The US State Department has issued a formal condemnation of the Iranian government following two days of economic protests centering in a handful of cities, calling the regime "a rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos" while announcing support for protesters. It fits a familiar script which seems to roll out when anyone protests for any reason in a country considered an enemy of the United States (whether over economic grievances or full on calling for government overthrow).
The statement by spokesperson Heather Nauert, released late on Friday, further comes very close to calling for regime change in Iran when it asserts the following:
On June 14, 2017, Secretary Tillerson testified to Congress that he supports "those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of government. Those elements are there, certainly as we know." The Secretary today repeats his deep support for the Iranian people.
U.S. strongly condemns arrest of peaceful protestors in #Iran, urges all nations to publicly support Iranian people. As @POTUS said, longest-suffering victims of Iran's leaders are Iran's own people. #Iranprotests pic.twitter.com/mUTObTeHft— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) December 29, 2017
Though most current reports strongly suggest protests are being driven fundamentally by economic grievances, the US has already framed this week's events inside Iran as revolutionary in nature and as aiming for "transition of government". On Friday evening White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted the following statement:
Reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with the regime’s corruption and its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. The Iranian government should respect their people’s rights including their right to express themselves. The world is watching.
The media is already promoting a regime change narrative
As we noted during our initial coverage of Thursday's protests, Israeli as well as Iranian opposition media commentators (and of course pundits in the US mainstream) have generally appeared giddy with excitement at the prospect that protests could spread inside Iran, potentially culminating in society-wide resistance and possible change in government. It goes without saying that Iran has been enemy #1 for the United States and Israel since the Islamic Revolution and embassy hostage crisis beginning in 1979.
Consider for example this major Israeli international broadcast network, which in an English language interview segment covering the very beginnings of (relatively small and limited) protests Thursday quickly linked the Tehran government with use of chemical weapons in Syria, supporting the "biggest butcher in this region Bashar al-Assad", and facilitating the killing of civilians:
#Iran protests: this might be #Rouhani's chance to force the economic reform he's been long clamoring for, @MeirJa tells @talexander_i24 pic.twitter.com/Pog57xkKKU— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) December 28, 2017
Simultaneously the resident "expert" presents the protesters as condemning these things while yearning for freedom and democracy. He can barely contain himself while repeating "It's spontaneous! It's spontaneous!... and could be more spontaneous! ...it inspires people to go out more! ...Because it's spontaneous these two are combustible mixtures":
The protests in #Iran are 'completely spontaneous' - which is why @khamenei_irshould be worried, @MeirJa tells @talexander_i24 pic.twitter.com/GLBCPYW06h— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) December 28, 2017
Other tweets and statements from the generally pro regime-change media and the experts which frequent their panels seem very eager to prematurely cast this as a 'revolution':
...And notably (just above) the Saudi royal family owned Al-Arabiya is presenting the Iran protests in terms of women's rights.Are we witnessing regime change agents hijacking economic protests?
Iran warned of a tough crackdown on Sunday against demonstrators who pose one of the most audacious challenges to its clerical leaders since nationwide pro-reform unrest jolted the Islamist theocracy in 2009.
Police in Tehran fired water cannon to try to disperse demonstrators gathering in Ferdowsi Square in the center of the capital, according to video footage posted on social media, in an apparent fourth day of protests.
Video posted online also showed a clash between protesters and police in the city of Khoramdareh in Zanjan province in the country’s northwest. There were also reports of protests in the cities of Sanandaj and Kermanshah in western Iran.
Reuters was unable immediately to verify the authenticity of the footage.
Tens of thousands of people have protested across the country since Thursday against the Islamic Republic’s unelected clerical elite and Iranian foreign policy in the region. They have also chanted slogans in support of political prisoners.
The demonstrators also shouted: “Reza Shah, bless your soul”. Such calls are evidence of a deep level of anger and break a taboo. The king ruled Iran from 1925 to 1941 and his Pahlavi dynasty was overthrown in a revolution in 1979 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic’s first leader.
The protests are the biggest since unrest in 2009 that followed the disputed re-election of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Demonstrators denounce high prices, corruption and mismanagement. Unemployment stood at 12.4 percent in this fiscal year, up 1.4 points from the previous year. About 3.2 million Iranians are jobless, out of a total population of 80 million.
The demonstrations are particularly troublesome for Rouhani’s government because he was elected on a promise to guarantee rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
The Times of Israel is liveblogging Sunday’s developments as they unfold.
Iran protesters, riot police clash across Tehran
Iranian protesters and riot police are clashing across Tehran, according to unverified footage posted on social media.
Photos posted online show police using water cannons and tear gas to disperse the demonstrations.
BREAKING: This video is recorded few mins ago showing protesters are being brutally attacked by Anti-riot police under command of #IRGC in Revolution square of #Tehran. Protests against Islamic regime. Tnx to citizen journalists who send us these videos. #IranProtestspic.twitter.com/KvBaYYAzkf— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) December 31, 2017
Outside the capital, scattered protests are reported across the country.
BREAKING: This is Ferdowsi square of #Tehran, anti-riot police under command of #IRGC is now brutally suppressing protesters. Protests against corrupted Shia clerics and authorities of Islamic regime of Iran. #IranProtests pic.twitter.com/lyvd2X5a8L— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) December 31, 2017
At several of the rallies, demonstrators are said to be chanting: “No Gaza, No Lebanon, Our lives are devoted to Iran,” in protest of generous military aid by Tehran to various terror groups, including Hamas and Hezbollah.
Others are calling for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to be deposed or killed.
Iran official claims ‘foreign agents’ killed protesters
An Iranian official claims the two protesters shot dead in Dorud during anti-regime demonstrations on Saturday night were killed by “foreign agents” and “enemies of the revolution.”
“Violent clashes broke out in the illegal demonstration in Dorud on Saturday and unfortunately two people were killed,” the deputy governor of Lorestan province, tells state TV, according to Reuters.
“No shots were fired by the police and security forces. We have found evidence of enemies of the revolution, Takfiri groups and foreign agents in this clash,” says Habibollah Khojastehpour.
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