Day by day the grip of the mullahs in Tehran on the Iranian nation seems to weaken. It is much too early to make a prognosis on this but the signs are that events are spiraling out of control. While earlier bouts of street demonstrations were driven by specific incidents and short-lived, such as the 1999 and 2009 outbreaks, this one is deeper and more systemic. The earlier demonstrations were student led. This current one has its roots in Iran’s working class. This indicates a much more broad-based dissatisfaction than in the past and one that strikes directly at the mullahs’s base of power. The killing of dapper, man-about-town terrorist Qasem Suleimani aggravated matters as it exposed regime vulnerability to a population which probably thought that senior regime figures were untouchable. What has brought matters to a flashpoint, and if not a point-of-no-return at least a point-of-n-good-choices, was last week’s shootdown of a Ukrainian airliner by an Iranian air defense unit as it took off from Tehran airport. The shootdown was bad enough but the aftermath epitomized the aphorism often attributed to Talleyrand, “it was worse than a crime, it was a blunder.” At first the regime lied about the cause but was forced to walk back the official lie in just a matter of a couple of days because of incontrovertible evidence of the cause. Now the demonstrations have seemingly spread to the middle class.
There is another key difference. Where Obama sat on his hands in 2009, for reasons that have since become abundantly clear, President Trump and his administration have been giving support to the cause of the demonstrators.
And there have been plenty of signs that Tehran is feeling the heat. When a leading stooge for the Iranian regime like Titra Parsi begins to distance himself from the mullahs, you know things are getting dicey:
When @tparsi of @NIACouncil, the not so unofficial pro-Islamic Republic (IRI) lobby in #US, retweets a tweet by ‘me’ – a ’separatist’, ‘counter-revolutionary’ Kurd – then one can be sure #IranProtests are serious enough to elicit re-positioning away from IRI by pro-regime figures pic.twitter.com/xPcPXxHuSt
— Kamran Matin (@KamranMatin) January 13, 2020
When the Iranian regime start appealing to its neighbors for support you know thing are looking grim:
The current situation in the region demands -more than ever before- strengthening of relations between countries in the region as well as avoiding influence of foreigners’ inductions. Iran has recurrently announced it’s ready to establish closer ties with countries in the region.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 12, 2020
But, because Donald Trump is involved and because the Iran terrorist oligarchy was beloved of the Obama administration, there must be something wrong with supporting the desire of the Iranians to rid themselves of a vile and oppressive regime. This hot take is from CNBC…from the same reporter who sent this
— Joanna Tan (@tan_joanna) January 11, 2020
However, Cedomir Nestorovic, professor of geopolitics at the French ESSEC Business School in Singapore, cautioned that Trump’s solidarity with protesters may not be good for them.
“I don’t believe that President Trump’s intervention in this field would be very fruitful for the United States, because it is an internal protest,” Nestorovic told CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Monday.
“The more you give them credit, the more you give them support, the worse it will be for them, because in that case, the regime will consider it is an international plot, that the United States are intervening in the local affairs of Iran, so I don’t think it’s a very good thing,” he said.
Every time there is a protest in Iran, Iran accuses the protesters of being part of some foreign plot. That’s just the way they roll. As the saying goes, “you might as well be hanged for a sheep as a lamb.” If they are going to be accused of being inspired by foreign actors, they might as well be. The fact that Trump is telling the mullahs that we are watching them may actually make them a little more reticent to engage in massive reprisals. The thing that should scare the living bejeezus out of the regime is the effect that Trump’s tweet has had on the protesters. One would have thought that given the incessant diet of hate-American that comes out of the regime at a volume that would make you think you were on an Ivy League campus, and the obvious tack that would be taken by the regime of labeling protesters as American “agents,” that the protesters would have told President Trump to butt out. They haven’t.
Giving false hope to people rebelling against a vicious regime is fraught. The US has been directly responsible for two significant losses of life because we gave people the hope that we’d come riding to the rescue–the East German uprising of June 16, 1953 and the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Perhaps the only thing worse than giving them false hope is giving them no hope. Nothing Trump has said, thus far, gives any impression that American military assistance is underway. What it does is give fair warning to the regime that if it all goes to crap and they have to flee the country, that they will not find any shelter if they have ordered the massacre of protesters. That, alone, is a great and tangible good.