Ordinary Iranians Are Quietly Protesting Their Regime’s Anti-Israel, Anti-American Ideology

Last Sunday, the Islamic Republic celebrated the 39th anniversary of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Tehran and the seizure of its staff. To honor the date, the government painted American and Israeli flags at the entrances of public buildings, so that those walking in or out could trample on them. But many refused to do so, writes Benny Avni:

Iranians now increasingly dismiss the notion that the sole cause of their problems is the Great Satan. . . . Masih Alinejad—the Iranian-born, Brooklyn-based author of The Wind in My Hair, a best-seller about the battle she inspired against Iranian laws mandating traditional Islamic head coverings for women—[reports that] her Iranian social-media followers . . . sent her several video clips showing students going out of their way to sidestep the flags. Posted on her Instagram account and narrated in Farsi, one video received a million hits. . . .

“This is a new phenomenon,” she says. “Everyone I talk to is worried about the economic impact of the sanctions,” and yet “people are refusing to buy into the regime’s talking points.” . . .

Poverty-stricken remote villagers, taxi and truck drivers, environmentalists, women’s-rights supporters, even upscale, traditionally regime-supporting merchants at the Tehran bazaar all now chant against their theocratic rulers. They [complain of] corruption, mismanagement, involvement in foreign wars, and oppression at home rather than faulting Israel or America.

Sure, some will continue to scapegoat America. But for the many Iranians disenchanted with the regime, [U.S.] sanctions can reinforce a reality: the Islamic Republic’s revolutionary ideology is quickly taking them to nowhere. And they realize another truth, too: their real oppressors aren’t Israel or America—but the clerical regime.

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More about: anti-Americanism, Anti-Zionism, Iran, Iranian Revolution, Politics & Current Affairs

Hizballah Is in Venezuela to Stay

Feb. 21 2019

In a recent interview, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo mentioned the presence of Hizballah cells in Venezuela as further evidence of the growing unrest in that country. The Iran-backed group has operated in Venezuela for years, engaging in narcotics trafficking and money laundering to fund its activities in the Middle East, and likely using the country as a base for planning terrorist attacks. If Juan Guaido, now Venezuela’s internationally recognized leader, is able to gain control of the government, he will probably seek to alter this situation. But, writes Colin Clarke, his options may be limited.

A government led by Guaido would almost certainly be more active in opposing Hizballah’s presence on Venezuelan soil, not just nominally but in more aggressively seeking to curtail the group’s criminal network and, by extension, the influence of Iran. As part of a quid pro quo for its support, Washington would likely seek to lean on Guaido to crack down on Iran-linked activities throughout the region.

But there is a major difference between will and capability. . . . Hizballah is backed by a regime in Tehran that provides it with upward of $700 million annually, according to some estimates. Venezuela serves as Iran’s entry point into Latin America, a foothold the Iranians are unlikely to cede without putting up a fight. Moreover, Russia retains a vested interest in propping up [the incumbent] Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and keeping him in power, given the longstanding relationship between the two countries. . . . Further, after cooperating closely in Syria, Hizballah is now a known quantity to the Kremlin and an organization that President Vladimir Putin could view as an asset that, at the very least, will not interfere with Russia’s designs to extend its influence in the Western hemisphere.

If the Maduro regime is ultimately ousted from power, that will likely have a negative impact on Hizballah in Venezuela. . . . Yet, on balance, Hizballah has deep roots in Venezuela, and completely expelling the group—no matter how high a priority for the Trump administration—remains unlikely. The best-case scenario for Washington could be an ascendant Guaido administration that agrees to combat Hizballah’s influence—if the new government is willing to accept a U.S. presence in the country to begin training Venezuelan forces in the skills necessary to counter terrorism and transnational criminal networks with strong ties to Venezuelan society. But that scenario, of course, is dependent on the United States offering such assistance in the first place.

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Mike Pompeo, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, Venezuela