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Making Sense of What Happened in Iran

Jan. 24 2018

The recent anti-government protests in Iran hardly amounted to a revolution, but they were certainly not instances of “conspiracy” or “sedition,” as the mullahs tried to label them; nor were they merely economic, as former Obama-administration officials insisted. Rather, writes Amir Taheri, they were an expression of fundamental political discontent with the regime itself:

[O]ne remarkable feature of the protests was that, for the first time in Iranian contemporary history, there was no religious undertone in any of the slogans and speeches made by protest leaders. What we witnessed in Iran was a political movement with political aims . . .

Many Iranians, including some within the regime, implicitly agree that the mullahs took over a fairly prosperous country four decades ago and turned it into a poorhouse where up to five million suffer from chronic hunger and a further 25 million are housed in slums unfit for human habitation. And . . . they know that the nation’s economic woes are a result of the regime’s reckless policies at home and abroad. Thus, what we witnessed was a national political revolt against the status quo. . . .

The revolt . . . cut across class, regional, ethnic, and religious divides. In some places, for example Isfahan, the richest local families were marching alongside the poorest of the city with middle-class and lower-middle-class people also joining in. In Arak, an industrial city, workers and their employers marched shoulder to shoulder to indicate they were fed up with the Khomeinist system. The revolt also bridged the generation gap, bringing together people of all ages. . . . [It] also cut across the gender gap by bringing together almost as many women as men. In many places, even smaller towns, women assumed leadership. . . .

[The revolt] didn’t offer a clear alternative [to the present system] but helped clear the air by puncturing the Khomeinist regime’s claim of invincibility. Even a year ago few would admit that the Khomeinist system was overthrowable. Now many, including some of the regime’s lobbyists abroad, publicly do so. . . . The national revolt was about the change that may be delayed but won’t be denied.

Read more at Asharq Al-Awsat

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs

Toward an Iran Policy That Looks at the Big Picture

On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a speech outlining a new U.S. approach to the Islamic Republic. Ray Takeyh and Mark Dubowitz explain why it constitutes an important and much-needed rejection of past errors:

For too long, a peculiar consensus has suggested that it is possible to isolate the nuclear issue from all other areas of contention and resolve it in a satisfactory manner. The subsidiary [assumption] embedded in this logic is that despite the bluster of Iran’s rulers, it is governed by cautious men, who if offered sufficient incentives and soothing language would respond with pragmatism. No one embraced this notion more ardently than the former secretary of state, John Kerry, who crafted an accord whose deficiencies are apparent to all but the most hardened partisans. . . .

A regime as dangerous as the Iranian one requires no less than a comprehensive strategy to counter it. This means exploiting all of its vulnerabilities, increasing the costs of its foreign adventures, draining its economy, and aiding our allies. Most importantly, the United States must find a way of connecting itself to domestic opposition that continuously haunts the mullahs.

Washington should no longer settle for an arms-control agreement that paves Iran’s path to a bomb but rather a restrictive accord that ends its nuclear aspirations. The United States should not implore its allies to share the Middle East with Iran, as Barack Obama did, but partner with them in defeating the clerical imperialists. And most importantly, the United States should never forget that its most indispensable ally is the Iranian people.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Iran nuclear program, Mike Pompeo, U.S. Foreign policy