Tuesday, January 2, 2018 at 8:10 AM

American-Style Protests Erupt in Iran…

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Which shows that Iran is more like America than most Americans, including President Donald J. Trump, realize.

I was among far too few Western commentators who hailed Iranians for electing the moderate Hassan Rouhani as president in August 2013. But nothing vindicated our praise quite like Rouhani accepting President Obama’s overtures to strike a landmark nuclear deal.

Here in part is how I framed that deal in “One Small Step Towards De-Nuking Iran,” November 25, 2013.


Bear in mind that, notwithstanding Netanyahu’s reckless protestations about American appeasement, no American president has done more to halt Iran’s march towards acquiring nuclear weapons than Obama has with this (temporary) agreement.

Not to mention that George W. Bush had more credibility when he was warmongering about Iraq’s WMDs than Netanyahu’s has with his warmongering about Iran’s nuclear weapons.  After all, Netanyahu has been beating this drum for decades. What’s more, he has been trying every step of the way to get the United States to do his dirty work.

Here, for example, is how the Jerusalem Post reported his dire warning about Iran’s nuclear program way back on January 12, 1995:

A SERIOUS (sic) threat of nuclear war hangs over Israel, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset plenum yesterday…

‘Within three to five years, we can assume that Iran will become autonomous in its ability to develop and produce a nuclear bomb, without having to import either the technology or the material,’ Netanyahu said. ‘[The nuclear threat] must be uprooted by an international front headed by the US.’

This is why I am constrained to reiterate that Netanyahu has given Obama just cause to be far more wary of him than the new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani.


It follows, therefore, that I was as heartened when Iranians reelected Rouhani in 2017 as I was when Americans reelected Obama in 2012.

I am mindful, though, that Obama promised a “post-racial” America. Yet Americans blotted his presidency by taking to the streets to protest all manner of racial injustice – not least the menace of white police killing black men.

In a similar vein, Rouhani promised a less-sanctioned, thriving economy and greater political freedoms. Yet Iranians are now blotting his presidency by taking to the streets to protest all manner of economic hardship and political frustration.

To be fair, Rouhani has granted greater freedoms. Notably, he has allowed virtually unfettered access to the social media protesters are using to galvanize their protests; and he has gotten rid of the dreaded morals police. But this restiveness stems primarily from the fact that youth unemployment remains as high as 40 percent.

Iranian security forces clamped down on Tehran on Monday after demonstrators across the country ignored calls for calm by President Hassan Rouhani in the most significant venting of pent-up economic and political frustrations in years.

Since the protests began on Thursday, at least 12 people have been killed in clashes with security forces, according to the state television. …

On Sunday, protesters tried to storm police stations, military installations, and also attacked a seminary, the state television reported, showing footage of burned cars and fires.

(New York Times, January 1, 2018)

Reports are that an additional nine people died overnight as these anti-government protests enter a sixth day.

But I am heartened that Rouhani is reacting there much as Obama reacted here. Specifically, Rouhani is

  • acknowledging that protesters have legitimate grievances;
  • defending their right to protest; and
  • calling on them to vent their frustrations without recourse to violence (i.e., of the kind that attended protests in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland).

Moreover, his enlightened reaction stands in commendable contrast to the repressive way government officials reacted in 2009. Back then, Iranians mounted similar protests over the reelection of Islamic hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I duly commented in “Iranians Protest Ahmadinejad’s Re-ordination,” June 15, 2009.

No doubt Ahmadinejad was a religious zealot. In fact, he took perverse pride in hurling hollow threats about wiping Israel off the map (you know, the way Trump takes similar pride in hurling hollow threats about raining fire and fury down on North Korea). But a fair reading of that commentary makes clear that the reelection of Ahmadinejad in Iran was every bit as democratic as the election of Trump in America.

