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Understanding the Year of Unrest in Iran

Although the protests are no longer breaking news in the West, they continue. Ilan Berman, Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council, writes, “Although regime officials have renewed their calls for a ‘resistance economy’ in the face of reinvigorated sanctions on the part of the United States, the Islamic Republic shows no sign of rethinking its extensive (and costly) foreign-policy priorities, which include helping to keep Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in power and providing military support for Yemen’s Houthi rebels.”

Renewed economic pressure on Iran is the centerpiece of Washington’s regional policy. The White House seeks to compel Iran’s leadership with reimposed American sanctions, and is pushing Europe and Asia to reduce their trade with Tehran, as well.

The Islamic Republic’s spiral into economic crisis fuels its peoples’ anger, and calls for revolution increase. Therefore, the current protests are an extremely potent force for creating meaningful change within the Islamic Republic. So far, Iran’s leaders have been able to contain the ongoing protests through widespread arrests, pervasive censorship, and extensive repression. Their efforts are assisted by the absence of clear leadership or an organized agenda for action among the protesters themselves.

However, those who do not fully recognize the significance of the initial uprising may not know much about the major driving forces behind that unrest. Chief among these is the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (MEK/PMOI), a pro-democracy opposition group that has been at the head of calls for regime change since the earliest days of the Islamic Republic.

When the nationwide uprising was at its peak, the Iranian regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei actually delivered a speech in which he specifically credited the MEK with planning and organizing the anti-government demonstrations.

Despite the regime’s efforts to simultaneously downplay and demonize the Iranian Opposition, the power and influence of the MEK has continued to grow, both inside Iran and throughout the world. When the President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, Maryam Rajavi, praised the initial protests and called for a “year full of uprisings.” The Iranian public immediately responded with resurgent demonstrations, and the regime has struggled to quell them ever since.

In fact, US President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, addressed a rally in Paris held by the the MEK along with the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella coalition. “We are now realistically being able to see an end to the regime in Iran,” Giuliani told a crowd of about 4,000. “The mullahs must go, the ayatollah must go, and they must be replaced by a democratic government which Madam Rajavi represents,” Giuliani said. “Freedom is right around the corner … Next year I want to have this convention in Tehran!”

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