Brief on Iran

Brief on Iran (BOI – 291)

Brief on Iran
Written by OIAC

Members of Congress, U.S. Government Officials and Leaders Express Solidarity With #IranProtests. Growing Calls for the U.S. to Make Internet Access Readily Available to Iranian People.

From Senator’s Letter to @POTU:
“We ask that you –
. Expeditiously provide a list of the Iranian officials who are shutting down the Iranian people’s access to the Internet, and impose the mandated sanctions; and
. Take all available technical measures to restore access to the Internet in Iran.

“It is time for the world to go beyond crucial statements of support and stand on the side of the Iranian people.”

“So far, the murderous theocracy has slaughtered 450 protesters, wounding 4,000, and arresting at least 10,000, detaining many in grade schools. The deadly crackdown, however, has failed to quash the uprising, as reports of continuing clashes in Tehran and other cities are making their way out of the regime’s Internet blockade.”

Senate Majority Leader: “now tens of thousands of Iranian people themselves are raising their voices in righteous anger at what has become of their living conditions and their country. The Iranian people are feeling the pain inflicted by the brutality, selfishness and extremism of their ruling class….“Iranian leaders will either listen to their own citizens and start behaving like a normal nation or they will be treated, more and more, like the backwards pariahs they have become.”

Iran’s democratic destiny, fueled by rebellious youth
So far, the murderous theocracy has slaughtered 450 protesters
By Ali Safavi – – Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Iran’s regime is doomed, desperate and dazed. For weeks, people in Lebanon and Iraq rose up against its destructive meddling. And, for the past 11 days, people of Iran in 176 cities revolted to unseat it in Tehran itself.
So far, the murderous theocracy has slaughtered 450 protesters, wounding 4,000, and arresting at least 10,000, detaining many in grade schools. The deadly crackdown, however, has failed to quash the uprising, as reports of continuing clashes in Tehran and other cities are making their way out of the regime’s Internet blockade.

The uprising started in response to a drastic jump in fuel prices. For months, the regime had been trying to lift fuel subsidies but was afraid of the impending social unrest.

Recently, the regime’s calculus changed after being confronted with near-empty coffers, hungry regional proxies relying on its largesse, and serious threats to its “strategic depth” in Lebanon and Iraq. Caught between a bad and a worse option, it chose the former. On Thursday at midnight, as the country slept, fuel prices tripled and security forces were quietly planted at sensitive locations, ready to quell protests. But the awakening that followed shocked the mullahs. Protests spread nationwide like wildfire, with youth taking center stage. Unprecedented levels of popular rage were directed at the corrupt rulers, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself. “Death to Khamenei” and “death to Rouhani” were the rallying cry, democracy the objective.

The scale and the depth of the uprising prompted a clearly panicked Khamenei to quickly intervene in an attempt to both quash internal disputes among alarmed officials and to swiftly nip the protests in the bud by publicly supporting the price hike and calling for the suppression of “rioters.”
The November uprising is unprecedented and exceedingly more audacious than the 2009 and 2017-18 uprisings.
First, it is the culmination of thousands of smaller but persistent protests over the past year-and-a-half. These included teachers, students, factory workers, nurses, truck drivers, embezzled investors, farmers and bazaar merchants, to name a few. Bottom line: Almost every segment of the population finds the situation unbearable.

Second, for the first time in the regime’s history, the urban middle class, rural residents, the working class in smaller towns, the “army of the unemployed,” and ethnic and religious minorities (in other words almost all Iranians) invigorated an extraordinary sense of national solidarity and courage against a common enemy. This character is similar to the 1979 uprisings that uprooted the equally corrupt dictatorship of the shah.

Third, the astounding pace of the uprising, expanding to over 171 cities in 11 days, speaks to the exceptionally explosive social situation. All it needs is a single spark.
Fourth, the regime itself is exceptionally fragile and terrified. Corruption is endemic, the economy will shrink by another 9.5 percent this year, unemployment rate is over 40 percent, inflation is over 50 percent and the value of the national currency has plummeted.

That is why Tehran shows a zero-tolerance policy in the current uprisings and started the indiscriminate killing of protesters in the first hours and shut down the Internet.

Fifth, the protests are much more organized. Equally common but unprecedented are the widespread attacks in almost every city on hundreds of regime institutions, including state-owned banks, religious seminaries, and paramilitary Bassij and IRGC bases. These are seen by people as symbols of corruption that must be burnt to the ground just like the regime itself.

