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.

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

To Israel’s Leading Strategist, Strength, Not Concessions, Has Brought a Measure of Calm

Aug. 14 2018

Following a long and distinguished career in the IDF, Yaakov Amidror served as Israel’s national-security adviser from 2011 to 2013. He speaks with Armin Rosen about the threats from Gaza, Hizballah, and Iran:

For Israel’s entire existence, would-be peacemakers have argued that the key to regional harmony is the reduction of the Jewish state’s hard power through territorial withdrawals and/or the legitimization of the country’s non-state enemies. In Amidror’s view, reality has thoroughly debunked this line of reasoning.

Amidror believes peace—or calm, at least—came as a result of Israeli muscle. Israel proved to its former enemies in the Sunni Arab world that it’s powerful enough to fill the vacuum left by America’s exit from the region and to stand up to Iran on the rest of the Middle East’s behalf. “The stronger Israel is, the more the ability of Arab countries to cooperate [with it] grows,” Amidror explained. On the whole, Amidror said he’s “very optimistic. I remember the threat that we faced when we were young. We fought the Six-Day War and I remember the Yom Kippur War, and I see what we are facing today. We have only one-and-a-half problems. One problem is Iran, and the half-problem is Hizballah.” . . .

In all likelihood the next Israeli-Iranian confrontation will be a clash with Amidror’s half-threat: the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hizballah, Iran’s most effective proxy in the Middle East and perhaps the best armed non-state military force on earth. . . . “We should neutralize the military capability of Hizballah,” [in the event of war], he said. “We should not destroy the organization as a political tool. If the Shiites want these people to represent them, it’s their problem.” . . .

“It will be a very nasty war,” Amidror said. “A very, very nasty war.” Hizballah will fire “thousands and thousands” of long-range missiles of improved precision, speed, and range at Israeli population centers, a bombardment larger than Israel’s various layers of missile defense will be able to neutralize in full. . . . This will, [however], be a blow Israel can withstand. “Israelis will be killed, no question,” Amidror said. “But it’s not going to be catastrophic.”

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lebanon