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Need To Show Caution on Iran Not Heeded by Trump Administration

Jan. 1, 2018 (EIRNS)—With protests continuing in Iran for a fourth day, smaller than those of 2009 and some involving armed demonstrators, recommendations for caution from experts on the region are not being heeded by the Trump Administration. UN Ambassador Nicki Haley was the latest to wish for regime-change, saying Dec. 31, "We pray that freedom and human rights will carry the day."

The eruption of protests followed by only two weeks the adoption by the United States and Israel of an action plan against Iran—Saudi Arabia is likely also a silent party to this plan—reported to include covert action. The protests began Dec. 29 in the southeastern city of Mashad, governed by hard-line conservative clerics who oppose the Rouhani government and even Ayatollah Khamenei as too reformist. In this respect it bears similarity to the start of the Syrian protests in Dara’a in 2011. The Iranian protests have since spread primarily to cities and towns along Iran’s western border, with Iraq.

The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall, in a "watch what you wish for" piece, warns of a dangerous escalation of regional tensions. Trita Parsi, in a CNN op-ed, reports the leaders of the 2009 "Green Movement" still in Iran are not supporting these protests, which are much smaller so far. He notes the dominance of Mashad by religious hardliners who sought to take advantage of the population’s legitimate economic grievances to score points against the Rouhani government, but have lost control of them because of economic grievances. Rouhani himself has recognized these grievances and urged peaceful protest over them. Parsi writes,

"Remember that Rouhani won re-election with 57% of the vote (and 70% voter participation) only seven months ago. That means it’s more likely that the core of the demonstrators are of a different ilk."

Rouhani, in a national address, said,

"People are absolutely free to criticize the government and protest but their protests should be in such a way as to improve the situation in the country and their life. Criticism is different from violence and damaging public properties.... The government and people should help each other to resolve the issues."

In the southern city of Izeh, many protesters are armed, and several have been killed, it is not known by whom. The Telegram mobile phone app, created by Russian Pavel Durov, has been shut down by Durov at Iran’s request because Iranian agitators in exile were using it to push violence. Durov said,

"A Telegram channel (Amadnews) started to instruct their subscribers to use Molotov cocktails against police and got suspended due to our ‘no calls for violence’ rule. Be careful—there are lines one shouldn’t cross."