا بمثابة دافعين أساسيين لدخول طهران في الحرب ضد “داعش”، فقد كان ذلك يعطل أي صلة محتملة بين هذه الجماعة الجهادية المؤثرة والمعارضين الآخرين لإيران داخل الدولة نفسها. وقال شاناهان لـ”نيوزويك” إنه منذ البداية “كانت إيران قلقة من التهديد الذي يشكله تنظيم داعش على الأراضي الإيرانية، وإمكانية دعم التمردات المنخفضة المستوى بين الجماعات العربية والسنية البلوشية داخل إيران”.

وأضاف شاناهان: “لديهم دعم محدود داخل إيران لكنهم قد يسعون إلى استغلال تركيز الأجهزة الأمنية على الاحتجاجات للقيام ببعض الأعمال التكتيكية المحلية”، مشيراً إلى أن التظاهرات الحالية كانت “حول استياء الإيرانيين من النظام ككل، مع رفع دعم الوقود كحافز، ولا يتعلق الأمر بحقوق الأقليات”.

وعلى الرغم من النجاح المحدود في تسلله، تمكن “داعش” من ضرب قلب “الجمهورية الإسلامية الإيرانية” في حزيران / يونيو 2017 عندما قام العديد من المسلحين الأكراد الذين انضموا إلى الجماعة بهجمات مزدوجة على البرلمان الإيراني وضريح الراحل آية الله روح الله الخميني، مما أسفر عن مقتل 18 شخصاً. فقد أسفر هجوم في أيلول / سبتمبر الماضي على عرض لـ”حرس الثورة” في الأهواز في ذكرى إحياء ذكرى الحرب العراقية-الإيرانية – التي حاول خلالها صدام حسين كذلك تعزيز الانفصالية العربية في خوزستان – عن مقتل عشرين شخصاً، نصفهم من الجنود، وتبنى كل من “داعش” والانفصاليون العرب المسؤولية عنه.

ورداً على ذلك، أطلقت إيران صواريخ “ذو الفقار” التي طارت مئات الأميال عبر العراق إلى محافظة دير الزور في شرق سوريا، وهي كانت معقلاً لـ”داعش” في ذلك الوقت حيث تمت مهاجمتها من قبل حملتين متنافستين بقيادة الحكومة السورية و”قوات سوريا الديمقراطية” ذات الأغلبية الكردية المدعومة من الولايات المتحدة. لم ينظر إلى الضربة غير المسبوقة كرسالة إلى “داعش” فحسب، بل كدليل على براعة الصواريخ الإيرانية الموجهة نحو خصومها الوطنيين الثلاثة الذين يأتون في أول القائمة.

وكثيراً ما ألقت إيران باللوم على الولايات المتحدة و”إسرائيل” والسعودية لإثارة الفتنة داخل البلاد في محاولة للإطاحة بحكومة يتهمونها بأنها تزعزع الاستقرار في المنطقة. لم يظهر أي دليل قاطع على مثل هذه المؤامرة فيما يتعلق بالتظاهرات الحالية، على الرغم من أن شخصيات بارزة في واشنطن – مثل مستشار الأمن القومي السابق جون بولتون، أحد صقور الحرب المتدينين – قد جنّد قوات المعارضة علناً مثل الانفصاليين العرب الأهوازيين ومنظمة “مجاهدي خلق” الإيرانية.

حتى عام 2012، كانت منظمة “مجاهدي خلق” منظمة إرهابية معينة من قبل الولايات المتحدة، وهو ما يمثل الخطوط الواضحة التي حددت منذ فترة طويلة سياسات واشنطن في الشرق الأوسط. في قتال داعش، شاركت الولايات المتحدة مع وحدات حماية الشعب (YPG) ، وهي مجموعة كردية سورية يُنظر إليها على نطاق واسع على أنها مرتبطة بحزب العمال الكردستاني المحظور، وعلى الرغم من أن ترامب قد تبنى موقفاً متشدداً ضد إيران، فإن البنتاغون قد أُجبر على مواصلة التعاون غير المباشر على الأقل مع قوات “الحشد الشعبي” العراقية، وهي مظلة لميليشيات تضم “كتائب حزب الله” المحظورة، المدعومة من إيران، من بين مجموعات أخرى.

