By Joseph Braude
Human rights groups and the State Department assert that more than 1000 Iranian demonstrators have been rounded up and detained over the past week. As of this writing, yesterday’s death toll of 21 has not been revised by the Iranian government.
The U.N. Security Council has scheduled an emergency meeting concerning Iran for Friday. The session arises from a U.S. Government request “to show support for Iran’s anti-government protesters,” according to Time Magazine. An Iranian diplomat at the UN, for his part, charged that the U.S. Government lies behind the protests, while Iran’s chief prosecutor, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, has echoed other officials’ claims that the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia hatched the protests together. He singled out Michael D’Andrea, a C.I.A. officer who runs Iran operations, as the alleged mastermind of the protests, and claimed that D’Andrea intends to escalate to an “armed” revolt by mid-February in time for the 40th anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
In the global energy market, oil futures finished higher Thursday, with analysts citing ongoing protests in Iran for prices reaching levels not seen since December 2014.
The encrypted social media messaging app Telegram, used widely by protestors as a tool of mobilization, remains intermittently blocked throughout the country. Forty million Iranians — roughly half the population — are estimated to use the app. Instagram and Signal have also been blocked. An article in Wired sites specialists as rating Iran’s government as among the most effective in surveilling and suppressing social media use.
The U.S. Government continues to signal its support for Iranian protestors, and has begun to take proactive policy measures. At a press gaggle, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said, “We, the American people, do not have an issue with the Iranian people. We’ve got a big issue with the Iranian authoritarian regime & it appears there’s an awful lot of Iranian people who have an issue with it as well.” Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has imposed sanctions on five businesses controlled by the Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group, an Iranian defense establishment company already under U.S. Sanctions. The Washington Post reports that the Trump White House is weighing whether to impose further sanctions related to human rights abuses. The President must also reach a decision by January 15 as to whether to recertify Iran’s compliant with the Iranian nuclear accord. American policy voices sympathetic to Iranian protests are divided as to the most advisable choice in this regard. On Thursday afternoon, Washington Institute for Near East Policy Executive Director Robert Satloff tweeted, “I am no fan of nuclear deal but I think it would be an error for USG to divert attention from ’s brave “people’s power” protests. Better to decertify-&-waive again, using moment to impose new penalties on human rights abusers (w/allies, if possible).”