Protests in Iran

There are numerous reports on Twitter that protests have broken out in several towns and cities in Iran. There is a video circulating of an astonishingly brave woman chanting “Death to Khamenei” in front of law enforcement officers, and another of posters of Khomeini and Khamenei being burned. There are other reports that the police are no longer enforcing the detested 1979 law compelling women to wear a headscarf in public, and one young woman has taken the opportunity to stand on a bollard, hair uncovered, and wave a flag. What is significant about these protests is that people on the streets are actively preventing the authorities from arresting their fellow protesters, and the police have so far declined to get heavy-handed.

From what I can tell, the protests are mainly about economics, with people asking why Iran is spending so much money on terrorism and political meddling abroad while things deteriorate at home. Apparently some are shouting “No Gaza, No Lebanon, our lives are devoted to Iran”. Interestingly, I recently heard some grumblings from Russians about Putin expending money and effort in Syria rather than improving living conditions at home.

The last time there were protests of this size in Iran was 2009 following elections, and Barack Obama declined to back the protesters, effectively siding with the regime. This time around we have Donald Trump in the White House and, surprise surprise, he’s not fucking about:

This is winning him support in unlikely quarters, with some centrist Democrats now referring to Obama’s silence in 2009 as an “error”. Others have pointed out that far from being an error, this was entirely consistent with Obama’s policy of sucking up to America’s sworn enemies in the hope of avoiding difficult foreign policy dilemmas on his watch, and in the case of Iran, signing that ludicrous nuclear deal in the hope of securing his “legacy”. It would be highly ironic if the despotic Iranian regime is overthrown by its own people while Trump is in charge: a constant refrain from his critics has been that his bellicose language towards the Mullahs is unhelpful and only serves to rally the people around their government. Turns out America throwing its moral support behind people trampled on by their governments actually gives them encouragement. Who knew?

Of course, this is giving a lot of people a headache, for two reasons. Firstly, it shows that Obama’s policy towards Iran was seriously ill-considered, but criticism of the Messiah is verbotten in media circles. Secondly, it makes Trump look good. This is why CNN has barely mentioned the protests, preferring instead to ask why Trump doesn’t own a pet. One would have also thought that certain American feminists might feel a little embarrassed about calling themselves brave while marching in Washington wearing pussy-hats in order to listen to sharia-supporting Linda Sarsour praise Islam, but I think we established long ago these morons are incapable of shame.

It also gives the usual conspiracy-mongers a problem. Normally when protests appear in a country whose population has suffered under decades of dysfunctional government, idiots from both sides of the political spectrum immediately blame the CIA or the Jews/Israel. It never occurs to them that maybe ordinary people can get fed up with a lifetime of misrule, but now they may be forced to. It’s going to be pretty hard to claim that the CIA has been active in Iran and paying Iranians to protest their government, and it’s going to be even harder to convince anyone that a nefarious cabal of Jews has done the same. That said, I expect we’ll still get the usual bollocks about a pipeline within a few weeks.

Personally, I’m glad the Iranians have taken to the streets. The Iranians are not stupid, bloodthirsty savages bent on the eradication of Israel and the US, by contrast they appear to be relatively sensible people ruled by theocratic despots who I’d like to see hanging from lampposts, upside down and on fire. I would love to see regime change in Iran, but it could only come from within, at the hands of the Iranians themselves; if it came about via external force it would be a disaster. Regardless of what happens now, and I expect the government will break up the protests and regain control before too long, the Ayatollah’s regime is now looking vulnerable. The people have shown the world they are not supportive of the bullshit their leaders spout, and I am confident they want a more modern, open society and less backward theocracy. In a brittle regime, protests like these taken on an importance which far outweighs their actual size and, unlike in the Arab springs, I am more confident what will follow the eventual collapse of theocratic rule in Iran will be an improvement.

Finally, the person who ought to be watching proceedings in Iran very closely is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He seems keen on establishing in Turkey a theocratic Islamist regime similar to that of Iran, and the two countries are keen allies in the stand-off between the various Arab countries in the Gulf. If the Iranian regime falls the one that replaces it might not like him very much. The Turkish people might also get the idea that they have options to resist encroaching religious despotism after all.

