IRAN PRESSURED BY ANTI-REGIME PROTESTS, ECONOMIC CRISIS, & RENEWED U.S. SANCTIONS

Iran Protests Raise Hopes of Regime Collapse as Sanctions Set to go in Effect: Ariel Ben Solomon, JNS, July 3, 2018 — The Iranian regime appears to be in a panic as the Trump administration tightens the screws on the country’s economy…

Iran’s Regime Faces Widespread Economic and Political Unrest: Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, JCPA, June 27, 2018 — Since June 24, 2018, protests have been taking place in several main cities in Iran.

Canada Comes to Its Senses on Iran: Sohrab Ahmari, Commentary, June 13, 2018— I have never been mistaken for a fan of Justin Trudeau, nor will I ever be so mistaken.

Iran’s Quds Day: Ideology or Interests?: Doron Itzchakov, Algemeiner, June 28, 2018 — On June 8, the Islamic Republic of Iran held its annual “Quds Day” to express the nation’s support for the Palestinian struggle.

On Topic Links

Inside the Iran Protests: An IPT Exclusive Video Report: Steven Emerson, IPT News, July 2, 2018

State Department’s Brian Hook: Pompeo Presented Iran With “12 Demands To Become A Normal Country”: Real Clear Politics, July 2, 2018

Iran’s Hardliners Support Rouhani’s Push Back Against the United States: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, July 5, 2018

Why Turkey Will Not Be Another Iran: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, July 2, 2018

 

IRAN PROTESTS RAISE HOPES OF REGIME

COLLAPSE AS SANCTIONS SET TO GO IN EFFECT                                        

Ariel Ben Solomon

JNS, July 3, 2018

 

The Iranian regime appears to be in a panic as the Trump administration tightens the screws on the country’s economy with the United States telling countries to stop all oil imports from Iran starting on Nov. 4. In the meantime, the United States is asking the Gulf states to boost  their oil production to make up for the Iranian shortfall. The question is if this, and other economic sanctions and pressure, will be enough to increase the protests inside of Iran?

Dr. Harold Rhode, a former adviser on Islamic affairs in the U.S. Department of Defense and now a distinguished senior fellow at the Gatestone Institute think tank, told JNS in an interview that from the perspective of the Iranian people, the radical regime is reacting to the protests from a position of fear. “The protesters have confidence because they inherently sense that the regime is weak,” commented Rhode, adding that as long as the regime is perceived to be strong, the protesters will be more careful and reserved.

Protests have criticized the Iran regime and its foreign policy of imperialist expansion in the region, which they say is happening against the interests of its own citizens. Regarding the significance of protests in Tehran’s Baazar, Rhode said that keeping control of the central market is a key indicator of the power of the regime to control the rallies.

In an article for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on Iranian negotiating behavior, Rhode stated: “It is only when Iranians become convinced that either their rulers lack the resolve to do what is necessary to remain in power or that a stronger power will protect them against their current tyrannical rulers that they will speak out and try to overthrow leaders.”

The former Pentagon official sees the pressure and sanctions strategy of U.S. President Donald Trump—one that has been pushed for years by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the Obama administration—as having a chance of succeeding and leading to regime change.

Asked if the new sanctions will be effective, Rhode responded that “all of these companies have a choice to make: to trade with Iran or the U.S.” He continued, saying, “large multinationals that have done business in Iran, such as German’s Siemens or other oil companies, will have to decide if they want to continue to have access to the U.S. banking system.”

As a result of the recent U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal and the new pressure campaign initiated by the Trump administration, reports keep coming in about how deals worked out during the Obama administration are falling apart. For example, in early June, Boeing said it would not be delivering any aircraft to Iran after having signed a pair of large contracts with Iranian airlines, AFP reported.

Raz Zimmt, an Iran expert at the Israeli think tank INSS, told JNS that the recent protests in the Tehran Baazar is the latest link in the wave of protests that have gripped Iran in recent months. The key factor, he said, is “if other sectors of the population join the protests.”

However, Zimmt also warns against observers who are overly optimistic about the possibility of the regime falling, mentioning the limitations that the protest movement faces. “Most of the demonstrators, including the merchants at the bazaar, focus on improving the economic situation against the background of the worsening crisis and not toppling the regime. Second, with the exception of the truck drivers’ strike that broke out last month, the rest of the protests are limited geographically and occur sporadically. They lack a unified leadership.” And thirdly, he added, the “new” urban middle class, which led the 2009 riots, remains “outside the wave of protests.” Therefore, “the protest currently affects mainly the status of President Hassan Rouhani and the government and poses no real threat to the stability of the regime,” asserted Zimmt.

