A New Year’s Revolution for Iran
As most of the world bids a fond farewell to 2017, having enjoyed a synchronised economic recovery, it looks to the New Year with enthusiasm and anticipation. This renewed optimism however, cannot be shared with the government of Iran whose citizens have started 2018 with worrying vigour as protests rage across the state.
Riots, which were initially anti-Rouhani, have now escalated to both criticising Rouhani and his administration but also the Supreme Leader. Although nearly all Iranian media will simply state the protests are against “high cost of living and corruption”, the demonstrations are now focused against the regime. As a result, protests are now turning violent and the Judiciary this week authorised the use of force against these new rioters, who are viewed as different to the protestors which Rouhani has welcomed as free to criticise.
Furthermore, the violence of the protests is being linked to agents of foreign powers notably targeting the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia as agitators (also Canada to a lesser extent). The government claims to be identifying and arresting the leaders of the protests and the state has shut down access to Telegram and Instagram, the two most important forms of social media in Iran in particular for the country’s young people.
The government must be concerned by what is now the largest protests the country has seen since the 2009’s so-called Green Movement. One which shows little sign of losing momentum. This vigour has been reflected by Rouhani holding an emergency economic policy meeting to address the initial complaints of the protests which include the high price of living, Iran’s high export expenditure and the few tangible benefits felt by the Iranian people following the JCPOA.
Iran has quickly identified and lashed out at USA, Israel and Saudi as stirring trouble whilst also receiving “assurances” (according to state media) that none of Syria, Russia or Turkey are involved, making a public showing of the bloc that seems to be forming between Syria, Russia, Turkey and Iran.
The protests showing no sign of losing momentum and their anti-Ayatollah message will undoubtedly see violence used in an increasing measure. This action will be met with severe retribution from the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Baseej (military militia) as more military figures are being featured in the media; releasing statements condemning the violence but encouraging “organised and peaceful protests”. Trump has also been quick to respond to these escalating events, tweeting on New Year’s Day that Iran is “failing on every level” and voicing his support for anti-government protesters with the tweet that it is “TIME FOR CHANGE”. Whilst the New Year brings the opportunity to turn over a new leaf, with tensions mounting in and around Iran, it arrests any investment at this time until reformed.
Author: Barnaby Bartlett, APQ Global Research Fellowship Member