وقال الخبراء الثلاثة الذين قابلتهم “نيوزويك” إنهم يعتقدون أن انهيار الحكومة الإيرانية أمر غير مرجح في المستقبل القريب، على الرغم من “أقصى ضغط” التي قامت بها الولايات المتحدة ضدها. حتى بالنسبة لواشنطن، قد لا يكون هذا شيئاً ضرورياً: فقد علمت مراراً أن فقدان سيطرة حكومة العدو في كثير من الأحيان كانت له تداعيات بعيدة المدى في شكل تدفقات كبيرة للاجئين، وتشكيل أعداء جدد أكثر قوة، وتدخلات عسكرية مكلفة لمحاربتهم.

وختمت “نيوزويك” أن من المرجح أن تكون لسقوط إيران – وهي دولة يزيد عدد سكانها عن الدول الثلاث التي مزقتها الحرب مجتمعة – آثار جانبية مدمرة أكثر وسيمنح داعش والقوات السرية الأخرى مساحة جديدة للعمل.

ففي الوقت الحالي، يبدو أن تهديد تنظيم “داعش” تحت السيطرة. لكن تفاقم المشاكل الاقتصادية الناجمة عن القيود الأميركية والاقتتال السياسي بين المتشددين والمتطرفين في إيران سيشجع المجموعة المتشددة على السعي بنشاط لاستسلام إيران.

ترجمة: هيثم مزاحم – الميادين نت

إن الآراء المذكورة في هذه المقالة لا تعبّر بالضرورة عن رأي الميادين وإنما تعبّر عن رأي الصحيفة حصراً

Western media excited about ‘new Iran revolution’, but polls tell a different story about protests

Sharmine Narwani

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. Sharmine has written commentary for a wide array of publications, including Al Akhbar English, the New York Times, the Guardian, Asia Times Online, Salon.com, USA Today, the Huffington Post, Al Jazeera English, BRICS Post and others. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani

Western media excited about ‘new Iran revolution’, but polls tell a different story about protests

Reuters/WANA/Nazanin Tabatabaee

Data from two foreign polls tell a very different story about protests in Iran. The economy is tough, but a majority of Iranians back their government’s security initiatives and reject domestic upheaval.

On November 15, angry Iranians began pouring onto the streets to protest sudden news of a 50% fuel price hike. A day later, peaceful demonstrations had largely dissipatd, replaced instead by much smaller crowds of rioters who burned banks, gas stations, buses and other public and private property. Within no time, security forces hit the streets to snuff out the violence and arrest rioters, during which an unconfirmed number of people on both sides died.

Western commentators tried in vain to squeeze some juice out of the short-lived protests. “Iranian protesters strike at the heart of the regime’s legitimacy,” declared Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution. France 24 asked the question, is this “a new Iranian revolution?” And the LA Times slammed Iran’s “brutal crackdown” against its people.

They grasped for a geopolitical angle too: protests in neighboring Lebanon and Iraq that were based almost entirely on popular domestic discontent against corrupt and negligent governments, began to be cast as a regional insurrection against Iranian influence.

ALSO ON RT.COMIran has quashed ‘extensive & very dangerous conspiracy’ perpetrated by foreign enemies, Khamenei saysAnd despite the fact that the internet in Iran was disabled for nearly a week, unverified videos and reports curiously made their way outside to Twitter accounts of Iran critics, alleging that protestors were calling for the death of the Supreme Leader, railing against Iran’s interventions in the region and calling for a fall of the “regime.

Clearly, the initial protests were genuine – a fact that even the Iranian government admitted immediately. Reducing petrol subsidies on the cheapest fuel in the region has been an issue on Iran’s political agenda for years, one that became more urgent after the US exited the Iran nuclear deal last year and began to tighten the sanctions screws on Iran again.

To try and understand Iranian reactions in the past twelve days, let’s look at two opinion polls conducted jointly by the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and Toronto-based IranPolls in the immediate aftermath of the 2017/2018 protests/riots – and in May, August and October 2019, when the US “maximum pressure” campaign was in full gear.

What leaps out immediately from the earlier 2018 poll is that Iranians were frustrated with a stagnant economy – and 86% of them specifically opposed a hike in the price of gasoline, the main impetus for protests this November.

