Why should the American media and politicians salivate over instability and the prospect of regime change in Iranian? It’s not America’s business to dictate the future of Iran or be a dimwit cheerleader from the sidelines. Besides, actual American interests would run antithetical to an Iranian regime ouster, were we not wagged by the Israeli-Saudi tail.
But, of course, from a humanitarian perspective, the protests in Iran are more complicated.
One factor in Iranian protests is the expectation that electing Rouhani and his Nuclear Deal would reap economic benefits for the average Iranian. Due to the perpetual fear that the Nuclear Agreement may be undercut by Donald Trump over the past year, investments into Iran have not flowed in as hoped, leaving a weaker economy. Faced with austerity, government corruption and shattered expectations, a substantial number of working class Iranians have taken to the streets.
When Trump and Binyamin Netanyahu voice support for Iranian protesters, patent hypocrisy rules the roost. Trump has encouraged violence against U.S. protesters during his campaign rallies and denounced black football players for kneeling during the national anthem. Netanyahu has had Palestinian activists’ Facebook accounts deleted and oversees the IDF’s policy of detaining, injuring and occasionally killing protesters in occupied Palestine. Their rhetoric towards Iran’s protests not merely makes explicit their (and the Saudi) long-held desire of seeing the Iranian regime fail. It may also suggest a possible behind-the-scenes CIA action, similar to the 1953 coup that overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.
American politicians and media should remember that protests happen everywhere. Usually, they don’t cheer them on or have masturbatory hopes for state failure – only in cases of purported enemy states, like Russia, Venezuela and Iran. When Palestinians protest, implicit in U.S. media and politicians’ attitudes is that they deserve to be brutalized by the IDF, allegedly for the sake of Israel’s security. As Kenyans protested and violence killed thousands of people in 2007, U.S. media and politicians here were insouciant. When Black Lives Matter protested in U.S. cities, armored vehicles greeted them, followed by undercover agent infiltration. But when Iran has demonstrations that last for over a week, the U.S. government and media adorn vulture masks and salivate. They care not about “democracy” in Iran but serve American misconceived interests dictated by the Israeli-Saudi tail.
But, one may think: isn’t there good reason for regime change, as Iranians live under tyranny and their government is a chief sponsor of terrorism?
First, let’s deconstruct the patently false myth that Iran is a sponsor of terrorism.
Iran assisted the U.S. at the beginning of the 2001 Afghan invasion, because the Salafi/Wahhabi-influenced Taliban and Al Qaeda view Iran as an enemy – an ‘apostate’ Shia state. Secondly, Iran has assisted the U.S. in fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria; ISIS is another radical, Wahhabi-influenced group that regard Shia as the worst kind of apostate, an enemy from within.
Thirdly, yes, Iran supports Hizbollah and Hamas; less of the latter, due to differences over the Syrian Civil War. Hizbollah remains an armed political group within Lebanon that acts as a check on Israeli aggression, and played a key role in ending of the decades-long Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon. Additionally, this ‘terrorist’ group has fought ISIS and al-Nusra (al-Qaeda) in Syria. Furthermore, in 2015, Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah condemned the Charlie Hebdo attacks; if Hizbollah was an ‘Islamic terrorist’ group, Nasrallah’s denunciation would be odd, indeed…Imagine an actual Islamic terrorist group like Boko Haram condemning the Hebdo attacks: it’s not going to happen. Hizbollah is not a terrorist organization, but simply opposes perceived U.S. interests in the Middle East.
Hamas, though less close with Iran in recent years, has every right to fight Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, under Geneva Protocol 1, Articles 43 and 44. While Hamas’s suicide bombings of Israeli civilians during the Second Intifada can be accurately described as terrorism, Israeli Defense Forces’ attacks on Palestinian civilians have far eclipsed any Hamas-induced civilian violence against Israelis. Since 2005, Hamas has ended suicide bombing tactics, while the IDF continues to mow down Palestinians in exorbitant numbers.
Therefore, Iran’s support of these armed political groups does qualify it as a terror sponsor, but rather a supporter of the oppressed underdog. This derives, in part, from the Shias’ devotion to Husayn ibn Ali. Husayn died after facing extreme privation at the 680 Battle of Karbala; he fought for what Shias believe was just cause against the tyrannical Umayyad Caliph Yazid I’s army.
But, isn’t Iran a despotism?
No. There really is no evidence to suggest that Iranians are not, by and large, supportive of the country’s theocratic-republican system, which mixes the theocratic rule of an ayatollah with a democratic parliamentary system. Zogby research coincides with Hooman Majd’s The Ayatollah Begs to Differ in highlighting Iranians’ desire for reform and improved economic conditions, but not for a change to the Shia republic’s system of governance.
Majd asserts that Iran’s ‘Death to America’ chant at pro-government demonstrations is hard-liner rhetoric that most Iranians want to end; it derives from hardliners’ aversion to U.S. imperialist policies in the region. Contrary to neo-conservatives’ beliefs, the slogan does not advocate for the actual death of Americans or even seek the U.S. government’s downfall.
In The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, Majd writes that there is an Iranian ambivalence toward the U.S. While Iranians generally hold a favorable attitude towards the American people, they are averse to the U.S. government’s “Haq-khordan-trampling of rights” of Iranians. This includes subverting Iranian politics throughout history and trying to prevent Iran from developing nuclear energy (p. 120).
Is Iran a perfect liberal democracy – far from it. But isn’t that the case for innumerable nations, including America? However, in context, Iran remains significantly more democratic than most countries in the Middle East.
So, let’s quit cheerleading for an overthrow of Iran’s government, and allow Iranians to sort out their own grievances.