a deep inquiry into the protests in Iran

Including conflicting sources and narratives of news as well as often compromised human rights organizations.  Please feel free to weigh in with suggestions further questions.  It’s longish, but needs must; it’s a large puzzle with many pieces.

First up: ‘An Outrageous Proposal: Peace Boats to Iran’, REZA FIYOUZAT, Dec. 13, 2019, counterpunch.org

One might have imagined from the title his suggestion might have been akin to ‘Flotillas to aid Gaza’, but no; a few bits and bobs:
“I am writing to ask for something far more outrageous: A fleet of peace boats full of western leftists to bring comradely salutations to the people of Iran, who are struggling mightily.

You may still remember the news about the latest protest wave in Iran, in November of this year, when Iranian government killed at least two hundred of our people protesting against suffocating social and economic conditions. The state killed two hundred people in one week. More than seven thousand have been arrested. This latest wave of mass protests may have been crushed by now, but the social conditions that produce cyclical protests are only getting worse as the class conflict and social injustice continue to deepen further. What’s more, there are no signs the system is even capable of reforming itself, even if it were capable of imagining such things; which it is not.

This last round of mass killings has put an authoritative end to illusions that there is such a thing as the ‘moderate’ or ‘reformist’ wing in this theocracy.

Some reports have suggested the numbers of those killed are much higher than two hundred. We don’t doubt that the numbers can be much higher. Our history of the past forty years proves that the numbers are always much higher. Just for one example, one of the most gruesome in our modern history, you can read this Amnesty International report, titled, “Blood-soaked secrets: Why Iran’s 1988 prison massacres are ongoing crimes against humanity.”

sorry, Fidel…

Now, here is a troubling trend that has been unfolding in the last ten years. For the past decade, we have been witnessing a very strange upside-down reality emanating from a significant segment of the western left: We see them providing support for our mass murderers and our oppressors. When we ask for solidarity while our people are being shot at from rooftops by state security forces, we receive silence or, even worse, we get labeled as ‘agents of imperialism’! [snip]

“But, some of our good comrades go further than simply adopting a wrong-headed evaluative system. We have luminary leftist activists visiting (on friendly terms) the mass murderer Bashar al-Assad. We have a leader of the Green Party USA sitting down for a friendly dinner with the Russian leader, Putin, the mass murderer of Chechens and now Syrians. We have American feminist anti-war activists on friendly visits to the halls of governmental power in Iran, just as our government is busy jailing feminists, labor activists, student activists, environmental activist and even their lawyers; and right after the Iranian government got done helping Assad slaughter half a million Syrian people.

From Amnesty International on Dec. 16:

  • Iran: Thousands arbitrarily detained and at risk of torture in chilling post-protest crackdown;  Thousands arrested including children as young as 15
  • Detainees subjected to enforced disappearance and torture
  • At least 304 people killed in protests according to credible source

Next, from TRNN on Dec. 12: Support the Workers of Iran, but Oppose US Sanctions’; How is it possible to oppose the violent suppression of Iranian protest while still condemning U.S. sanctions on Iran? (with video)

MARC STEINER:  Though Iran is a theocratic state, and an authoritarian state, much of the left and those that oppose the sanctions by Trump’s administration are in a quandary as how to respond, not wanting to fall prey to the Western capitalism’s war against Iran. On the other hand, the working people of Iran are in fact, in revolt. Now, even the seminarians in Iran are burning down their own seminaries. It’s getting really complex, and in this complicated world, how do you parse all of that out? What’s really happening here, and what should we be thinking about in terms of who we support all this, and what to say in our discussions and in our movements?

We’ll explore that with our guest, Dr. Eskandar Sadeghi, who is a lecturer and assistant professor of comparative political theory in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Goldsmiths, University of London. His new book is called Revolution and its Discontents: Political Thought and Reform in Iran.

I tried to outline there in the opening the real complexity here. I’ve seen people in the press here in the United States, one of the great figures to the left Angela Davis refuses to condemn what’s happening in Iran so as not to fall prey to what’s happening with the United States; and others have done the same. But it’s not so simple.

ESKANDAR SADEGHI-BOROUJERDI: But at the same time, there’s no way we can in any way excuse the Iranian state’s response to this, which has been violent. It’s been actually shooting live ammunition on again, the poorest and most vulnerable of Iranian society. There is no getting around this. There is no justifying this. I don’t see why we can’t do both. Surely, if we’re obviously objecting to the collective punishment, which has been obviously enacted against Iran. I think Americans do have a primary responsibility to obviously criticize and push back against this. They can at the same time stand in solidarity with the poorest, the most deprived. Really, the great irony of all this is that the Iranian revolution of 1979 held itself up as a revolution of the oppressed.