Ironically, this month’s gasoline price hike was meant to generate upward of $2.25 billion earmarked for distribution to Iran’s 18 million most hard-hit families. In effect, the government was softening the fuel subsidy reduction with payouts to the country’s neediest citizens.

The 2018 poll also lists respondents’ single biggest woes, ranging from unemployment (40%), inflation and high cost of living (13%), low incomes (7%),financial corruption and embezzlement (6%), injustice (1.4%), lack of civil liberties (0.3%), among others.

These numbers suggest the 2018 protests were overwhelmingly in response to domestic economic conditions– and not over Iran’s foreign policy initiatives or “widespread repression” that was heavily promoted by western media and politicians at the time.

The same Suzanne Maloney quoted above on this month’s protests, insisted in a 2018 Washington Post article:“The people aren’t just demonstrating for better working conditions or pay, but insisting on wholesale rejection of the system itself.”

In fact, in the 2018 poll, only 16% of Iranians agreed with the statement “Iran’s political system needs to undergo fundamental change,” with a whopping 77% disagreeing.

ALSO ON RT.COMIranian protesters should be angry at the regime in Washington, not Tehran

 

Like protests this month in Iran, the 2017-18 demonstrations also morphed into small but violent riots, and Iranian security forces hit the streets to stop the chaos. But in the aftermath of those events – and despite endless foreign headlines about the “brutality” of the security reaction – Iranians overwhelmingly sided with their government’s treatment of rioters.

Sixty-three percent of those polled in 2018 said the police used an appropriate amount of force, and another 11% said they used “too little force.” Overall, 85% of Iranians agreed that “the government should be more forceful to stop rioters who use violence or damage property.”

This Iranian reaction must be understood in context of Iran’s very insecure neighborhood, region-wide terrorism often backed by hostile states and a relentless escalation against Iranian interests after Donald Trump became US president. His “maximum pressure” campaign has only worsened matters, and Iranians consider themselves in a state of war with the United States – on constant guard against subversion, sabotage, espionage, eavesdropping, propaganda, border infiltration, etc.

Earlier this decade, the US military declared the internet an “operational domain”of war, and cyber warfare has already been widely acknowledged as the future battle frontier in conflicts. Iran was one of the early victims of this new warfare, when the suspected US/Israeli Stuxnet virus disrupted its nuclear program.

The US military has set up war rooms of servicemen dedicated to manipulating social media and advancing US propaganda interests. The British army has launched a “social media warfare” division, its initial focus, the Middle East. Israel has been at the online propaganda game forever, and the Saudis have recently invested heavily in influencing discourse on social media.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the Iranian government shut down the internet during this crisis. Expect this to become the new normal in US adversary states when chaos looms and foreign information operations are suspected.

The western media themes of corruption, violent repression, popular rejection of the Islamic Republic and its regional alliances have been consistent since the 2009 protests that followed contentious elections in Iran. They flared up briefly in early 2011, when western states were eager for an “Iranian Spring” to join the Arab Spring, and became popular narratives during 2017-18 protests when social media platforms adopted them widely.

This November, those narratives sprung to the surface again. So let’s examine what Iranians thought about these claims in October when CISSM/IranPolls published their latest, extremely timely survey.

Iran’s regional military activities

Sixty-one percent of Iranians support retaining military personnel in Syria to contain extremist militants that could threaten Iran’s security and interests. Polls taken since March 2016 confirm the consistency of this view inside Iran, with a steady two-thirds (66%) of respondents supporting an increase in Iran’s regional role.

Asked what would happen if Iran conceded to US demands and ended the US-sanctioned Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) activities in Syria and Iraq, 60% of Iranians thought it would make Washington demand more concessions – only 11% thought it would make the US more accommodating.

Moreover, the October 2019 report says negative attitudes toward the United States have never been higher in CISSM/IranPoll’s 13 years of conducting these surveys in Iran. A hefty 86% of Iranians do not favor the US, and those who say their view of the US is very unfavorable has skyrocketed from 52% in 2015 to 73% today.

They could care less that Washington has sanctioned the IRGC and its elite Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, who is the most popular national figure of those polled, with eight in ten Iranians viewing him favorably. If anything, a hefty 81% of Iranians said the IRGC’s Mideast activities has made Iran “more secure.