All in all, this is encouraging. Let’s see what happens.


27 thoughts on “Protests in Iran

  1. I wish them well, mindful of the fact that they are in a region where snatching defeat from the jaws of victory is par for the course.

  2. He doesn’t have a pet. Oh boy, and here was me thinking that I’ve seen and heard it all.

    Very interesting Tim, thanks for the pointers.

  3. The BBC article today takes care to attribute the tweet to the Press Secretary and that the same tweet later appears on Trump’s account. Can’t give him credit for the good stuff!
    They are nearly technically correct – it’s not btw the same tweet, there are small wording differences.
    But I do wonder if it was something obviously “bad” e.g., a tweet from a government department saying no admittance to people from this list of 6 countries, that Trump then also tweeted, would they attribute it to the government department or lead with ‘Trump said this’.

  4. “The people have shown the world they are not supportive of the bullshit their leaders spout”

    Following in the footsteps of the Brexit vote ?

  5. Obama was on a mission to fuck white America over, Iran etc just provided unwanted distractions but our boy Donald is a mischief maker so the Mullahs may have to watch their step. I agree overt intervention would be a disaster but Iran has for years played a dirty game, our turn now perhaps….free Persia!

  6. Who needs a pet when you have Melania?

    I hope that this whole Iranian thing gets sorted quickly, I have a pipeline of work and a Persian GM lined up ready to start in what looks like a huge infrastructure market, their economy is crying out to be modernised.

    Lets hope for their own sake that they can now move on from fifty odd years of mayhem.

    As for CIA and oil and gas conspiracy theories, who could criticize the Iranians for harboring such thoughts and suspicions since it was the CIA that started all the trouble when they overthrew their very popular and secular leader back in the 50’s purely for oil and gas commercial reasons. Followed by installing an unpopular shah which lead to a radical revolution that they are now banging on about, Persians are better than this and they have a Jewish community as well. Plus there is the small matter of the US supporting, arming and turning a blind eye to chemical weapons with Saddam and his Iraqi Baathist launching an invasion and a long and bloody war against Iran that killed millions and badly effected and scarred an entire generation.

    “In 1951, Mohammad Mosaddegh was appointed as the Prime Minister. He became enormously popular in Iran after he nationalized Iran’s petroleum industry and oil reserves. He was deposed in the 1953 Iranian coup d’état, an Anglo-American covert operation that marked the first time the United States had overthrown a foreign government during the Cold War.

    After the coup, the Shah became increasingly autocratic and sultanistic, and Iran entered a phase of decades-long controversial close relations with the United States and some other foreign governments. While the Shah increasingly modernized Iran and claimed to retain it as a fully secular state,arbitrary arrests and torture by his secret police, the SAVAK, were used to crush all forms of political opposition.

  7. Who needs a pet when you have Melania?

    If anything, I would imagine this to be the other way round – I mean, if you found a messy carpet in the White House, who of the two would be the prime suspect? 😀

  8. I think the Iranians tried a protest sometime ago (post ’79) but it didn’t end well. I seem to recall a host of motorcycle-riding state-sponsored loons rushing round the streets intent on random killing and indeed one mobile murder sparked some international outrage. However as libs and lefties always support dictatorial regimes, the outrage wasn’t outraged enough to make any difference to the mullahs.

    The one thing we do know is that our ‘ally’ Saudi Arabia is a dangerous, terror-promoting bunch of hoo-haas and while Iran also promotes terrorism they might be fractionally less of a problem for the west. Certainly the Shia faction seems to beat Sunni for intelligence. In other words, Persian isn’t Arab

  9. Watcher, if memory serves, this happened more than once, and the last time was during the Obama time in office.

  10. For all his many faults Bill Clinton was right on one thing – its the economy, stupid!

    One of our modern history lecturers when I was in the Army reckoned that the reason there wasn’t a British revolution to match the French one was that the British establishment recognised the problem and allowed just enough economic and liberal change to keep them in power.