As the economic crisis deepens in the coming months as a result of the resumption of economic sanctions, the regime will have two choices, according to the Iran expert: “To agree to a compromise with the Trump government, even at the price of making significant concessions on issues that the regime considers essential, such as its long-range nuclear or missile program.” Or, he concluded, the regime could increase its “resistance economy” and willingness to increase internal repression, if necessary, “in an attempt to gain time in the hope that by the time sanctions make a significant effect, the U.S. administration will be replaced by a more convenient administration.”

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IRAN’S REGIME FACES WIDESPREAD ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL UNREST

Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall

JCPA, June 27, 2018

Since June 24, 2018, protests have been taking place in several main cities in Iran. This time, the protesters were mainly comprised of traders from the Bazaar in Tehran and other commercial locations throughout Iran. The bazzaris initially protested the sharp and fast fall in the value of the Iranian currency, the rial, in dollar terms, the freeze in Iran’s economic activity, and the rising cost of imported goods.

The decline of the Iranian economy gathered speed, and it is expected to suffer even more due to President Trump’s May 8, 2018, announcement that the United States was pulling out of the nuclear deal, the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, and the notice of several large international corporations that they intend to stop doing business with Iran and/or not sign any new contracts.

The main protest centered on the huge Grand Bazaar in Tehran, where the merchants closed their stores and marched toward the Parliament (Majlis) building to protest against the government’s economic policies. The metro station serving the Bazaar was closed because of the protest. Closing stores and halting trade happened in several other large cities, including Tabriz, Mashhad, Arak, Kermanshah, and Isfahan. Additionally, in the free trade zone on the island of Gheshm at the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz, merchants closed their stores and joined the strike.

The social networks were flooded with hashtags from bazaaris calling for more people to join the national strike #اعتصابات_سراسری).). The hashtag ( #ساعت_6 ) widely appeared. It gave the time to start demonstrating at 6:00 PM, when people should swarm into the streets. It was presented in different variations, with clear symbols and slogans of the opponents of the regime. Demonstrators chanting “Death to Khamenei” and “Death to Palestine” (#مرگ_بر_فلسطین), in defiance of Iran’s foreign adventures at the expense of the Iranian people, were uploaded to social network accounts. At the same time, Iranian virtual platforms also dealt with unemployment, economic hardships, and the ongoing water crisis that has hit different areas in the country.

Conspicuously, the conservative media outlets, which usually don’t cover anti-government protests, have been following the traders’ protests. Apparently, it is so they can taunt the government and its economic failings. The secretary-general of the traders’ guild of the Tehran Bazaar, Ahmad Karimi Isfahani, pointed an accusing finger at the government and said, “We expect President Rouhani and his government to admit that the steps they have taken connected with anything to do with the Iranian economy were a mistake” and that the protest began due to a lack of economic stability, the deepening economic crisis, and the apathy of the government toward the population and the traders.

The Iranian security forces, and primarily the units for dispersing protests, were deployed in the streets of Tehran in order to contain the events, but until June 26, they generally refrained from using force to disperse the demonstrators and relied on teargas grenades.

The government, for its part, acted to bring down the value of the dollar as compared with local currency and to deal with foreign currency offenders. The governor of the Central Bank of the Islamic Bank of Iran, Valiollah Seyf, announced that Iran would open a “parallel/secondary market” for trading in foreign currencies at fixed rates (42,000 rials = 1 U.S. dollar) to help the private sector import goods valued in dollars and prevent wild currency rates being set by uncertified brokers.6 In April, President Rouhani first imposed this rate to prevent any further fall in the value of the rial but without any success, and the dollar rate reached 85,000 rials or more.

During the current crisis, President Rouhani instructed authorities to reveal the names of those importers who have received foreign currency at subsidized rates but sold their merchandises at free-market prices. Rouhani blamed U.S. sanctions for the crisis at a gathering in Tehran on June 26, 1018, and insisted that there is no shortage of currency and goods in the market. Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary Ali Shamkhani, said that profiteer groups (mainly in the mobile phone market) and currency smugglers would be monitored. Judiciary chief, Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, lambasted those who are “disrupting the economy” by funneling their huge assets into foreign currency, threatening they will be designated as “corrupted on earth (punishable by death).” Amoli urged the police to identify those who disrupt the market, saying they commit “treason against the system and the nation.” The Majlis‘ National Security and Foreign Policy Committee discussed the recent economic fluctuation during its latest meeting on June 25, 2018.

