Across the Middle East, Popular Anger Focuses on the Islamic Republic

November 19, 2019 | Noah Rothman
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Last weekend, the Iranian government announced sharp increases in fuel prices along with stricter rationing, leading to mass protests that have spread rapidly through the country. Unlike similar unrest in 2009 and 2017-2018, notes Noah Rothman, the current wave comes in the wake of several weeks of demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon against Iranian control:

In Iraq, protests over corruption quickly came to be typified by attacks on the symbols of Iranian dominance that pepper the landscape. Those protests were met with force by Iran-backed militias and government forces, resulting in the deaths of more than 300 protesters and the wounding of thousands more. Likewise, anti-austerity protests in Lebanon have taken on a distinctly anti-Iranian flavor.

Though it’s not clear where these demonstrations will end, it is clear where they began: with the illegitimacy of the Iranian regime.

The Trump administration’s pressure on the terrorist group Hizballah, which operates as a semi-governmental entity in Lebanon, increased restrictions on state-owned banks and exacerbated the country’s economic hardships. [Likewise], unrest in Iran cannot be seen in isolation from the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign. The slow-motion collapse of the Iranian rial as the White House ramped up sanction on almost every sector of the Iranian economy contributed to the protests in 2017 and 2018, and a dramatic decline in the revenue once generated by oil exports has rendered Tehran’s domestic energy subsidies untenable.

The campaign this White House is waging against the Iranian regime has found tens of thousands of natural allies across the Middle East. It’s not a forgone conclusion that the people who suffer under Iran’s yoke will know freedom, but the popular demonstrations have made one thing clear. The obstacle to peace in this region is and remains the criminal theocracy in Tehran, not the responsible nations that oppose it.

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