    The Soviet Communist Party collapsed because of the poor economy and the Chinese Communist Party seeing this took a similar line to the British establishment and allowed market freedoms, and now for all their authoritarian controls they really daren’t offend the burgeoning middle class by making their lives poorer.

    For some reason I’ve always felt sorry for the people of Iran, they’ve had a rough deal from the west. If it wasn’t the CIA overthrowing their leaders it was the left wing encouraging and supporting an Islamic revolution, nobody ever mentioned replacing the Shah with a democracy. I wish them well, but I fear the worst.

  11. No cop is going to walk into the middle of a mob. They will have plenty of footage and the ringleaders will be warned off a repeat performance once things are quiet. Or, perhaps, disappear, and end up dangling from a crane as “Saudi spies”.

  12. Barack Obama can’t do anything more substantial than fundraising and golfing without clearing with Valarie Jarrett, born in Iran, and very much pro-Iranian.

  13. What courage these people have shown and I wish them well.

    However I very much doubt that support from Trump and the west will amount to anything more than verbal, and when and if the regime decides enough is enough and lets loose with live rounds followed up by a lively tickling in their torture cells for any unfortunates they capture, then Trumps support will look a little thin.

    But a welcome change from useless Obama.

    I would love to explore Iran, a fascinating and ancient nation, but I think it is unlikely I will ever be able to.

    Good luck.

  14. I met an Iranian woman in Tokyo a few months ago (she was doing an internship), she was completely secular and westernized (wore miniskirts/no headscarves, ate pork and drank booze). If she’s representative of the current generation I don’t think the Ayatollahs will last much longer.

  15. since it was the CIA that started all the trouble when they overthrew their very popular and secular leader back in the 50’s purely for oil and gas commercial reasons.

    The CIA overthrew Mosaddegh because they believed, erroneously, that his government was under the influence of Stalinists and wanted to flip to the USSR. The Brits were pretty annoyed about their oil and gas assets being nationalised so went along with the coup, but that was not the CIA’s reason for doing it.

    Plus there is the small matter of the US supporting, arming and turning a blind eye to chemical weapons with Saddam and his Iraqi Baathist launching an invasion and a long and bloody war against Iran that killed millions and badly effected and scarred an entire generation.

    This is also wrong, although it’s a popularly-held view. The US position at the start of the Iran-Iraq war was “pity both sides can’t lose”. When the Iranian counterattacks prevailed and it looked as though they were about to make deep inroads into Iraq, the US supplied limited support to Saddam Hussein consisting mainly of intelligence information on Iranian strengths and movements. In terms of weapons supplied, Denmark and Brazil provided more to Saddam Hussein: his weaponry came overwhelmingly from the USSR and China (as can be proven just by looking at the kit he had) and to a lesser extent the French. There is no evidence whatsoever that the US supplied chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein, and all that gets put forward is a picture of Donald Rumsfeld shaking his hand. It is almost certain that he got his chemical weapons from the USSR who were happy to supply him (and the Iranians) with all manner of conventional weaponry.

  16. If it wasn’t the CIA overthrowing their leaders it was the left wing encouraging and supporting an Islamic revolution, nobody ever mentioned replacing the Shah with a democracy.

    They should have been allowed to keep Mosaddegh but, like Allende in Chile, he was rapidly taking the country into absolute disaster so who knows what would have happened?

  17. I think the Iranians tried a protest sometime ago (post ’79) but it didn’t end well.

    Yeah, but it’s hard to see how a popular revolt now will usher in a bunch of theocratic headcases like in 1979.

  18. I visited Iran in the mid 1970s. Tehran was very westernised in parts, as was Isfahan, with some wonderful sights. If you ever get there go to the central mosque in Isfahan. We came back via Qom, and that was full of old (and probably not so old) women in black chadoors. The abiding memory is of Hillman Hunters & Avengers (called Peykans there) being totally thrashed by their drivers on the road up to Tehran, probably all the way from import at Bandar Abbas. That was a big non-military purchase by the Shah from us.

  19. “relatively sensible people ruled by theocratic despots who I’d like to see hanging from lampposts, upside down and on fire. ”

    Unfortunately we are more likley to see the protesters dancing a jig from a crane than this.
    A couple of my student coleagues are from Iran. They said that any sensible Iranian gets the hell out of the country as soon as they can.

  20. Tim Newman

    “This is also wrong, although it’s a popularly-held view. The US position at the start of the Iran-Iraq war was “pity both sides can’t lose”.”

    Ironic, the US policy towards Iran and Iraq is most likely the only time the US got it right from the start, yet it still gets slammed regardless!

  21. Oh, and it was the Germans who helped Sadam to a large degree with chemical weapons.

    For some fun sport, try arguing with someone who supports the ‘US armed Sadam’ point of view, and ask them why Sadam’s weapons where all Soviet, Chinese, or French. The ferocity they respond with is very amusing.

  22. I just looked over some source documents for the Iranian Coup including verbatim quotes from British and US Intelligence staff (see reference below) and Malcolm Byrne, ex director of U.S.-Iran Relations Project at the National Security Archive, George Washington University. The US cables are publicly available and cover the period in question, the UK documents still remain secret. All of the available documents confirm the official version of what happened.

    Britain seen the popular Mosaddeq as a major problem due to his nationalist and anti-Western stance and the nationalising of the British Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. The US had Iran on its radar but had no immediate plans for regime change. The UK then conspired by playing up the communist influence and persuaded to US to overthrow the Government. That is exactly what happened according to the many declassified documents that are now of the official record and unless someone can come up with some further information to suggest otherwise it seems a perfectly plausible explanation of the events to me.

    Browsing the archives reveals that the coup nearly failed the first time round when it was repelled and the proposed shah bailed and fled the country, the US then got cold feet and ordered their guys to stop (see cable below). The local CIA agent (according to Malcom Bryne) ignored the cable and successfully implemented the coup.

    Its worth mentioning that when Robert Moore met with his adversary the Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap he was totally floored when the general told him that the US had it completely wrong since the beginning in believing that Vietnam would have aligned with the communist Chinese. The Vietnamese only wanted self recognition and was always a nationalist movement and they had no intention of becoming part greater China . Robert Moore reflected on this widely in his memoirs.

    Some quotes below.

    The Department of State yesterday released a long-suppressed volume of historical records documenting the role of the United States in the 1953 coup against the Iranian government of Mohammad Mosadeq. “This retrospective volume focuses on the evolution of U.S. thinking on Iran as well as the U.S. Government covert operation that resulted in Mosadeq’s overthrow on August 19, 1953,” the Preface says. See Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), 1952-1954, Iran, 1951-1954.


    Washington, August 18, 1953.
    DIR 16224. Ref TEHE 717.2
    This view on basis evidence available to it is that operation has been tried and failed and we should not participate in any operation against Mossadegh which could be traced back to US and further compromise future relations with him which may become only course of action left open to US.3

    Avoid any discussions of the oil controversy until initiated by the Iranians. Play down any publicity on this issue, either here and in England.
    c. Have the President express publically his congratulations to the Shah for successfully re-establishing in Iran true democratic processes; i.e., rule of law, public security, individual freedom and freedom of assembly.
    Altho, for foregoing reasons, British still uncertain how Zahedi’s accession to power will affect their interests, they recognize that it may be better at this juncture that Prime Minister’s office be filled by someone with an anti-British reputation than by a Said.
    We have impression that despite foregoing, British would like and hope be able improve their relations with new Govt. They have been encouraged, for example, by press reports of statements by Zahedi which are inferentially critical of Mossadeq’s anti-British policy. For present, however, British seem likely maintain attitude of friendly reserve and watchful waiting. We see little prospect British taking initiative renewal diplomatic relations or oil question until Zahedi’s position and policies become clearer.
    Emphasize ‘the anti-Communist element in our plans’ avoid ‘were being used to rescue Britain’s oil interests.’ ‘At that date, the CIA was a fairly new establishment, and willing to accept professional advice and even influence from the British.’