Sixth, after extensive and meticulous activities inside the country in the past two-and-a-half years, the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) “Resistance units” have succeeded in developing a deep bond with the population, making it palpably clear that many years of suppression and demonization failed to drive a wedge between young people and the organization.

Indeed, Ali Khamenei, senior officials and the state-run media were quick to highlight the MEK’s role in leading the uprising, admitting that the Resistance units are spreading, adapting and implementing increasingly sophisticated tactics to ensure successful anti-regime campaigns.

In a press conference on Nov. 24, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary for the regime’s Supreme National Security Council, said, “These people were connected to governments and the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) … I believe 34 MEK members have been arrested so far. A vast network of individuals, operating not under the MEK’s name, but pursuing their line and modus operandi were also identified.”

Unlike some of its neighbors, Iran has a viable alternative to replace the mullahs, in the form of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which has been advocating for a secular, democratic and free Iran, summed up in the Ten-point Plan by its president-elect, Maryam Rajavi. It has won the praise and support of thousands of parliamentarians, human rights activists and prominent personalities and former officials around the world.

The Iranian people are ready for freedom. They are capable, have an alternative and are not afraid to make the ultimate sacrifice. Rest assured, Iran’s democratic destiny is firmly in the hands of its rebellious youth. All they ask is for the world to condemn the regime’s crimes against humanity and to support their cry for freedom.

• Ali Safavi (@amsafavi) is an official with the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
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Iran could be on the brink of overthrowing its authoritarian government, and the people need U.S. support
The current unrest is indicative of a deep desire for change that has been simmering for the better part of 40 years.
By Homeira Hesami
Nov 24, 2019

At least 100 people have been killed by the Iranian regime’s security forces in protests that have spread to over 140 towns and cities since Nov. 15, according to news reports, and the actual death toll could be far higher. The scale of the repression far exceeds that deployed the last time around. Around 60 protesters were reportedly killed by gunfire or torture over the course of roughly one month during the nationwide uprising in early 2018.

There is no reason to assume that the world has a complete picture of the Iranian regime’s response to the current protests. The internet has been essentially cut off for everyone except government officials and state media outlets. What little information has leaked out indicates that in many cases, the bodies of the deceased are not being returned to their loved ones. Such reports are reminiscent of the worst of Tehran’s crimes against humanity, such as the 1988 massacre, in which as many as 30,000 political prisoners were murdered and buried in secret mass graves.

The death toll from the current protests is certain to rise, but again might never be known for certain. Even more alarming is the prospect that the perpetrators of the latest killings may never be held accountable for their actions. After all, no one has ever been brought to justice for the 1988 massacre. In fact, many of the leading participants in that massacre have been rewarded with progressively more powerful appointments in the Iranian government and state-linked private industries.

Over the years, Tehran has been given good reason to believe that it will face no serious, long-term consequences for the repression of dissent within its own borders or beyond. In many instances, Western governments have deliberately looked the other way in order to appease the theocratic regime.
The current unrest is indicative of a deep desire for change that has been simmering for the better part of 40 years, expressed in a long series of protests that led inexorably to today’s uprising. The swiftly imposed internet blackout serves to isolate Iran from the world, so the regime can better hide its vulnerability. But from what has been seen so far, it may no longer be possible to conceal the fact that the Iranian people are on the brink of overthrowing their authoritarian government.

The growing death toll essentially proves the truth of this assertion. This round of protests appears poised to continue in spite of many more deaths, injuries and threats of harsh punishment by the Iranian judiciary, now in the hands of one of the leading perpetrators of the 1988 massacre, Ebrahim Raisi.

As in the 2018 uprisings, Tehran begrudgingly attributed credit for guiding the protesters to the Iranian Resistance led by Maryam Rajavi and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The resistance’s leading role in organizing the current protests is a testament to the organizational and strategic prowess of the MEK and the fact that the clerical regime has utterly failed to destroy this movement.

If the regime’s long history of brutal repression has not yet accomplished this, neither will its crackdown on the current protests. Still, an open question remains as to whether the international community will continue to turn a blind eye to this latest assault on the rights of the Iranian people.
To their credit, the White House, the State Department and the U.N. Human Rights Council have each issued statements affirming the Iranian people’s right of dissent and condemning the excessive use of force by Iranian authorities. But such statements are only half-measures and must be followed by concrete measures to cut into the regime’s sense of impunity.