It was meant to obviously really overturn what was seen as this one-man dictatorship that was with the backing of the United States, again; a sort of a monarchical regime which had been installed by the CIA in an MI6 coup d’etat in Iran. This revolution was meant to stand up to and against this. It was meant to obviously reinstate justice, social issues around social justice, democracy, and all these sorts of things; or freedom more broadly. We’ve reached a point, unfortunately, where it’s actually shooting on the poor and the disenfranchised. This is obviously a very, very sad state of affairs. It is very difficult to often thread the needle because obviously we cannot be blind to the war machine in the United States. At the same time, we can’t justify or excuse or try and actually just rationalize the behavior of the Iranian state. [snip]

It’s my own observations, and just following things through Persian social media, and people who are on the ground, and students who are participating in these things, and other voices of intellectuals; yeah, I think there’s a huge amount of criticism with the Iranian state of Rouhani, of his undemocratic kind of militancy. He’s in many ways really shown that he has no reformist credentials. I mean, I did actually write an article back in 2013 when he was elected, and I said people need to be very realistic in their appraisal of him because this is a man who came through the security establishment. He didn’t have any reformist bonafides at all. If anything, actually he was quite well known for pushing out those who were seated on the Islamic left. He then later became quite a staunch reformist, and actually were calling for democratic reform. [snip]

Another thing that he was obviously elected on what would seem to be one of his strong suits, was that he’s going to actually sort out the Iranian economy. He’s basically part of a faction which is often referred to as sort of the executives of the reconstruction; those who basically came to this realization as far as they were concerned that yeah, Iran does need to integrate with the global economy. It needs to reform. It needs to reform its economy, its domestic economy at home. It needs to undertake privatization and create a better climate for private investment; and undertake privatization.

Consider this reminder as Dr. Eskandar Sadeghi notes this “It’s my own observations, and just following things through Persian social media, and people who are on the ground….

‘How a Mass Bot Network is Pushing the Coup in Bolivia; New research found that, of the 17,427 accounts studied using anti-Morales hashtag #BoliviaNoHayGolpe, almost a third were created on November 11, the day of the coup’, Dec. 2, 2019, mintpressnews.com

Andre Vltchk loves Iran, and I’d wondered what he’d seen in the protests, but his most recent piece on Iran seemed to have been on July 28, 2019 at unz.com well before the protests:Why Should Iran be Cherished and Defended?’

“Which brings the question to my mind: in what world are we really living? Could this be tolerable? Can the world just stand by, idly, and watch how one of the greatest countries on earth gets violated by aggressive, brutal forces, without any justification?

I love Iran! I love its cinema, poetry, food. I love Teheran. And I love the Iranian people with their polite, educated flair. I love their thinkers. I don’t want anything bad to happen to them.

You know, you were of course never told by the Western media, but Iran is a socialist country. It professes a system that could be defined as “socialism with Iranian characteristics”. Like China, Iran is one of the most ancient nations on earth, and it is perfectly capable of creating and developing its own economic and social system.

Iran is an extremely successful nation. Despite the embargos and terrible intimidation from the West, it still sits at the threshold of the “Very high human development”, defined by UNDP; well above such darlings of the West as Ukraine, Colombia or Thailand.

It clearly has an internationalist spirit: it shows great solidarity with the countries that are being battered by Western imperialism, including those in Latin America.”

Even though I’ve featured this in other coverage on Iran, it bears repeating, I think: ‘Western media excited about ‘new Iran revolution’, but polls tell a different story about protests’, Sharmine Narwani,  Nov. 29, 2019

“They grasped for a geopolitical angle too: protests in neighboring Lebanon and Iraq that were based almost entirely on popular domestic discontent against corrupt and negligent governments, began to be cast as a regional insurrection against Iranian influence.

And despite the fact that the internet in Iran was disabled for nearly a week, unverified videos and reports curiously made their way outside to Twitter accounts of Iran critics, alleging that protestors were calling for the death of the Supreme Leader, railing against Iran’s interventions in the region and calling for a fall of the “regime.

Clearly, the initial protests were genuine – a fact that even the Iranian government admitted immediately. Reducing petrol subsidies on the cheapest fuel in the region has been an issue on Iran’s political agenda for years, one that became more urgent after the US exited the Iran nuclear deal last year and began to tighten the sanctions screws on Iran again.” [snip]

“What leaps out immediately from the earlier 2018 poll is that Iranians were frustrated with a stagnant economy – and 86% of them specifically opposed a hike in the price of gasoline, the main impetus for protests this November.