The Iranian media has dealt with the economic crisis in depth, as well as the solutions offered by the government. Essentially, much of the criticism was directed at President Rouhani who, “to the surprise of the public,” chose to spend his vacation at the luxury Tochal mountain resort in north Tehran in the middle of an economic crisis, while the traders and public opinion are waiting for a solution to the economic problems and price rises. Even the president’s western-style apparel has been subject to criticism. For example, he was seen wearing Western-brand apparel – an Under Armour sweatshirt and a Puma hat.

Economic stabilization in Iran is not yet visible on the horizon. The protest of the bazaar traders is just one example of the many different demonstrations that have taken place throughout Iran in recent times (truck drivers, teachers, laborers, and protests about pollution and the lack of water). This process was accelerated when President Trump decided to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran, and all the immediate ramifications of this upon the Iranian economy occurred. The regime’s recent steps toward what Khamenei termed in 2017 the “Year of Economy of Resistance” or “resistive economy” to circumvent sanctions are likely to have a negative effect on the citizens of Iran with more bans on imported goods.

At the same time, the protest by the traders at the bazaar – the beating heart of Iran’s economy, at least in the past – is unique and a warning light for the Iranian regime. The bazaar protest originally was not against the Islamic government. It was focused upon Iran’s growing and genuine economic hardships due to the sanctions on the country that are already affecting it. The protest is authentic, and it reflects the difficulties of the traders at the bazaar (mainly those who buy in dollars) and the Iranian citizen, who finds it hard to buy goods due to rising prices. At the same time, the protest did not occur in a vacuum, and it adds to the general feeling of discontent – not only at the economic level – with the Islamic regime (and not only against the government as the conservatives try to portray)…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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CANADA COMES TO ITS SENSES ON IRAN

Sohrab Ahmari

Commentary, June 13, 2018

I have never been mistaken for a fan of Justin Trudeau, nor will I ever be so mistaken. On the whole, I agree with Ben Shapiro’s assessment of the Canadian prime minister (“Justin Trudeau is what would happen if the song ‘Imagine’ took human form…”). Trudeau’s commitment to full-spectrum progressivism, combined with his vanity and moral preening, make him one of the least serious figures ever to lead a major Western power. Even so, I found myself cheering Trudeau’s Liberal government on Wednesday after it backed a resolution in the House of Commons to “immediately cease any and all negotiations or discussions” with the Iranian regime.

The resolution also designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist entity under Canadian criminal law, condemned the mullahs for their “ongoing sponsorship of terrorism around the world,” and denounced Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for “calling for genocide against the Jewish people.” Liberal support for the resolution marked a striking about-face. Trudeau had campaigned for restoring Ottowa’s ties with Tehran, severed in 2012 by the previous, Conservative government. “I would hope that Canada would be able to reopen its mission” in Tehran, Trudeau told an interviewer in June 2015, just as Barack Obama was concluding his nuclear diplomacy with the mullahs. “I’m fairly certain that there are ways to re-engage.”

It turns out that even Trudeau-led Canadian Liberals have their limits when it comes to dealing with the Islamic Republic. As the Canadian broadcaster CBC reported, Ottawa dispatched two diplomatic missions in 2017 to explore a rapprochement. But there were two stumbling blocks. The Iranians insisted that Tehran should be removed from Canada’s list of terror-sponsoring nations, and the Canadians were determined to free various hostages held by the regime. The Iranians were apparently immovable on the matter of the hostages–that’s how they roll–and the Canadians were, in turn, unwilling to deny the basic truth about Iran’s role in sponsoring international terror.

Passage of the resolution doesn’t mean Canada is rethinking its support for Obama’s nuclear deal. But it underscores Iran’s growing isolation, as a new generation of Western leaders comes to learn that there are no “moderates” and “hard-liners” in Tehran–only tyrants and terrorists.

 

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IRAN’S QUDS DAY: IDEOLOGY OR INTERESTS?