Anyone truly interested in defending Iranian activists or promoting their democratic goals should push for more decisive action. “Silence vis-à-vis the crimes against humanity perpetrated in Iran every day is absolutely unacceptable,” Rajavi said in a statement responding to the unrest in her homeland. The statement went on to urge the U.N. Security Council to convene an extraordinary session, declare Iran’s leaders responsible for crimes against humanity, and take steps toward bringing them to justice.
In Texas and nationwide, there is a bipartisan congressional condemnation of the killings and support for the uprising in Iran. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, as well as Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and Sen. Robert Menendez. D-N.J., have all spoken in favor of the right of the Iranian people for democratic change. The U.S. must also act to ensure access to the internet to allow the Iranian people’s voice to echo to the outside world.

Earlier this month, Sen. Cruz said in a policy briefing in the Senate: “The government of Iran has been under a shroud of darkness for decades now. Ayatollah Khamenei and the mullahs enforce brutal repression on the people. And I will say to the Iranian people, to the men and women of Iran: America is with you. America is with you and your struggle against cruel, oppressive, torturing, murderous tyrants. Freedom matters. I believe we can one day again have a free Iran, not with the Ayatollah in power.”

The current uprising aims to remove the entire regime, and it needs the U.S. and the rest of the free world on its side. After years of appeasement and inaction in the face of ayatollahs’ persistent human rights abuses, suppression and foreign adventurism at the expense of the Iranian people, it is the least the outside world can do.

Homeira Hesami is chairwoman of the Iranian-American Community of North Texas and a medical physicist in Carrollton. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
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West must intervene to protect Iran’s protesters, Mideast democracy
By R. Bruce McColm

Nov. 26 (UPI) — The international community must take decisive action to limit the further loss of life in Iran. Since protests last began on Nov. 15, at least 300 activists have been killed. Thousands of others have been wounded and thousands arrested. Regime authorities have explicitly warned that anyone deemed to be leading their local demonstrations could face the death penalty.
If the recent killings do not demonstrate the seriousness of this threat, then the long history of repression in the Islamic Republic certainly does. Iran consistently maintains the world’s highest rate of executions per capita. The regime’s commitment to opacity in judicial proceedings makes it difficult to know how many of these executions stem from political charges, but information on this topic does leak to the public from time to time.

What is well-known is that in a matter of only several months in 1988, Iranian officials hanged a staggering 30,000 political prisoners in an effort to stamp out dissent at a time of particular vulnerability for the theocratic dictatorship. This is relevant to the current outpouring of repression for multiple reasons. In the first place, it highlights what the regime is capable of when it finds itself under serious threat from domestic activists. And perhaps more importantly, it demonstrates that the regime’s motives for the present crackdown are the same as those that led to the 1988 massacre.

That is to say, the threat to the mullahs’ hold on power is coming from the same source today as it did 31 years earlier. The overwhelming majority of the victims in 1988 were members or supporters of the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran. Despite the regime’s best efforts to stamp out that pro-democracy movement, the PMOI recovered and resumed a process of growth that has not ended.
The past several days’ protests can be characterized as a continuation of the nationwide uprising that began in the final days of 2017. After violent repression caused that movement to fracture by the end of January 2018, opposition leader Maryam Rajavi urged supporters to continue their efforts at the local level and turn subsequent months into a “year full of uprisings.” By all accounts, Iran’s activist community obliged this request, keeping pressure on the regime’s repressive institutions and bringing them to their present situation.

Despite the fact that the death toll reached triple digits in less than four days, the regime appears to be no closer to bringing the population under control that it was in the hours immediately following the announcement of painful increases to the price of oil. By all accounts, the chants of “death to the dictator” have only gotten louder, leaving little question about the Iranian people’s support for a platform of regime change.

That very platform is best expressed by Rajavi, who has laid out a 10-point plan for Iran’s future in the aftermath of a new revolution. That plan calls for free and fair elections, legal safeguards for the rights of women and minorities, and other principles that are unquestionably supported by the Iranian people — one of the youngest and most well-educated populations in the entire region.

It is no wonder that the Mujahedin-e Khalq has gained more adherents and greater organization strength during the decades since it was forced underground by harsh government repression. By the same logic, there is little doubt that the clerical regime is as desperate as ever to force that movement back underground or to annihilate it once and for all. As difficult as it is to develop a complete picture of the regime’s repression over the past four decades, the politically motivated execution of MEK members has certainly continued, contributing to a total death toll in excess of 120,000.

Tragically, no Iranian official has ever faced justice for the 1988 massacre, much less for the thousands of individual executions and assassinations. That being the case, there is little reason for the mullahs to believe that there will be serious, long-term consequences for their efforts to stamp out the MEK in the context of the current unrest. Therefore, it is imperative that Western powers and the entire international community clearly demonstrate that politically motivated killings will not be tolerated, before the death toll climbs any higher.

