By Joseph Braude
While the Iranian government maintains an official death toll of 22 arising from the country’s protests, opposition elements claim the number has reached 50. Meanwhile, Iranian state television coverage of Iran’s streets has predictably focused on the pro-government rallies and generally incited against anti-government protestors.
In London’s Daily Telegraph, correspondents Josie Ensor and Ahmed Vahdat sought to explain the roots of Iranian dissent and pointed to the impact of November’s earthquake in the northern city of Kermanshah: It left 30,000 residents homeless, and the government failed to provide substantial aid. Amid their despair, spending on foreign interventionism in Arab lands remained profligate. Then, only a few weeks later, President Rouhani announced he would be cutting subsidies nationwide.
Meanwhile, there are reports of a magnitude 5.1 earthquake, again in Kermanshah, but no immediate indication of serious damage.
A new measure was proposed in Washington to potentially support the anti-government protestors by helping them skirt the regime’s suppression of their social media activities. In the Washington Post, Bruce Lawlor, a retired Army major general and the first chief of staff of the Department of Homeland Security, noted: “For some time now, the State Department has grudgingly supported a field-tested, operational censorship circumvention software called UltraSurf. This software is readily available on the Internet and is being used by millions of people to avoid efforts by authoritarian governments to control what they can say and read.” But this support, costing only $3 million annually, has been cut. The author argues that, even at the risk of angering China, which vehemently opposes the proliferation of Ultrasurf, the U.S. Government should restore and ratchet up funding for the online service.
Ronald Tiersky, professor emeritus at Amherst College, expressed optimism in an opinion column that Iran’s protests may positively effect efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian settlement: The Tehran regime’s leadership of the rejectionist factions and expansionism into Arab lands generally are both weakened by internal turmoil, he observes.
Ih the UK, reports the Daily Telegraph, 69 MPs from across the Commons have backed a motion calling for the Home Secretary to include the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp on an official list of proscribed organizations and impose sanctions on its officials. The article notes that more than 30 of the 69 MPs are from the Labour Party, despite the fact that its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has failed to personally condemn the regime’s actions. Relatedly, the Telegraph’s opinion pages ran a scathing critique of labor leader Jeremy Corbyn for eschewing support for Iranian demonstrators and faulting the Trump Administration for championing them. “What is there to be caution about?” He writes. “The Iranian theocracy has spent four decades oppressing its own people — particularly women and sexual and religious minorities — and poses a threat to the West.”
In The Guardian Sunday, Masoud Golsorkhi, presented a reading of the demonstrations informed by the view that they are in some sense a public proxy manifestation of the conflict between “conservatives” and “reformists” in the Iranian establishment: “A media arm of the revolutionary guard posted on Thursday an impassioned crowd-sourced set of genuine grievances on Aparat, the Iranian version of YouTube, as a direct dig at the government, while the BBC reported that leading reformist cabinet members’ social media accounts were also hacked by groups associated with the guards.”