By Joseph Braude
Tehran maintains its official estimate of fatalities arising from anti-regime protests at 22, and acknowledges that the movement has spread to 80 cities and towns. Rights group say the government’s death toll figure is low.
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reportedly been arrested for “inciting violence” — fueling the view that the demonstrations were initially spurred by “hardliners” aiming to embarrass the Rouhani government. President Rouhani has meanwhile made public statements of sympathy with the protestors, acknowledging that their demands were not only economic but also “social and political.”
In a sign that the government wishes to further isolate its restive population from the pull of global culture, senior officials have announced a ban on the teaching of English in primary schools. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said the new policy blunts “Western thinkers [who] have time and again said that instead of colonialist expansionism … the best and least costly way would have been inculcation of thought and culture to countries’ younger generation.”
European governments meanwhile maintain a policy of avoiding outright support for Iranian protestors. Germany foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel said the EU will invite his Iranian counterpart for “discussions.” A phone conversation between French president Emmanuel Macron and Donald Trump yielded no visible change in Paris’s position of neutrality.
But in Westwood, California, home to a large Iranian expat population, 2,000 Iranian Americans gathered at the federal building to demonstrate in solidarity with anti-regime protestors.
At Langley, CIA director Mike Pompeo refuted IRGC claims that the protests had ended: “It’s may expectation these protests are not behind us … [This is] a theocratic regime that is looking backwards, instead of … looking forward to make the lives of the people better. It is may full expectation that you will see the Iranian people continue to revolt against this.”
Amid continuing debate in Washington over how the United States can support Iran’s protestors, a Washington Examiner editorial proposed pressure on European businesses to stop cutting deals with companies tied to Iranian hardliners: “Trump should pick up the phone, call the heads of state in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, and tell them that, in return for his continued support for the nuclear agreement, he will expect them to crack down on Iran’s ballistic missile activities and divert economic benefits to the Iranian people and away from their persecutors.”
Other voices in the United States meanwhile maintain that American support for the demonstrators has backfired — or will. In a New York Times editorial Monday, journalist Nazila Fatihi argues that President Trump’s Tweets backing protestors “provided ammunition for the conservatives to crack down … and distract attention from the real problems that led to the uprising.” She prescribes further American compliance with the Iranian nuclear deal and providing satellite Internet access to help demonstrators skirt a domestic shutdown.
It has been widely reported that protestors inside the Islamic Republic have not coalesced around a leader. But thousands of miles away, Reza Pahlavi, heir to the ousted Pahlavi dynasty, has declared that the leadership should be him. “Iranian people need a unifying voice today,” he told the Turkish daily Hurriyet. “I am that voice.”