The MEK and its parent coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, have issued statements to this effect. They have quoted Rajavi as saying, “Silence vis-à-vis crimes against humanity perpetrated in Iran every day is absolutely unacceptable.” The resistance leader also addressed United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres directly to request the convening of an extraordinary session of the Security Council, leading to a clear statement indicating that Iran’s leaders will be held to account for such crimes.

With 300 Iranian activists having been killed by the regime, this is unquestionably the right course of action. Western powers cannot realistically call themselves defenders of human rights if they do not take such action. Given what we know about the cause of which Iranian protesters are dying, it is not just human rights issues that are at stake. The latest Iranian uprising is arguably the best chance that the region has yet had for the establishment of genuine democracy.

Neither the United States nor Europe can afford to turn their backs on a movement that so well represents its own people while also aligning so closely with Western ideals.

R. Bruce McColm is the former executive director of Freedom House, president of the International Republican Institute, co-chairman of the Iran Policy Committee and executive director for the Institute for Democratic Strategies, a non-profit organization that’s committed to strengthening democratic processes abroad.
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Dissident group claims Iran uprising and crackdown much bigger than reported
By Guy Taylor – The Washington Times –
Tuesday, November 26, 2019

An international Iranian dissident group says the recent protests in Iran, as well as the government’s severe crackdown on demonstrators, have been much wider in scope than initially reported. While Iranian authorities claim the uprisings were quelled quickly and rights group say about 150 people died, the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) claimed Tuesday that more than 400 were actually killed during “anti-regime protests” that occurred in “some 176 cities throughout the country.”

The group, which says it has a wide network of informants inside Iran, asserted in a report circulated by its offices in Washington Tuesday that demonstrations began with slogans condemning a government hike in fuel prices, but quickly spread into widespread demands for the total overthrow of the ruling regime in Tehran.

“It did not take long,” the NCRI report claimed, “for the slogans to morph into calls
for rejection of the regime in its entirety.”
“People chanted slogans against the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani, while attacking centers of suppression, theft and particularly those affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC),” the report said. “Many of the buildings were torched and sustained serious damages.”

NCRI Deputy Director Alireza Jafarzadeh told The Washington Times in an email that demonstrators were “chanting ‘death to Rouhani,’ ‘death to Khamenei,’” in a manner that “clearly shows the society’s rage and explosive state and that the Iranian people demand regime change.”

“The recent uprising showed that change is attainable, and the people are ready to pay the price to make it happen,” Mr. Jafarzadeh said. “The world must recognize the right of the Iranian people to change the regime and establish a democratic, pluralistic, and non-nuclear republic in Iran.”
The NCRI report also claimed at least 4,000 protesters were injured and at least 10,000 have been arrested by Iranian authorities.

The assertions by the group, which has long called for regime change in Tehran and is widely seen to have allies in the Trump administration backing the administration’s current “maximum pressure campaign” against Iran’s government, came a day after Amnesty International said at least 143 people have been killed in a crackdown against on the protests since Nov. 15.

The Associated Press reported that the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard threatened the U.S. and its allies Monday as he addressed a pro-government demonstration attended by tens of thousands of people denouncing the recent violent protests, which the news agency described as being driven by a fuel price hike.

Gen. Hossein Salami, echoing other Iranian officials, accused the U.S., Britain, Israel and Saudi Arabia of stoking the unrest, according to the AP, which cited the general as saying the rise in gasoline prices was a “mere pretext” for an attack on the nation.

Some in the Iranian-American community downplayed the notion that a mass movement against the government in Tehran was sparked by the protests.

“The idea that the Iranian government is on the verge of imminent collapse has long been promoted by various hawkish forces in the U.S. and some U.S.-based opposition groups. This continues to be wishful thinking,” said Sina Toossi, a senior research analyst with the National Iranian American Council, a group that bills itself as an outfit promoting greater understanding between American and Iranian people.

“Millions of Iranians certainly have deep-seated economic and political grievances and want major change,” Mr. Toossi told The Times in an email. “However, there exists no cohesive, mass revolutionary movement. The protests we’ve seen in the past week were leaderless and expressed different demands, from rescinding the gas price hike to fundamental change in the political system.”

“The Iranian government also clearly still has a significant repression capability, able to brutally put down protests and disconnect internet connections to the outside world,” he said.

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