Trump steps up rhetorical support for Iran protestors

Lester Mason
January 14, 2018

"The enemy is waiting for an opportunity, for a flaw, through which they can enter". On Monday, he wrote that Iranians were "hungry for food & for freedom", adding that it was "time for change".

Yet in recent days, Trump and his top aides have charted a more careful course in reacting to the demonstrations, which have led to at least 21 deaths and hundreds of arrests.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has already blamed what he calls "enemies of Iran" for inciting the protests.

Violent demonstrations have rocked Iran since Thursday last week, leaving more than 20 people dead, with protests that started over the economy turning against the Islamic regime as a whole.

In a bid to stall further demonstrations, the authorities block access to online messaging services, including Telegram.

Protests in dozens of cities across Iran have continued since Friday, December 29, 2017.

But quickly the protesters moved on to politics, criticising leading figures in the Islamic Republic.

Protesters also asked why the country was spending a lot of money on conflicts elsewhere in the Middle East when people were suffering at home. Six protesters were killed during an attack on a police station in the town of Qahderijan in that province.

First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri suggests hardline opponents of Rouhani's government may be behind the demonstrations.

Video images shared on social media from the central city of Tuyserkan on Sunday showed protesters throwing chairs, tables and other objects in reach at riot police, forcing the outnumbered officers to retreat.

Washington should also let loose a tsunami of sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards, the linchpin of Iran's dictatorship.

The working-class anger behind a week of unrest in Iran will pose an increasingly potent challenge to Tehran's ruling clerics as economic and social pressures mount, even if the current protests peter out, analysts said Wednesday. Twelve people were killed over the weekend.

Previously, the protests claimed the lives of 12 civilians and one policeman.

But authorities have nonetheless responded with mass arrests and by restricting the use of the social media apps Instagram and Telegram, used to organize the rallies. Musa Ghazanfarabadi, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Court, said Tuesday that some protest ringleaders could be charged with "muharabeh" - taking up arms against the state - and accused them of being connected with foreign intelligence agencies, the semi-official Tasnim news reports. Uttering those words in public is enough to earn you a charge of enmity toward god and a death sentence.

Too often the discourse that emerges from media coverage of Iran co-opts the struggle of ordinary people in order to reinforce a specific narrative. "The US is watching!"

"There are certainly Iranians who aren´t happy with certain policies, frustrated people who would like to protest against their economic situation, but history shows none of these people support violence and subversion", he said.

Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, described the unrest as a "proxy war against the Iranian people".

"Turkey is concerned by news the protests in Iran. are spreading, causing casualties and also the fact that some public buildings were damaged", the foreign ministry said in a statement, adding "common sense should prevail to prevent any escalation".

Critics rightly point to the Trump administration's misguided ban on visitors from mostly Muslim countries, including Iran, Trump's rants against the internationally binding nuclear deal with Iran, his near-total embrace of Saudi Arabia's regional policies (largely aimed at thwarting its rival Iran), the complicit silence on the human tragedy that is Yemen, and, finally, the president's unusual decision to call the Persian Gulf the "Arabian Gulf".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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