Ironically, this month’s gasoline price hike was meant to generate upward of $2.25 billion earmarked for distribution to Iran’s 18 million most hard-hit families. In effect, the government was softening the fuel subsidy reduction with payouts to the country’s neediest citizens.

The 2018 poll also lists respondents’ single biggest woes, ranging from unemployment (40%), inflation and high cost of living (13%), low incomes (7%),financial corruption and embezzlement (6%), injustice (1.4%), lack of civil liberties (0.3%), among others.

These numbers suggest the 2018 protests were overwhelmingly in response to domestic economic conditions– and not over Iran’s foreign policy initiatives or “widespread repression” that was heavily promoted by western media and politicians at the time.” [snip]

“This Iranian reaction must be understood in context of Iran’s very insecure neighborhood, region-wide terrorism often backed by hostile states and a relentless escalation against Iranian interests after Donald Trump became US president. His “maximum pressure” campaign has only worsened matters, and Iranians consider themselves in a state of war with the United States – on constant guard against subversion, sabotage, espionage, eavesdropping, propaganda, border infiltration, etc.

Earlier this decade, the US military declared the internet an “operational domain”of war, and cyber warfare has already been widely acknowledged as the future battle frontier in conflicts. Iran was one of the early victims of this new warfare, when the suspected US/Israeli Stuxnet virus disrupted its nuclear program.

The US military has set up war rooms of servicemen dedicated to manipulating social media and advancing US propaganda interests. The British army has launched a “social media warfare” division, its initial focus, the Middle East. Israel has been at the online propaganda game forever, and the Saudis have recently invested heavily in influencing discourse on social media.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the Iranian government shut down the internet during this crisis. Expect this to become the new normal in US adversary states when chaos looms and foreign information operations are suspected.”

Narwani then expounds on the following headings:

Iran’s regional military activities
Economy and corruption

Given the long history of CIA and MI6 (& likely Mossad in this case) as agents provocateurs in attempts at internal revolutions, how many in these crowds might fit the bill?

Now onward to TRNN: it’s degraded significantly, imo, since Shaminie Peries and Paul Jay had co-founded it ten years ago, and were themselves putsched in early May.  Shaminie’s CV at the site:

Sharmini Peries was a co-founder of TRNN, where she harnessed the power and expertise of civil society institutions. Previously, Sharmini was Economic and Trade Adviser to President Hugo Chavez at Miraflores and for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Venezuela. Prior to that she served as the executive director of the following institutions: The Commission on Systemic Racism in the Criminal Justice System, The International Freedom of Expression Exchange, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. She also managed the Human Rights Code Review Task Force in Ontario, Canada. She holds a M.A. in Economics from York University in Toronto, Canada. Her Ph.D. studies in Social and Political Thought at York University remain incomplete (ABD).

Toward the end of May I’d written to the site to ask what in the name of Sweet Fanny Addams had happened to the pair, and eventually got this brief missive back:

Rosette Sewali, Producer & Membership Relations Manager:

‘Hi Wendy,

Thanks for your email. Paul and Sharmini have been on leave since early June. Updates will be available when we have more information.’

On Nov. 8, 2019 Yves Smith had inquired at to Jay and Peries having been ‘defenestrated’ , and she was told:

‘Hi Ms. Webber –
Thank you for your note and request for information about the whereabouts of Paul Jay and Sharmini Peries.

Paul and Sharmini were on leave over the summer and subsequently left the organization, and are in conversations with the TRNN Board about finalizing the terms of their departure. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to comment while that process is underway.

The Board is in the process of launching a search for their successors.

All the best, and thank you for your support,
Tom Livingston. Interim CEO’

So what the hell’s up with all this?  I sure do hope we find out one day.  Were they a bit too radical for the board in the end?  Peries (especially) was brilliant!  But would they pair have countenanced Eskandar-hyphenated on the show?  Or pitched him such set-ups?  The site’s current fund-raising goal is $200K.

I did check at bellingcat, they’d only covered the 2018 ‘uprisings’, Human Rights Watch: Iran: Deliberate Coverup of Brutal Crackdown, 12 Days After Protests, Authorities Refuse to Announce Death Toll, Nov. 27, 2019, HRW

Where does one go for the Truth, or closer to the Truth, especially give we know that Iran is a major enemy of the Amerikan Empire?  The Tehran Times?  ; )  I got it!  the Jerusalem Post! Pepe Escobar at the asia times?What really happened in Iran?; A fuel tax hike set the country ablaze and triggered a social backlash’, Dec. 6, 2019

“Protests started as overwhelmingly peaceful. But in some cases, especially in Tehran, Shiraz, Sirjan and Shahriar, a suburb of Tehran, they quickly degenerated into weaponized riots – complete with vandalizing public property, attacks on the police and torching of at least 700 bank outlets. Much like the confrontations in Hong Kong since June.

