The rial, Iran’s national currency, is trading at more than 150,000 to the US dollar this month, which sparked more economic protests across Iran, as the country is wracked by protests that began late last year.
The economic catastrophe is seen as part of the broader failings of the Iranian government, and the protests are sending a clear message of opposition to the regime in its entirety.
The chant, “death to the dictator” and “death to Rouhani,” are heard at demonstrations. Both political factions of the regime — hardliners and “moderates” — are condemned, while regime’s attempts to dismiss the unrest as the product of some foreign conspiracy is rejected by the people.
“The enemy is here,” the protesters declared, according to independent Iranian news outlets and witnesses on social media. “They are lying when they say it is America.”
According to Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist, and leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, the Iranian people are “not simply declining to blame the West for their problems.
The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a major driver of the protest movement, insists that the Iranian people are in fact calling out to the US and Europe to stand with them as they take hold of the solutions to their problems.”
Dr. Rafizadeh goes on to explain, “We can do this by focusing international attention on the human rights abuses with which the Iranian regime responds to any and all popular threats to its hold on power.
We can also weaken the regime’s repressive infrastructure by building a broader consensus for economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation that will ultimately force the mullahs to respond to the crises they are presently trying to suppress.”
As economic and social conditions worsen, along with the people’s anger response to them, the inherent potential of assertive Western policies seem auspicious, such as
the Trump administration’s decision to convene the UN Security Council to discuss Iran-related issues on September 26th.
There is an opportunity at that time, to condemn the latest arrests and human rights violations involving peaceful protesters, and to point out that these measures are ineffective. The 2018 Iran Uprising Summit planned in advance of that meeting will echo this message.
This past August, Iranian authorities arrested some 1,000 protesters. Arrests are said to have exceeded 8,000 in January, during the nationwide uprising.
After Tehran acknowledged the role of the MEK in the uprising, the popular democratic resistance group has been targeted outside of Iran. While attacks have been thwarted so far, terrible damage was plotted in March against the MEK community in Albania.
As well, on June 30th, hundreds of American and European dignitaries attending an international rally outside Paris organized by adherents of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and its president-elect, Maryam Rajavi were also the targets of a bomb plot.
Assadollah Assadi, a high-level diplomat at the Iranian embassy in Vienna and mastermind of a plot hatched at the highest levels in Tehran, was arrested and exposed a terrorist operative hidden at the heart of Europe.
If rights abuses are allowed to continue in Iran, terror threats abroad will grow. It should be apparent to both sides of the Atlantic that Western interests and the Iranian people’s interests are one and the same.
The message that should be emphasized at the Security Council this month is that a combination of internal and external pressure may help to usher in both democracy in Iran and security abroad.