As for the IRGC’s role in Iran’s domestic economy – a favorite subject of western foes who cast the military group as a malign and corrupt instrument of the state – today 63% of Iranians believe the IRGC should be involved “in construction projects and other economic matters,” as well as continuing their security role. In times of crisis, they’re viewed as a vital institution: the IRGC and Iranian military scored top points with the public (89% and 90% respectively) for assisting the population during crippling floods last Spring, which displaced half a million Iranians.

Economy and corruption

Seventy percent of Iranians view their economy as “bad” today, a figure that has stayed surprisingly consistent over the past 18 months, despite the imposition of US sanctions last year. The majority blame domestic mismanagement and corruption for their economic woes, but a rising number also blame US sanctions, which is possibly why 70% of Iranians prefer aiming for national self-sufficiency over increasing foreign trade.

Asked about the “impact (of sanctions) on the lives of ordinary people,” 83% of Iranians agreed there was a negative impact on their lives. Oddly, since the US exited the JCPOA, economic pessimism has dropped from 64% in 2018 to 54% last month-mainly, the poll argues, because Iranians feel the US can’t realistically pressure Iran much further with sanctions. Accordingly, 55% of Iranians blame domestic economic mismanagement and corruption for Iran’s poor economy versus 38% who blame foreign sanctions and pressure.

The blame for much of this mismanagement and corruption is pinned on the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, whose favorability numbers dropped under 50% for the first time, to reach 42% this August. Fifty-four percent of Iranians think his government isn’t trying much to fight corruption.

In contrast, 73% believe the Iranian judiciary is much more engaged in fighting economic corruption, up 12% since May.

On the economic front, it appears that Iranians have largely been disappointed by the promises and vision of this administration, which could benefit its Principlist opponents in upcoming parliamentary elections. The fuel tax hike two weeks ago was a necessary evil and a brave move by Rouhani, despite the mismanagement of its public rollout. Unfortunately, Iranians, who have railed against subsidy removals for years, are unlikely to be forgiving anytime soon.

On the political front, Iranians appear to be largely in lockstep with their government’s foreign policy and military initiatives, viewing the IRGC’s activities – domestic and regional – very favorably, and supporting Iran’s involvement in neighboring Iraq and Syria, both for security reasons against terrorism and because they believe in an active regional role for Iran. In terms of support for their leaders, a majority of Iranians view favorably the IRGC’s Soleimani (82%), followed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (67%) and Judiciary Head Ebrahim Raisi (64%), which covers an unexpectedly broad spectrum of political viewpoints in the country.

In light of these numbers, it is fair to say that there is no “second revolution” on Iran’s horizon, nor any kind of significant rupture between government and populace on a whole host of key political, economic and security issues. Foreign commentators can spin events in Iran all they want, but so far Iranians have chosen security and stability over upheaval every time.

*Poll numbers in this article have been rounded up or down to the nearest unit.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

What Have the US and Protesters in Lebanon Achieved over Iran and Its Allies?

Global Research, December 09, 2019
Elijah J. Magnier 8 December 2019

For several weeks now, much of the Lebanese population has turned on the country’s traditional political leaders and wrought havoc on the corrupt domestic political system. Those who have ruled the country for decades have offered little in the way of reforms, have paid little attention to the infrastructure, and done little or nothing to provide job opportunities outside the circle of their clients. The protestors were also driven into the street by the US measures strangling the Lebanese economy and preventing most of the 7-8 million expatriates from transferring financial support (around $8 billion per year) to their relatives back home. This is how the US administration has conducted its policy in the Middle East in its failed attempt to bring Iran and its allies to their knees. The US seems to believe that a state of chaos in the countries where the “Axis of the Resistance” operates may help curb Iran and push it into the US administration’s arms. The US seeks to break Iran’s back and that of its allies and impose its own conditions and hegemony on the Middle East. What has the US achieved so far?

In Lebanon, since the beginning of protests, the price of merchandise has gone sky-high. Medicines and goods are lacking from the market and the Lebanese Lira has lost more than 40% of its value to the US dollar. Many Lebanese have either lost their jobs or found themselves with a salary reduced to half. Lebanon came close to civil war when pro-US political parties closed the main roads and tried mainly to block the Shia link from the south of Lebanon to the capital, around the suburb of Beirut and from Beirut to the Bekaa Valley.