President Rouhani, aware of the social backlash, tactfully insisted that unarmed and innocent civilians arrested during the protests should be released. There are no conclusive figures, but Iranian diplomats admit, off the record, that as many as 7,000 people may have been arrested. Tehran’s judiciary system denies it.

According to Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, as many as 200,000 people took part in the protests nationwide. According to the Intelligence Ministry, 79 people were arrested in connection with the riots only in Khuzestan province – including three teams, supported by “a Persian Gulf state,” which supposedly coordinated attacks on government centers and security/police forces.

The Intelligence Ministry said it had arrested eight “CIA operatives,” accused of being instrumental in inciting the riots.”, and so on… and he eventually segues to quoting…Sharrmine Narwani.

‘We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the US public believes is false

~ William J. Casey, former Director of the CIA

(cross-posted at caucus99percent.com)

12 responses to “a deep inquiry into the protests in Iran

  1. Good essay wd. I have noticed a bit of going overboard from many on the left against US imperialism regarding the so called enemies, like Assad and Putin and Xi. No doubt the government of Iran sucks and should be abolished, just like the government of this country, China, Russia, and many others. The entire concept of government, democracy and leadership should go through a major shift at this point in human history, although it won’t because most people are simply lemming like creatures that will continue to allow the powerful to run roughshod over them.

    But it’s entirely possible to hold both views, that the governments of Iran and Syria are corrupt, undemocratic and need to be changed, AND the U.S. and company are using, and have used, those situations to spark unrest so as to create the conditions to overthrow those governments and install something worse.

    Now whether or not the so called “friendly dinners” are in fact friendly I don’t know, but I would disagree with any antiwar/anti-imperialism activist or purported antiwar politician (like Gabbard, who isn’t) having a friendly with any of these megalomaniac narcissistic bastards. So in that respect, I do think many antiwar/anti-imperialism activists on the left don’t have a good perspective on the overall situation when it comes to democracy and liberty and freedom on this planet. At least for my taste, and for what I think needs to be done and how it needs to be approached.

    Of course, it is a difficult balancing act to oppose US plans to overthrow a government while acknowledging said government needs to be overthrown, but it has to be made clear as to who needs to do the overthrowing, it’s the people, just like the people in this country need to overthrow our own.

    • fascinating. you seem to agree with the first author at counterpunch and the interviewee on TRNN, which must also imply trusting shamnesty international and HRW.

      but no, the green was ‘russian asset’ jill stein who’d dined with putin; but OTOH, she raised shit tons of money for recounts in three states based on ‘russian intrrference’, later ‘foreign interference’ in ‘our elections’, all against the wishes of her running mate and the green party board. guess she really wanted hillary. she finally admitted the officials kept raising the cost of the recounts; wonder what happened to all that bread, anyway, lol?

      oddly enough, the sole comment id seen over yonder was only about that ‘green party’ comment; go figure.

      • I guess you didn’t get my point. Oh well. I’ll try to polish up the way I present it. If you think I trust Amnesty International and HRW, then i’m in the wrong place. No offense.

  2. just lost my whole comment; i’ll try again later.

  3. first as to this: “I guess you didn’t get my point. Oh well. I’ll try to polish up the way I present it. If you think I trust Amnesty International and HRW, then i’m in the wrong place. No offense.”

    you haven’t polished it up, but the first two examples you’re agreeing with use compromised human rights sources, including one wikipedia one, for crissakes. yeah, scroll down to find them, including shamnesty’s “reliable sources say” etc. and one on last years’ ‘riots’.

    second you’ve collectively denounced Iran and Syria and putin’s russia as corrupt, undemocratic and needing to be abolished (xi as well, on him i’m agnostic as to his election). but assad, rouhanni, and putin were all democratically elected, although rouhanni according to one source i’d brought may have been chosen in a LOTE vote.

    now perhaps you read no further, espcially sharmine narwani’s lengthy essay, including this pithy passage:

    And despite the fact that the internet in Iran was disabled for nearly a week, unverified videos and reports curiously made their way outside to Twitter accounts of Iran critics, alleging that protestors were calling for the death of the Supreme Leader, railing against Iran’s interventions in the region and calling for a fall of the “regime.”

    now perhaps you haven’t paid much attention to the fact that iran and russia are twin whipping boys for the hegemon, nor perhaps read my posts on iran. so you may not remember this from the US mafioso ‘diplomat’:

    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is asking Iranian protesters to send the U.S. any photos or videos of violent abuses committed by the Islamic Republic, with a pledge to use the evidence as the basis for new sanctions.

