With or Without the Nuclear Deal, the Islamic Republic May Be Headed for Collapse

Yesterday, President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran and to re-impose sanctions, an action that will no doubt exacerbate the country’s economic problems. But, U.S. policy decisions aside, Iran may already be facing a serious domestic crisis, as evidenced by an outbreak of strikes and labor unrest over the weekend. Sohrab Ahmari draws a parallel between the current situation and the events over a century ago that led to the fall of Persia’s Qajar dynasty:

The tobacco boycott of 1891 was a remarkable act of popular resistance against a humiliating monopoly concession granted by the shah to a British firm. . . . The shah would rescind the concession by the end of the year. Five years later, while the shah was supplicating the Almighty at a shrine outside Tehran, a cloaked figure approached him from behind, aimed a rusty revolver at the “king of kings,” and fired. . . . [T]he pair of events—the 1891 boycott and the 1896 assassination—marked the beginning of the end of his Qajar dynasty.

Today, the evidence is mounting that the Islamic Republic has entered a similar death spiral. The nationwide eruption of labor strikes is only the latest sign. . . . While working-class Iranians struggle to put food on the table—prices have climbed more than 10 percent a year, unemployment hovers north of 12 percent, and having a job is no guarantee that one gets paid—the Tehran regime has spent the lion’s share of the proceeds from the nuclear deal on military adventures from Yemen to Syria.

[Furthermore], labor unrest is far from the mullahs’ only headache. The current strikes follow the New Year’s uprising, which saw thousands of Iranians pour into the streets in December and January. Their slogans initially concerned graft and corruption but quickly morphed into outright opposition to the Islamic Republic in toto. Then came the (ongoing) movement of women who publicly remove their headscarves in protest against compulsory veiling. In the most bizarre twist yet, last month’s discovery of a mummified body believed to belong to Reza Shah Pahlavi, the great modernizing monarch who deposed the Qajar dynasty, galvanized anti-regime sentiment, with soccer fans taking to their stadiums to chant “Long live Reza Shah!”

All this is reminiscent of the chaos and pandemonium that accompanied the collapse of the Qajars. In the final years of the dynasty, the Qajar fisc was perennially empty. Tribal chiefs refused to pay taxes. Radical underground societies of various stripes—Islamist, nationalist, Communist—were spreading across the country. Prophets and assassins and prophetic assassins shook the land. The only difference is that the mullahs combine the venality and corruption of the Qajars with a fanatical and deeply anti-Iranian Islamist ideology, which makes them all the more vulnerable to a renascent Iranian nationalism.

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

 

To the Anti-Semite, Jews Aren’t Just One Problem among Many, but the Source of All Problems

While it likely had some ancient antecedents, the blood libel—the myth that Jews murder Christian children and consume their blood as part of a Passover ritual—as we know it began in Norwich, England in 1144. That same city was the location of one of several blood-libel-fueled massacres of Jews in 1190, and researchers have recently concluded that a mass grave found in Norwich contained the bones of the victims. Meir Soloveichik reflects on this discovery:

The popularity of the blood libel, in its very absurdity, captures the essence of anti-Semitism. By taking the tale of the origin of Jewish chosenness—the exodus from Egypt—and turning it into a pernicious plan for annual evildoing, the libel illustrates how, as Robert Nicholson once wrote, hatred of Jews “isn’t just any old hatred or racism. It is a grand anti-myth that turns Jewish chosenness on its head and assigns to the people of Israel responsibility for all the world’s ills.”

The readiness of all today to denounce the massacres of medieval Jewish communities often highlights how, as the writer Dara Horn put it, “people love dead Jews.” The blood libel is not a thing of the past. It is ongoing. The world is all too prepared to bemoan the injustice against Jews in the past and yet all too ready to overlook those who purvey blood libels today.

Such a phenomenon can be seen in the successful career of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As Seth Mandel has noted, . . . the congresswoman has taken rhetorical dishonesty about Israel to entirely new level, linking—like the libelists of old—purported Jewish activity to grievances around the world. Commenting on the situation at the Mexican-American border, she accused, without offering any evidence, Israel of placing Palestinian children in cages. During one debate, standing on the floor of the House next to an image of a dead Palestinian child, she linked Israel’s airstrikes to the naval base in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

The bones of murdered Jews may have been exhumed from the soil of the site where the blood libel was born, but what has yet to be exhumed from the present is the blood libel itself. And it is only if we do all we can to identify, and call out, the liars and the libelists that we can honestly hope that the murdered Jews of Norwich will rest in peace.

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More about: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Anglo-Jewry, Anti-Semitism, Blood libel