War was avoided when Hezbollah issued a directive instructing all its members and supporters to leave the streets, asking its members to stop and persuade any ally members to come off the streets and to avoid using motorcycles to harass protestors. The instructions were clear: “If anyone slaps you on the right cheekturn to him the other also.”

Hezbollah understood what the corners of Beirut are hiding: an invitation to start a war, particularly when for over a month the Lebanese army refused to open the main roads, allowing not only legitimate protestors but also thugs to rule.

The situation today has changed: the Lebanese President is using the constitution to his advantage, equally to the practice of the Prime Minister who has no deadline in forming a government. President Michel Aoun gave the Christians what they have lost after the Taif Agreement: he refused to ask a Prime Minister candidate to form a new government unless he offers a successful and harmonious cabinet membership that pleases all political parties and has strong chances of success.

Aoun was about to offer the mandate to a new candidate, Samir al-Khatib, had the caretaker the Sunni Saad Hariri – who nominated al-Khatib initially – avoided to boycott him at the last moment or did not ask the ex-prime Ministers, the religious Sunni authority and political parties who support him to nominate Hariri in person. The nomination of the Prime Minister is most likely postponed to an unknown date.

However, the protestors have not achieved much because the traditional political parties will hold onto their influence. The new government, once and if formed, will not be able to lift US sanctions to relieve the domestic economy. On the contrary, the US administration is willing to resume its sanctions on Lebanon and impose further sanctions on other personalities, as Secretary Mike Pompeo sated a couple of months ago.

Today, no Lebanese citizen is able to dispose of his own saving or company assets in banks due to restrictions on withdrawals, effective “capital controls”. Only small amounts are allowed to be delivered to account holders–around $150-300 per week in a country where cash payments prevail. No one is allowed to transfer any amount abroad unless for university fees or special demands of goods import of first necessities.

However, Hezbollah, the US-Israel main target, was not affected directly by the US sanctions and by the new financial restrictions. Militants were paid, as is the case monthly, in US dollars with an increase of 40% (due to the local currency devaluation) with the compliments of “Uncle Sam”.

Hezbollah not only has avoided civil war but also has managed to boost the position of its allies. President Aoun and the leader of the “Free Patriotic Movement” (FPM) the foreign Minister Gebran Bassil were in a confused state in the first weeks of the protests. Hezbollah leadership played a role in holding on to his allies and supporting them. Today, the situation is back under control and the President and the FPM leader are holding the initiative over their political opponents.

Hezbollah will be part of the new government with new personalities and perhaps one traditional minister. The “Axis of the Resistance” believes if “Hezbollah’s presence in the new government disturbs the US administration, then why it should comply and leave? Quite the opposite. It should stay or appoint Ministers on its behalf”.

The “Axis of the Resistance” is convinced that the exit of Hezbollah from the cabinet would trigger further US demands. It is Hezbollah’s legitimate right to be represented in the government since it holds a large coalition in the Parliament. Besides, who will stop any attempt by the US to allow Israel to annex the disputed Lebanese water borders? Who will campaign for the return of Syrian refugees back home? What about the US request to deploy UN forces on the borders with Syria?

Hezbollah enjoys large amount of popular support and this from a society that is behind it and that suffers as much as everybody else from the country of the corrupted Lebanese system. Notwithstanding its poverty, the society of Hezbollah stands with the “Axis of the Resistance” against the US sanctions and attempts to corner it.

The US administration failed to achieve its objectives, even when riding the wave of protestors’ legitimate demands. It has also failed to drag Hezbollah to street fighting. It is about to fail to exclude Hezbollah and its allies, determine to be part of the new government regardless of the names of individual ministers. The US failed to corner Hezbollah – as was possible with Hamas – because Lebanon is open to Syria and from it to Iraq and Iran. Lebanon has also the seafront on the Mediterranean open to the outside world to import much needed goods. However, the “Axis of the Resistance” has asked its friends and supporters to cultivate the land in order to soften the increase of prices of food.

