Widespread Unrest Poses a Real Danger to the Iranian Regime

Although a year has passed since the outbreak of popular demonstrations against the ayatollahs across the Islamic Republic, they have not yet been quelled. Alireza Nader argues that these demonstrations reflect a higher-than-ever degree of dissatisfaction with the regime, and urges Washington to take advantage of it:

Still entrenched and viciously clinging to life, the Islamic Republic is nevertheless more vulnerable than it has ever been since the 1979 revolution. Today, unpaid factory workers, teachers, farmers, and truck drivers are some of the most organized and motivated anti-regime forces. . . . Farmers in Isfahan, in central Iran, have turned their backs on regime clerics during Friday prayers and chanted: “Our back to the enemy, our faces to our nation.” Another favorite slogan: “They say our enemy is America, when the real enemy is right here”—meaning the mullahs. Meanwhile, many Iranian women have been shedding the compulsory hijab in public, a gesture that was unthinkable even two years ago.

The sources of popular anger vary, from water shortages to economic collapse to frustration with social restrictions. Most important, recent years disabused Iranians of the illusion of “reform” peddled by so-called moderates like President Hassan Rouhani. The people have learned that such rhetoric only masks the country’s environmental, economic, and social devastation under the mullahs’ rule. . . .

The U.S. should . . . focus on combating the regime’s propaganda machine by creating new Persian-language media that bypass the aging and ineffective Voice of America and Radio Farda, U.S.-taxpayer-funded outlets that too often broadcast the regime’s worldview to Iran. . . . Likewise, America should provide moral and material assistance to domestic forces combating the regime. Washington should pursue some of the same policies that proved successful in defeating Communism during the cold war, such as clandestine aid to the Solidarity movement in Poland.

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More about: Hassan Rouhani, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary], approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat