Tens of thousands of Iranians have been marching since Thursday demanding the overthrow of the entire Iranian regime. At least 21 people have so far been killed, including an 11-year-old boy who died on Tuesday.
The marches began as a protest against the regime specifically for spending money on military expansionism rather than the Iranian economy, and since then other grievances – political freedom, gender persecution, and so on – have been added. The protesters do not distinguish between the “moderate” and “hardline” camps that trade off control of the regime.
U.S. diplomats have worked to line up allies in support of the protesters, but European leaders – who have their eyes on lucrative business opportunities with Iran – have issued only lukewarm statements of support. Meanwhile the Iran nuclear deal has emerged as a central point of contention.
The regime’s financial hubs need to be cut off
• The nuclear deal was sold with the promise that the regime would use its windfall for domestic purposes. In an interview with Al Arabiya in July 2016, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said that “the vast majority of these resources are likely to go to the Iranian economy, which is in a terrible state, and address certain debts of the Iranian government.”
• But instead the money was spent on foreign military campaigns, including sponsoring the mass-murder of Bashar al-Assad in Syria, the Houthi insurgency in Yemen, and terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah. This is the root of the protests: marchers are chanting “Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, I give my life for Iran”
• The Trump administration and Congress must act now to cut off the financial hubs the regime uses to fund its human rights violations: the Central Bank of Iran, which ensures the regime has the resources to commit these atrocities, and the Supreme Leader’s own personal business empire EIKO.
Bipartisan consensus emerging
• President Trump said: “The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their “pockets.” The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!”
• Vice President Mike Pence echoed the President’s sentiment: As long as @RealDonaldTrump is POTUS and I am VP, the United States of America will not repeat the shameful mistake of our past when others stood by and ignored the heroic resistance of the Iranian people as they fought against their brutal regime… .The bold and growing resistance of the Iranian people today gives hope and faith to all who struggle for freedom and against tyranny. We must not and we will not let them down.”
• Bernie Sanders, Democratic Senator from Vermont, said: “It is the right of all people to speak out against their government. The government of Iran should respect this right and heed the voices of thousands of Iranians who are demonstrating across the country for better opportunities and a better future.”
• Clair McCaskill, Democratic Senator from Missouri, stated: “Freedom of speech and peaceful assembly are values our country cares deeply about. We stand in support of #IranProtests.”
• Bob Menendez, Senator from New Jersey, said: “Inspiring to see ordinary people in #IranProtest exercise their fundamental right to protest their govt, especially one whose brutality has ruined so many lives. All over the world I applaud those peacefully advocating for basic rights & demanding accountability from their govt.”
• Brendan Boyle, Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania and member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, voiced stark criticism. Replying to Boris Johnson’s statement, he said: “Weak, Weak, Weak…The West should stand clearly and unflinchingly on the side of those who are risking life and limb to protest for freedom.”
• Adam Schiff, Democratic Congressman from California, observed: “Watching events in Iran with great concern over violence against and arrest of peaceful protestors. We stand with the people in Iran and their right to peacefully assemble, petition their government and choose their leaders in a democratic process free from fraud and interference.”
Did the nuclear accord improve relations between the West and Iran?
• Absolutely not. The deal is used as a deterrent by Iran to shield itself from criticism. European states have signed lucrative business deals with the Islamic Republic and, in turn, have responded with moral ambiguity to the unrest in Iran, calling on “all sides” to show restraint.
• Germany’s FM Sigmar Gabriel said: “We call on the government to respect demonstrators’ freedom of assembly + their right to give voice to their opinion freely + peacefully. Following confrontation of past days, all the more important for all sides to refrain from taking any violent action.”
• The U.K.’s FM Boris Johnson stated: “We regret the loss of life that has occurred in the protests in Iran, and call on all concerned to refrain from violence and for international obligations on human rights to be observed.”
[Photo: Freegate News / YouTube]