Not to mention this:

The Islamic Republic of Iran elected a new president in democratic elections that would’ve made even George Washington, the father of American democracy, proud. Unfortunately, it did not please his presidential heir and namesake, George W. Bush. After all, this curious George only likes democratic elections when those elected share his political views and religious values. And, Iran’s president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad clearly shares neither.

(“New Iranian Pres: We Shall Have Nukes! vs. President Bush: Over My Dead Body!” The iPINIONS Journal, July 14, 2005)

This is why, with all due respect to the dead, the most disheartening thing about these American-style protests is the way Trump is exhorting Iranians to overthrow their democratically elected government.

President Donald Trump on Monday morning continued his daily tweets on the deadly protests in Iran, calling for change to an autocratic system there that he says is rife with repression and corruption.

‘Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration,’ Trump wrote. ‘The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years … are hungry for food & for freedom … TIME FOR CHANGE!’

(CNN, January 1, 2018)

Of course, Trump has blotted his own presidency by showing utter contempt for America’s democratic values, norms, and institutions. Therefore, nobody should be surprised that he is showing similar contempt for Iran’s democratically elected government.

Unfortunately, his ignorance and arrogance are such that he couldn’t care less that he’s playing right into the hands of Iran’s “supreme leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and his kitchen cabinet of hard-line clerics. Because they would like nothing more than to blame him for inciting these protests. #IDIOT!

Still, it is noteworthy that even Khamenei had enough respect for democratic elections to resist exhorting protesters in America (think Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter) to overthrow their democratically elected government.

No less noteworthy, though, is that Trump is trying his damnedest to rule America in the autocratic way he’s accusing Khamenei of ruling Iran. Delusional and impeachable declarations like this betray his autocratic intent:

I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.

(CBS News, December 29, 2017)

The hypocrisy this shows is brazen even for Trump. Which is why there is projection inherent in him tweeting Iranians to do to their leader what he probably fears Americans might do to him.

The psychopathology afoot here is called projection. It is defined by people attributing to others traits, faults, and blame that inhere in themselves. And it explains almost every insult Trump has hurled at his opponents throughout this presidential campaign.

So when you hear him calling other people crooked, insecure, weak, beholding to special interests, liars, etc., be mindful that he’s revealing self-conscious truths about himself, unwittingly.

(“Forget the Clinton Foundation. Shut Down the Trump Organization!” The iPINIONS Journal, August 26, 2016)

Even worse, though, Trump is making America an international laughingstock again. #MAILA. After all, just a month ago, the UN Security Council rejected his call for international recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I commented in “Recognizing Jerusalem: Trump’s America and Netanyahu’s Israel against the World,” December 7, 2017.

Now the Council seems bound to reject his call for international censure against Iran for these protests. After all, as indicated above, every member can fairly dismiss this latest call as a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

For the record, these protests have even less chance of changing this Iranian government than the Black Lives Matter protests had of changing the American government. Actually, these protests will end up essentially the way the 2009 protests did: the Mullahs will remain firmly in control of Iran, and the protesters will see little, if any, change in the frustrating political and economic conditions that provoked their protests.

In this sense, these protests remind me of the epic futility of the Arab Spring protests in Egypt. The titles to just a few of my commentaries on those protests speak volumes: “Egypt: Military Savior a Bigger Devil than Mubarak?” November 22, 2011, “Protesters Return to Tahrir’s Square,” June 6, 2012, and “Egypt’s Arab Spring Spawns Brutal Military Dictatorship,” March 25, 2014.

That said, it’s worth bearing in mind that black Americans are still protesting for the civil and equal rights that should have come with the end of slavery more than 150 years ago; whereas Iranians are protesting for similar rights that should have come with end of the Shah’s reign less than 40 years ago.

And so, abidingly I say to my Iranian brothers and sisters: you shall overcome, change gonna come, keep hope alive….

Related commentaries:
Iran nuclear deal
police shootings trigger violence
New Iranian president
Trump projecting
Military bigger devil than Mubarak
Protesters return
Arab Spring spawns

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