The “Axis of the Resistance’ also has lines open to Russia and China. Hezbollah continues trying to convince political parties to diversify the resources and cease depending on the US and Europe only. Russia is proving itself on the political international arena – even if still not enjoying influence in Lebanon – and is able to stand firm against US hegemony. Europe is also happy to see Hezbollah and its allies in power, afraid of seeing millions of Syrian and Lebanese refugees flocking to the old continent. China is willing to open a bank in Lebanon, collect and recycle the bins, offer drinkable water and construct electricity generators. The total of what China is ready to invest in Lebanon is close to $12.5 billion, much more than the $11 billion offered by CEDRE that is linked to the privatisation of Lebanese infrastructure.

Doors in Lebanon are open for an alternative to the US. Therefore, the more Washington is willing to corner the Lebanese government and its inhabitants, the more certainly they move towards Russia and China.

The Lebanese have lost much since the protests began. The US has gained a society ready to keep at a distance whihc is further from its hegemony and its allies have failed to trap Hezbollah. However, protestors did manage to sound an alarm and warn politicians that their corruption can’t continue forever and that they may someday be brought to justice. Once again, the agents of chaos have failed and the “Axis of the Resistance” has the upper hand in Lebanon.

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What Really Happened in Iran? Wave of Protests in 100 Cities

A fuel tax hike set the country ablaze and triggered a social backlash

Global Research, December 09, 2019

On November 15, a wave of protests engulfed over 100 Iranian cities as the government resorted to an extremely unpopular measure: a fuel tax hike of as much as 300%, without a semblance of a PR campaign to explain the reasons.

Iranians, after all, have reflexively condemned subsidy removals for years now – especially related to cheap gasoline. If you are unemployed or underemployed in Iran, especially in big cities and towns, Plan A is always to pursue a second career as a taxi driver.

Protests started as overwhelmingly peaceful. But in some cases, especially in Tehran, Shiraz, Sirjan and Shahriar, a suburb of Tehran, they quickly degenerated into weaponized riots – complete with vandalizing public property, attacks on the police and torching of at least 700 bank outlets. Much like the confrontations in Hong Kong since June.

President Rouhani, aware of the social backlash, tactfully insisted that unarmed and innocent civilians arrested during the protests should be released. There are no conclusive figures, but Iranian diplomats admit, off the record, that as many as 7,000 people may have been arrested. Tehran’s judiciary system denies it.

According to Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, as many as 200,000 people took part in the protests nationwide. According to the Intelligence Ministry, 79 people were arrested in connection with the riots only in Khuzestan province – including three teams, supported by “a Persian Gulf state,” which supposedly coordinated attacks on government centers and security/police forces.

The Intelligence Ministry said it had arrested eight “CIA operatives,” accused of being instrumental in inciting the riots.

Now compare it with the official position by the IRGC. The chief commander of the IRGC, Major General Hossein Salami, stressed riots were conducted by “thugs” linked to the US-supported Mujahedin-e Khalq (MKO), which has less than zero support inside Iran, and with added interference by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Salami also framed the riots as directly linked to “psychological pressure” from the Trump administration’s relentless “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran. He directly connected the protests degenerating into riots in Iran with foreign interference in protests in Lebanon and Iraq.

Elijah Magnier has shown how Moqtada al-Sadr denied responsibility for the burning down of the Iranian consulate in Najaf – which was set on fire three times in November during protests in southern Iraq.

Tehran, via government spokesman Ali Rabiei, is adamant:

“According to our information, the attack on the consulate was not perpetrated by the Iraqi people, it was an organized attack.”

Predictably, the American narrative framed Lebanon and Iraq – where protests were overwhelmingly against local government corruption and incompetence, high unemployment, and abysmal living standards – as a region-wide insurgency against Iranian power.

Soleimani for President?

Analyst Sharmine Narwani, based on the latest serious polls in Iran, completely debunked the American narrative.

It’s a complex picture. Fifty-five percent of Iranians do blame government corruption and mismanagement for the dire state of the economy, while 38% blame the illegal US sanctions. At the same time, 70% of Iranians favor national self-sufficiency – which is what Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has been emphasizing – instead of more foreign trade.

On sanctions, no less than 83% agree they exerted a serious impact on their lives. Mostly because of sanctions, according to World Bank figures, Iranian GDP per capita has shrunk to roughly $6,000.

