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

Why Israel Pretends That Hamas Fired Rockets by Accident

March 21 2019

Israeli military and political officials have repeated Hamas’s dubious claim that the launching of two rockets at Tel Aviv last week was inadvertent. To Smadar Perry, accepting Hamas’s story rather than engaging in further retaliation is but a convenient, and perhaps necessary, way of aiding Egyptian efforts to broker a deal with the terrorist group. But even if these efforts succeed, the results will be mixed:

The [Israeli] security cabinet has met in Tel Aviv and decided that they would continue indirect negotiations with Gaza. A message was sent to Egypt, whose delegation is going back to Gaza to pass on the Israeli demands for calm. The Egyptians also have to deal with the demands from Hamas, which include, among other things, an increase in aid from $15 million to $30 million per month and an increase in the supply of electricity.

The requests are reasonable, but they do leave a sour taste in the mouth. Israel must ensure that this financial aid does not end up in the pockets of Hamas and its associates. [Israel] also knows that if it says “no” to everything, the Iranians will step in, with the help of their Gazan friends in Islamic Jihad. They are just waiting for the opportunity.

Hamas also must deal with the fallout from a series of massive handouts from Qatar. For when the citizens of the Gaza Strip saw that the money was going to the Hamas leadership, who were also enjoying a fine supply of electricity to their own houses, they took to the streets in protest—and this time it was not Israel that was the focus of their anger. . .

[But] here is the irony. With Egyptian help, Israel can reach understandings for calm with Gaza, despite the lack of a direct channel. . . . In the West Bank, where the purportedly friendlier Fatah is in charge, it is more complicated, at least until the eighty-three-year-old Mahmoud Abbas is replaced.

As evidence for that last statement, consider the murder of two Israelis in the West Bank on Sunday, and the Palestinians who threw explosives at Israeli soldiers at Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem yesterday.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, West Bank