Doron Itzchakov

Algemeiner, June 28, 2018

On June 8, the Islamic Republic of Iran held its annual “Quds Day” to express the nation’s support for the Palestinian struggle. Iran invests a great deal of effort into commemorating this event and mobilizes its citizens to flood the streets in solidarity with the Palestinians. But is the hostility toward Israel on display on Quds Day a reflection of pure ideology, or is it a product of Tehran’s desire to elevate its status as regional hegemon and leader of the Muslim world?

Quds Day (Ruz-e Jehani-ye Quds), which is marked in Iran annually on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan, broadcasts the Iranian government’s uncompromising rejection of Israel’s existence. As in previous years, many Iranian citizens both within the country and abroad took part in demonstrations, which included hate speeches by senior Iranian officials who called for the destruction of Israel, and the burning of US, Israeli, and even Saudi Arabian flags.

The decision to mark Quds Day, adopted by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini not long after the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, was aimed at highlighting the approach of the revolutionary regime toward the Palestinian struggle. That approach was to challenge the ruling hegemony of the US and Western countries (the “arrogant powers”), and call for the unification of the Muslim world against their influence.

To determine the source of the Islamic Republic’s hostility towards Israel, it is useful to examine the historical context. The Islamic revolution, which was a culmination of Khomeini’s opposition to the Shah, occurred during a crisis in modern Islam. In Khomeini’s view, Iran’s precarious situation stemmed from the control of an autocratic monarch who had chosen to disengage from Islam. This had led to an unprecedented dependence on the US and the West, and Iran’s close ties with Israel at the time were part and parcel of that relationship.

It is difficult to determine exactly how Khomeini became aware of the ties between monarchist Iran and Israel, as the Shah’s regime made every effort to blur them for both internal and external reasons. However, Khomeini made much use of them in his preaching. In the introduction to his book Velayat-e Faqih Hokumat-e Eslami, he focused on identifying the enemies of Islam. This document, which over time became something of a constitution in the revolutionary political system, presented the Jews as enemies of Islam and placed Israel at the center of the axis of resistance for the Islamic Republic.

The expansion of ties between Iran and Israel in the 1960s, especially in the security, commerce, and agriculture fields, infuriated Khomeini. In his Ashura Day speech in June 1963, he described three circles with a common center that were barriers to Iran’s development.

In the outer circle, he placed the massacre in which Hussein bin Ali and his supporters were killed by Yazid ibn Mu’awiya and his army in the Battle of Karbala in the seventh century, which led to a fracture in the community of believers. In the middle circle, he placed the Shah’s declaration of the principles of the “White Revolution,” aimed at deepening the separation between religion and state. And in the innermost circle, he placed the connection between Iran and Israel, which in his opinion symbolized the disconnection of the ruler from the will of the people.

On June 5, 1963, Khomeini was arrested and imprisoned in Tehran, but the authorities allowed him to return to the city of Qom. A month later, he delivered another speech in which he attacked Israel’s involvement in a land reform initiative and the military cooperation between the two countries. In November 1964, Khomeini was exiled from Iran, but 15 years in exile did not diminish his influence. Upon his return, he established the Islamic Republic of Iran in February 1979, shut down Iran-Israel relations, and brought an end to the extensive bilateral network of contacts that the two countries had built over three decades.

Khomeini’s resolute opposition to Israel’s presence in the region became, over time, a model for those who sought to prove their loyalty to the man and his path. After his death in June 1989, his statements regarding Israel gained power. Despite differences of opinion, the various factions of the government presented a unified anti-Israel front…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

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On Topic Links

Inside the Iran Protests: An IPT Exclusive Video Report: Steven Emerson, IPT News, July 2, 2018—Anti-government protests throughout Iran are heating up, with security forces reportedly killing four protesters Saturday night.

State Department’s Brian Hook: Pompeo Presented Iran With “12 Demands To Become A Normal Country”: Real Clear Politics, July 2, 2018—State Department Director of Policy Planning Brian Hook holds a news briefing to discuss diplomatic efforts with Iran.

Iran’s Hardliners Support Rouhani’s Push Back Against the United States: Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, July 5, 2018—In light of the internal crisis in Iran created by chronic financial mismanagement and pending U.S. sanctions, the internal tension between the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani intensified.

Why Turkey Will Not Be Another Iran: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, July 2, 2018—Is Turkey going to be another Iran? With President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest electoral victory the question is making the rounds in Western political circles. Despite the fact that Sunday’s election gives Erdogan immense new powers, my short answer to the question is a firm: no!