The bad news for the Rouhani administration is that 58% of Iranians blame his team for corruption and mismanagement – and they are essentially correct. Team Rouhani’s promises of a better life after the JCPOA obviously did not materialize. In the short term, the political winners are bound to be the principlists – which insist there’s no possible entente cordiale with Washington at any level.

The polls also reveal, significantly, massive popular support for Tehran’s foreign and military policy – especially on Syria and Iraq. The most popular leaders in Iran are legendary Quds Force commander Gen. Soleimani (a whopping 82%), followed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (67%) and the head of the Judiciary Ebrahim Raisi (64%).

The key takeaway is that at least half and on some issues two-thirds of Iran’s popular opinion essentially support the government in Tehran – not as much economically but certainly in political terms. As Narwani summarizes it, “so far Iranians have chosen security and stability over upheaval every time.”

‘Counter-pressure’

What’s certain is that Tehran won’t deviate from a strategy that may be defined as  “maximum counter-pressure” – on multiple fronts. Iranian banks have been cut off from SWIFT by the US since 2018. So efforts are intensifying to link Iran’s SEPAM system with the Russian SPFS and the Chinese CIPS – alternative interbank paying systems.

Tehran continues to sell oil – as Persian Gulf traders have repeatedly confirmed to me since last summer. Digital tracking agency Tankertrackers.com concurs. The top two destinations are China and Syria. Volumes hover around 700,000 barrels a day. Beijing has solemnly ignored every sanction threat from Washington regarding oil trading with Iran.

Khamenei, earlier this month, was adamant:

“The US policy of maximum pressure has failed. The Americans presumed that they can force Iran to make concessions and bring it to its knees by focusing on maximum pressure, especially in the area of economy, but they have troubled themselves.”

In fact “maximum counter-pressure” is reaching a whole new level.

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi confirmed that Iran will hold joint naval drills with Russia and China in the Indian Ocean in late December.

That came out of quite a significant meeting in Tehran, between Khanzadi and the deputy chief of the Chinese Joint Staff Department, Major General Shao Yuanming.

So welcome to Maritime Security Belt. In effect from December 27th. Smack on the Indian Ocean – the alleged privileged territory of Washington’s Indo-Pacific policy. And uniting the three key nodes of Eurasia integration: Russia, China and Iran.

Khanzadi said that, “strategic goals have been defined at the level administrations, and at the level of armed forces, issues have been defined in the form of joint efforts.” General Yuanming praised Iran’s Navy as “an international and strategic force.”

But geopolitically, this packs a way more significant game-changing punch. Russia may have conducted naval joint drills with Iran on the Caspian Sea. But a complex drill, including China, in the Indian Ocean, is a whole new ball game.

Yuanming put it in a way that every student of Mahan, Spykman and Brzezinski easily understands: “Seas, which are used as a platform for conducting global commerce, cannot be exclusively beneficial to certain powers.”  So start paying attention to Russia, China and Iran being quite active not only across the Heartland but also across the Rimland.

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This article was originally published on Asia Times.

Pepe Escobar is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image is from OneWorld

Iran Unrest: Protests and Provocations

By Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

Source

Iran Unrest 44edf

When protests in Hong KongIraq, and Lebanon erupted, I was fully anticipating protests in Iran to follow. In 2018 alone, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) had spent millions of dollars in these countries (and elsewhere) to promote America’s agenda. However, I did not expect unrest in Iran to take place while I was visiting the country. In retrospect, I am glad that I was here to be witness to these latest events.

On Thursday, November 21st, friends took me to a very charming Iranian restaurant in the heart of the city. During our lunch, they talked about there being a price hike in gasoline. After lunch, we walked around the charming downtown area of Tehran, visited shops, and exhausted climbed into a cab. We asked the cab driver if he had heard anything about prices going up. He told us that this was just a rumor. As such, the increase in the price of gasoline took Iranians by surprise. Regrettably, the government of President Rohani had not explained the rationale behind the price increase PRIOR to the increase itself. In several parts of Iran, protests erupted. Perhaps justified, and they were peaceful. One could argue they were disruptive in that cars blocked roads, making it difficult for others, causing traffic jams, but there was no vandalism on the first day – not to my knowledge.