  23. On the US arming and supporting Iraq in the Iraq/Iran war. I never claimed that they supplied chemical weapons I said that they turned a blind eye to it and I never claimed that they didn’t arm Iran at various stages of the bloody war either.

    As for arming, there are many ways to do this, the arms don’t only have to be made in the US and delivered by Fed Ex on a Rand Co account to be classified as “arming”. Oliver North has explained in considerable detail and on oath some of the surreptitious ways that the US arm movements. Again its all on the public record if you care to look.

    As for the Iraqi war on Iran this is what the relevant US officials concerned with the matter when interviewed they revealed what had happened and to what extent the US had armed Iraq during the war. Unless someone can come up with further information to the contrary it all seems entirely plausible to me.


    The Reagan Administration secretly decided to provide highly classified intelligence to Iraq in the spring of 1982 — more than two years earlier than previously disclosed — while also permitting the sale of American-made arms to Baghdad in a successful effort to help President Saddam Hussein avert imminent defeat in the war with Iran, former intelligence and State Department officials say.

    But interviews over the past two months with several dozen present and former State Department, White House and intelligence officials who were directly involved in the policy confirm that the decision came much earlier, while the Administration also ignored the illegal transfer of American-made arms by Iraq’s Arab allies and eventually replaced the weapons that had been shipped to Iraq.

    *The C.I.A. also did not inform the committees that it had permitted American-made arms to be sold to Iraq. Starting in 1983, the agency also did not interfere as private American arms dealers began selling Iraq sophisticated Soviet arms purchased in Eastern Europe. One of the major arms brokers was Sarkis Soghanalian, a Lebanese-born Miami-based arms dealer who has been repeatedly linked in the last two decades to gun-running for the C.I.A. Mr. Soghanalian was convicted in Miami last fall of illegal arms trafficking to Iraq and is now awaiting sentencing.

    Washington also “looked the other way,” as a former American Ambassador in the region put it, as American-made arms began to flow into Baghdad from Iraq’s allies in the Middle East, starting in 1982.

    Jordan and Saudi Arabia sent Iraq small arms and mortars, among other weapons, and Kuwait sold the Iraqis thousands of TOW anti-tank missiles. A former C.I.A. official who worked closely with Mr. Casey recalled that “the Kuwaitis sent lots of money and lots of arms to Iraq, and it was all done with our knowledge.” He also acknowledged that by 1982 the Jordanian military was routinely diverting American-made Huey helicopters to Iraq.

    American officials made no effort to stop these sales, known to many in the Administration, even though American export law forbids the third-party transfer of American-made arms without Washington’s permission.

    The Reagan Administration had secretly changed policy toward Iran shortly after taking office in 1981, allowing the Israelis, bitter foes of Mr. Hussein, to ship American arms worth several billion dollars to Teheran. Those arms, former Administration officials now acknowledge, helped Iran defy initial predictions of a quick Iraqi victory and achieve important successes early in the war, which began with an Iraqi attack in September 1980.

    Iraq’s standing became precarious largely because the Soviet Union, Baghdad’s longtime ally, had refused in the first two years of the war to provide it with military goods in the vain hope of gaining influence with Iran.

    By late March 1982, American intelligence was reporting that Iraq was on the verge of collapse, creating fears in Washington and the region that Iran’s Islamic fundamentalist Government would dominate the Persian Gulf and its huge oil reserves.

    “The King’s view,” recalled one American official, “was: ‘Look, here’s Iraq. It’s got the second-largest oil deposits in the world, a highly educated population and it’s the most industrialized nation in the Middle East, with a huge army. And here’s this exceptional figure, Saddam Hussein, running it. And you’re not giving him the time of day. Hussein can be a disaster or he can be co-opted. I believe he can be co-opted, and I’ll help.’ ”

    Since last spring, at least two Congressional subcommittees have been investigating American policy toward the arming of Iraq. They are asking why both the Reagan and Bush Administrations continued military support for Iraq even after the war with Iran.

  24. Correction it was the former US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara that reflected on the Vietnamese generals feedback, not Robert Moore.

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