Fred LaSor: What’s up in Iran?
January 4, 2018
News has been slow to emerge about the current situation in Iran, but a full week after the first glimmerings appeared on the internet of civil unrest in that nation, American news programs are now reporting protests have broken out in as many as 30 cities around the country. Reports are hundreds have been arrested and jailed, and dozens killed, during confrontation with police and agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The government in Tehran has kept a tight lid on reports of the unrest, but a few videos and Facebook posts have gotten past the censors. They show throngs of mostly young people marching in the streets and calling for political and economic reforms and an end to theocratic rule. They're not calling for outside intervention. Women have been particularly outspoken in calling for an end to rules requiring the wearing of head covering and veils.
Despite President Obama's gift of a hundred billion dollars in unmarked bills, the political leaders and the religious mullahs haven't managed to improve the standard of living in Iran. Youth unemployment hovers above 25 percent and people are outspoken in their condemnation of Iranian involvement in Arab wars.
This serves as a good reminder Iran isn't an Arab nation, despite the fact they share ties to Islam and use script that bears a resemblance to Arabic. In fact, they have one of the oldest social and political histories in the world, and not so long ago were our allies.
The overthrow of the Shah by religious zealots in 1979, and his replacement by mullahs, marked the point at which relations between our nations soured. Taking over our embassy and holding 52 American diplomats hostage for more than a year didn't improve our ties, and their custom of calling us the "Great Satan" in any public statement is an additional irritant. On top of that they captured a U.S. Navy vessel and humiliated the sailors on board, supplied particularly lethal IEDs to be used against our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they continue to ship arms and advisors to terrorists in the Middle East and around the world.
In the summer of 2015, America and five European governments who had substantial trade interests with the Republic of Iran, plus China, signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, an agreement (not a treaty) that ended sanctions on the Iranian government in return for commitments from them not to build nuclear weapons for at least 10 years. Two and a half years after that agreement went into force the Iranians haven't openly restarted their own nuclear program. But there's good reason to suspect they are funding Kim Jong Un in his quest for nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles. I fully expect him to share this technology with Iran, if he's successful, allowing Iran to maintain plausible deniability regarding domestic development of nuclear weapons.
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Relations between America and Iran have experienced extreme highs and lows since World War II. It would be good to see the end of theocratic rule so they could once again become a proud nation that honors human rights and stands out as a regional leader in women's rights. It would be good once again to have warm relations between our two nations. At the same time, my instinct is this revolution would be a good one for us to observe from afar without trying to get heavily involved.
Of course none of this is to say they will give up their nuclear ambitions, but at least they are unlikely to work with the North Koreans. Regrettably, we won't get our $100 billion back.
Fred LaSor follows international affairs from retirement in the Carson Valley.