But calm soon gave way to violence. A friend who lives in the suburbs of Tehran, in Karaj, told me that on a single street in that sleepy suburb, protestors had set 4 banks on fire. Elsewhere, police stations were attacked, banks and gas stations set on fire. Businesses were set on fire and destroyed. People were sending text messages to each other giving locations of alleged protests in the hopes of gathering people in one spot or another.

This did not surprise me. I was certain that “swarming” tactic was being implemented (as I believe it was elsewhere mentioned above). First developed by RAND as a military and tactical tool, RAND’s publication “Swarming & The Future of Conflict” states:

In Athena’s Camp, we speculated that swarming is already emerging as an appropriate doctrine for networked forces to wage information-age conflict. This nascent doctrine derives from the fact that robust connectivity allows for the creation of a multitude of small units of maneuver, networked in such a fashion that, although they might be widely distributed, they can still come together, at will and repeatedly, to deal resounding blows to their adversaries. This study builds on these earlier findings by inquiring at length into why and how swarming might be emerging as a preferred mode of conflict for small, dispersed, internetted units. In our view, swarming will likely be the future of conflict.”

“Social conflict also features pack-like organizations, as exemplified by modern-day “soccer hooligans.” They generally operate in a loosely dispersed fashion, then swarm against targets of opportunity who are “cut out” from a larger group of people. The use of modern information technologies—from the Internet to cell phones—has facilitated plans and operations by such gangs (see Sullivan, 1997)”.

Swarming depends on robust information flow and is a necessary condition for successful swarming. In other words, by controlling communication and sending texts to ‘protestors,’ random groups are mobilized together in one or various spots. Chaos ensues, which naturally draws reaction. One is never aware of the origin of the messages. In one of her talks, Suzanne Maloney of Brookings seemed to know the exact number of cell phones in use in Iran. These messages increased in number, as did the vandalism and reaction to the destructive behavior. This was not the first time that this tactic had been used in Iran. But it was the first time that Iran’s adversaries were surprised, shocked even, to see that Iran was capable of shutting down the Internet so quickly in order to put a stop to the spread of violence and restore calm.

I drove around in Tehran from end to end, either with friends or in a cab, and took note of the streets. I watched both Iranian TV news and foreign media such as BBC Persian, VOA, Radio Farda, Saudi funded Iran International broadcasted into Iran through satellite (at times jammed) to encourage people to get out on the streets and to protest. Iran was covered under a blanket of snow. With freezing temperatures, I was amused to see BBC Persian show pictures of ‘demonstrators’ in T-shirts. I was angry to see Reza Pahlavi, the deposed Shah of Iran appear on Iran International encouraging people to get out onto the streets. I felt insulted on behalf of every Iranian when Secretary Pompeo retweeted an old tweet and then tweeted again that ‘he was with the Iranian people’ – not to eat, not to receive medicinal goods, not to address their desire for peace and security, but to endure all kinds of hardship and to be subjected to American terrorism (sanctions) and go out on the streets to protest in order to promote America’s agenda.

The hostile foreign media even showed pictures of a ‘protestor’ handing out flowers to security personnel – a symbol first used against the Pentagon in 1967 by a woman protesting the war in Vietnam (and later in the 2014 US-backed coup in Ukraine). Except I could not tell if the picture I saw streaming through the foreign media’s satellite television was Iran or not. The viewer was told it was. The symbol was powerful, but I doubt very much that it was an indigenous one.

With the Internet disconnected, foreign media propaganda then had its viewers believe people were calling from inside Iran; eyewitnesses were reporting events. A voice telling BBC, or Iran International, or …… what was going on. Just a voice which would not doubt then be picked up as eyewitness testimony and shared in all media outlets. The ease with which individuals in various target countries always manage to get directly through television stations has always fascinated me. No automated answer – just straight to the newsroom.

In all this, I can’t help but ask why it was that none of the banks and gas stations set on fire, buildings burnt and businesses ruined, were not located in the pro-West parts of Tehran. Their life continued without a hitch – homes safe, business safe. After all, the main reason for the gasoline price increase was to help the less affluent and the poor. Perhaps as Daniel McAdams of the Ron Paul Institute said of the CIA’s role behind the uprisings, Michael D’Andrea, aka “Ayatollah Mike” wanted them safe. Regardless of the reason, CIA/NED spent millions and failed – again.

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