As Iran Protesters Brave Regime Forces, Questions Raise About US, Israel Aid
For the past month, Iranian citizens have been defying the regime by taking to the streets in protest.
Demonstrations following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16, three days after being arrested by ethics police in Tehran for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code, have killed dozens of protesters and some security forces , after the performances began. women.
Officials have also accused the country’s “enemies”, mainly the United States, of inciting “riots”.
Although the Islamic Republic regularly tries to discredit protesters by accusing them of being Western pawns, it raises questions about whether – if anything – the US, Europe, and even Israel support the protesters. can to do.
Before outside powers can develop a plan to support dissidents, they must determine whether demonstrations in high schools and universities have a chance of becoming a real threat to the regime.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington-based think tank, pointed to the fact that the pace of mass protests is accelerating.
“The fact that this is a new normal in Iran is simply unsettling,” he said.
“It used to happen once a decade,” agreed Atlantic Council fellow Ksenia Svetlova, “but since 2016 it happens at least once a year, sometimes more.”
“This is an ongoing revolutionary reality, which may ultimately damage the ability of governance to operate,” she said.
Ben Taleblu said, “Even if the protests fantastically end tomorrow, the saga is not over.” “This sentiment against the regime is widespread and nationalized from rural to capital.”
He said Western, especially US support could have tangible results.
“More naming and shaming, more creative telecommunications support, bringing the public and private sector together to see how you can really facilitate the issue of satellite internet in Iran,” elaborated Ben Taleblu.
The Islamic Republic has imposed harsh restrictions on Internet access, and is planning to criminalize the sale of virtual private networks (VPNs).
Ben Talebalu also called on European countries to join the US in withdrawing their ambassadors from Tehran and in issuing condemnation in the press for perpetuating the plight of the protesters.
Despite being a small country with no diplomatic relations of any kind with Iran, Israel has several options for supporting the protesters, Ben Talebalu said.
Continuing to talk publicly about the demonstrations puts pressure on Western partners, and indicates that Israel cares about more than just the nuclear issue.
“It signals from the Israelis to the Iranian people that while Israel’s troubles lie with the Islamic Republic … the Israelis understand that a more representative Iranian government would mean radically different national security and foreign policy by a new regime.”
Both the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s office declined to comment on whether Israel was acting to support the demonstrations.
Israel’s security services may also play a role. While cyberattacks attributed to Israel have focused on Tehran’s nuclear program, its hackers may shift their focus to the regime’s telecommunications and command headquarters of security forces involved in suppressing protests.
They can also provide protesters with technologies to help keep governance cyber experts from hacking into their phones and computers. “They can block Iranian servers, and open up secure ways that allow protesters to communicate and coordinate, because that’s what worries them most,” Svetlova said.
Intelligence assets can monitor and publish the activities of the Basij militia, police and Revolutionary Guards, giving protesters the ability to anticipate their arrival.
“Tell them the world is watching,” said Ben Taleblu.
‘The outside world can’t do anything’
But not all Iranian experts agree that the West has anything to do, let alone Israel.
“The ability of the West to support regime change in Iran exists only in the very advanced stages of the revolutionary episode,” said Raz Zimat, an Iranian scholar at the National Institute for Security Studies and Tel Aviv University.
Iran is currently far from that position, he argued: “Even with full enthusiasm, it includes thousands of protesters in total. In most places, it’s dozens or hundreds. It could evolve.” , but right now I don’t see how it develops into something broader.”
Reichman University Iran expert Ori Goldberg stressed that the current protests have elements of a “perfect storm” of diverse socioeconomic and geographic needed to turn into a successful revolution.
“It started in the periphery but then caught fire and the flames intensified,” he said. But they have not spread into a mass movement.
“Whether these protests add up to a revolutionary moment, I don’t think anyone outside Iran can do anything that could affect the situation in one way or another,” he said.
And any outside involvement would discredit the protesters, Goldberg said, emphasizing that the popular revolutions that took place in Iran – in 1892, 1905-11, 1951 and 1979 – do so only if the public sees them as “natural and orderly”. See me as an Iranian.”
“This is a story of people rising up against oppression, people rising up against injustice,” he continued. “If the oppressed become affiliated with a foreign power, it withdraws from their status as oppressed.”
If the US and European countries decide that it is possible to support the protest, they will be forced to make a difficult policy choice. For nearly a year, the US and E3 European powers have prioritized finding a way to bring Iran back to the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal. Increasing support for the protesters would likely destroy any hope they had to revive the broken pact.
At least in the short term, America’s priority is to support the protests. “The revival of the JCPOA is not on the US agenda right now,” special envoy Rob Malle told CNN last week. “The focus is on what is happening in Iran as talks have stalled.”
Even without foreign backing, time is on the protesters’ side, Goldberg argued. “The longer the protests go on, the more persecution by the Islamic Republic, the more pronounced and more aggressive it appears.”
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