    Pompeo made the request on Thursday night on Twitter, in both Farsi and English, following a government crackdown on demonstrations that began last week. He directed protesters to a secure messaging service to send any documentation of abuses.

    and of course, it was originally published at the hill, so it’s a hit piece on iran, as well. but if not russia, iran is being blamed for everything imaginable, including proviing the houthis in yemen missile to hit th saudi’s aramco oil refineries. ah, well, i’ve lost that link, likely stuck it in over yonder.

    but commenter CS pasted in the rest of narwani’s polling results, or you could read them at the link i’d provided.

  4. seriously? you’ve found my long explanation nasty? even after you’d said this: “I’ll try to polish up the way I present it.” and then “then i’m in the wrong place., and yet you hadn’t?

    i bent over backward trying to give you the benefit of the doubt (and at length, twice) and if you’d deemed this nasty, i reckon you’re just a drama queen, so adios works fine for me. here’s hoping you find the place you feel at home, big al..

  5. Thanks for posting this, wendye. I’ll confess to having a very hard time sorting out legitimate news outlets due to a poor memory and the deviousness of propagandists (not you) – so sometimes I give up and go sit in my garden. It’s easy for me to misunderstand, but I’m grateful for those that pass on information I would miss otherwise.

    I probably sound very gawky and less than interesting but I’d like to ask Al without sounding totally insipid what would we have without governent? And how do we on the outside know other governments are corrupt and need to be changed if they have their people’s approval? (I’m including China in that, as they seem to operate on behalf of the people if not elected by them).

    All this is to say I am sorry you felt misunderstood, but it could be you just didn’t explain clearly, and not wendye’s fault. If I did understand you, maybe we can work out a language that’s fluid enough for us both and for wendye too. She does an awful lot of research to bring us these essays, as you began your post saying.

    The world is very tangled right now. Any insights are really appreciated, if we can understand one another.

  6. It does feel to me rather like the Bill Murray Groundhog day movie, though, with only the country targeted being changed as we go along. Here is Iran now, and I just read Zarif’s speech [point of disclosure, I like him] at the Doha Forum where he is proposing HOPE – a peaceful unification of Arab countries for security and trade with the telling observation that it is better to be at peace with your neighbors than at war. Okay, there was also Kaddaffi… to a certain extent Assad… in a different way Saddam… now, Rouhani… each targets. Their countries messed up. And of course Russia getting up after a body blow that somehow got them Yeltsin, who threw the torch to Putin. All, all, demonized. Okay, I left out the smaller ones. But overthrow them … and then what?
    The alarm’s gonna ring and the next country lines up to be CIA’d and angry expatrioted by US trained ‘rebels’…

    How does this movie end? I forget.

    • more from sharmine narwani’s piece in the OP:

      “On the economic front, it appears that Iranians have largely been disappointed by the promises and vision of this administration, which could benefit its Principlist opponents in upcoming parliamentary elections. The fuel tax hike two weeks ago was a necessary evil and a brave move by Rouhani, despite the mismanagement of its public rollout. Unfortunately, Iranians, who have railed against subsidy removals for years, are unlikely to be forgiving anytime soon.

      On the political front, Iranians appear to be largely in lockstep with their government’s foreign policy and military initiatives, viewing the IRGC’s activities – domestic and regional – very favorably, and supporting Iran’s involvement in neighboring Iraq and Syria, both for security reasons against terrorism and because they believe in an active regional role for Iran. In terms of support for their leaders, a majority of Iranians view favorably the IRGC’s Soleimani (82%), followed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (67%) and Judiciary Head Ebrahim Raisi (64%), which covers an unexpectedly broad spectrum of political viewpoints in the country.”

      kiss my grits, trump:

  7. Gosh, I didn’t even mention South America. It’s not a movie; it’s an encyclopedia – volume after volume after volume.

    I need me a kindle… or would it be a spindle? You see how it goes.

    Love ya, wendye. Hang in there.

    • love you, too, juliania, and blessings on you for being such a diplomat. i’ll add including on MoA’s max blumethal thread. i love FM zarif witless, as i do FM lavrov.

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