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Almost two weeks into the latest wave of anti-regime protests in Iran, the long-range, indirect implication is that they are widespread but sporadic; They show strong opposition to the ayatollahs but are not coherently organized; That they are unsettling the regime but not threatening its rule.
Unlike the 2009 protests, which erupted over election fraud that allowed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to retain the presidency, and drove large numbers—hundreds of thousands or more—to the streets for rallies demanding reform, these were not “political” protests, which galvanized. The main antagonist. They have not expanded on recent months and years of sporadic protests and union strike actions over Iran’s economic malaise, the regime’s misplaced priorities, and the unhealthy realities of rising unemployment and rising food prices.
Rather, they are directed at the heart of the regime itself – led by women; because of the death of a woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of the government’s “morality police”; It focused on the regime’s oppression of women as a symbol of the need for women to cover up in public. Hijab.
In contrast to 2009, when U.S. President Barack Obama praised the “amazing mango” but firmly rejected any U.S. encouragement of regime change — “given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, it’s not productive to be seen as an interventionist” — some in the U.S.-led international community have bolstered the protesters. Support is shown.
From the podium of the UN General Assembly last week, US President Joe Biden declared: “Today we stand with the brave citizens and brave women of Iran who are demonstrating right now to secure their basic rights.”
Speaking to reporters in Washington on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken blamed the government for Amini’s murder, saying “she should make the decisions about what she wears or what she doesn’t wear.”
The US also said it was doing what it could to block the regime’s internet access, as the US deputy treasury secretary said, by allowing technology companies to expand the range of internet services available to Iranians.
The European Union has condemned Iran for its deadly crackdown on protests. Germany summoned Iran’s ambassador. Anti-Iranian groups have demonstrated outside the Iranian embassy. Solidarity marches with Iranian women have been held around the world.
Outside the UN last week, as President Ibrahim Raisi addressed the General Assembly, thousands of anti-regime activists gathered to protest and protest against him and the regime. “Raisi does not deserve to sit in the UN and he is not the president of the people of Iran. Raisi is a mass murderer,” said activist Raha Heshmatikhah.
The regime’s response reflected both unease and a sense that there was some room for maneuver—a defensive readiness to concede some ground, followed by a hardening of the position.
In the early days of the protests, Amini’s death was widely covered in Iran’s tightly controlled media, including on the front pages of Iran’s daily newspapers. Raisi urged the authorities to “investigate the cause of the incident urgently and with special attention.” As the days went by, the official line became tougher, and so did the response of Iran’s security forces. Unsure whether pacifying or firing the masses is the wiser answer, the regime seems to have decided on the latter.
It is impossible to establish a definitive number, but state media have confirmed “around 60” deaths in the nearly two weeks of protests, with non-governmental groups putting the figure at more than 75. This number is similar to the death toll. three months Supported large-scale protests in 2009, although tens of thousands of people were arrested during the 2009 protests. In other words, the regime is now more than willing to shoot its own people in the streets.
Are the 2022 Mahsa Amini protests, and the regime’s response to them, the anticipated beginning of the end of the regime? No one – not abroad and not in Iran – can reliably answer this question.
This is a regime that is clearly struggling to keep its people even remotely satisfied. There are overlapping masses of discontent—those that cover those who oppose the leadership, those who blame it for its poverty, those who are outraged by its corruption. Sparks of discontent are growing and the regime itself has split over Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s son Mojtaba as his potential successor – an act of deep chaos.
But a regime critic told Israeli television in an interview from Tehran on Wednesday, “I am almost positive that the process that has started now will not lead to any revolution in the near future… The regime will suppress or suppress the protests with violence. .” Still, he added, “this does not mean that the women of Iran will give up their just demands.”
Israel has so far been cautious about protests. Yair Lapid referred to them in his United Nations speech, where he linked the regime’s efforts to build the bomb to “a murderous dictatorship” that hates its own people, implying that if the government could do what it is doing to its people, it would be rejected. No. It will try for us. “If the Iranian regime gets nuclear weapons, they will use them,” he said.
Privately, Israel is no doubt warning again that the regime may not be considered credible in negotiations on a revived nuclear deal and should not be emboldened and emboldened by any concessions under sanctions pressure.
Publicly, understandably, Israel does not express solidarity with the protesters or encourage them to escalate their protests. The administration, as is its habit, is working to suggest that the protests are being fueled by countries hostile to Iran. Official Israeli statements will only play into that story.
And besides, a very smart veteran Iran expert told me on Wednesday, the Iranian regime is currently doing more damage than Israel expects.