By Juan Cole, Informed Comment.
Trump has tweeted as though he cares about the welfare of the Iranian protesters in small towns across that country who are upset about reduced government subsidies for commodities such as eggs and gasoline. His administration tried to prosecute protesters for laughing at VP Mike Pence.
The scattered rallies, mostly consisting of a few hundred people but sometimes swelling to 1,000, continued for a third day.
Here are the reasons for which these statements are hypocritical.
1. If Trump cared about Iranian dissidents, he would welcome those who want to flee to the United States. The more forthright and well known dissidents are at risk of long jail sentences or even death. Instead, Trump has tried to ban Iranians from coming to the United States at all. If he won’t let a grandmother come for her grandchild’s wedding, how much does he care about Iranians?
2. The protesters are protesting economic hardship. But Trump and the Washington Establishment were all for imposing economic hardship on the Iranian public to pressure the government to give up its nuclear fuel enrichment program. Under severe sanctions which Trump doesn’t think severe enough, some families stopped being able to afford imported medicines key to treating a family member. Some of today’s economic problems are rooted in the American deep sanctions and in the GOP Congress’s refusal to lift sanctions on Iranians after the government signed the nuclear deal.
3. Sympathizing with working people facing increased prices is not Trump’s brand, and it is rich for him to pretend to care about them. Trump with his budget law has just plunged millions of Americans living in straitened circumstances into even more dire poverty and is trying to take health care insurance away from 26 million Americans. Trump hasn’t even gotten the electricity back on for American citizens in Puerto Rico because of his racism. So if Trump were in power in Iran, the people in the streets protesting would be treated much worse than they are now.
4. The protesters are complaining about the arbitrary, high-handed and authoritarian way that the clerical regime has run Iran. Trump does not object to any of those policies in principle. He just told the New York Times that as president, he can do anything he wants and it is legal, and that he can suborn the Department of Justice. Trump also wants to outlaw abortion in order to please his base of religious evangelicals and conservative Catholics. That the Iranian clerics make policy on irrational religious grounds is one of the things people mind about them, but how is Ayatollah Trump different?
5. Trump has allied himself, and aligned himself, with the Saudi royal family, which in turn is attempting to undermine Iran. Trump is backing Saudi Arabia’s cruel and useless bombing campaign on poor little Yemen. That any Iranians would see Trump as sympathetic to them beggars belief.
It is becoming clear that the latest wave of protests was started by hardliners, especially by President Rouhani’s rival candidate Ebrahim Raisi and his father-in-law Ayatollah Alam ol-Hoda, the hardline Friday Imam of Mashhad, to undermine Rouhani and pave the way for a hardline president. The reformist Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri has openly criticized the hardliners for stoking the protests against Rouhani, but adding that they will be the ultimate losers. In fact, they have already backfired as the slogans of the demonstrators have targeted Ayatollah Khamenei and the entire clerical establishment, and many slogans have praised Reza Shah who suppressed the clerics.
Certainly, the majority of people would like to see the end of the clerical rule and a more moderate and democratic government. This is what they have shown in every election. If US government were really interested in democratic reforms in Iran it would try to bolster the reformists against the hardliners, something that President Obama was trying to do, but the current administration is aiming to undermine the whole country.
The irony is that Trump’s gamble might backfire in an unexpected way. Shortly after coming to power, President Carter started a human rights campaign, mainly in order to target the former Soviet Union, but its most tangible result was the Iranian revolution and the toppling of one of America’s strongest allies in the Middle East. It would be ironic if the current campaign could leave the Iranian government bruised but intact, but bring down the Saudi regime, which by any standard is much more repressive and corrupt than the Iranian regime.
Saying you care about things is a social mantra in much of the Western world, like ‘our thoughts and prayers are with…’ There’s nothing wrong with that but it is rarely the expression of a state of sincere solicitude nor is it really expected to be, with politicians it’s more likely to be political opportunism, like kissing babies.
American warring hypocrisy knows no bounds when it comes to America preparing to attack a ‘said’ adversary, and having Trump to do the traditional saber rattling that is required, is America pushing the envelope ever more with a mean spirited bombastic and bizarre Commander and Chief.
At the rate the Trump Administration is going in regard to foreign affairs America will have as it’s allies Israel, Saudi Arabia, and about eight other nations that nobody has ever heard of. Trump has accomplished what no other American president has ever done within the last seventy years, and that is Trump has ushered in ‘the America Stands Alone’ era. This accomplishment of Trump’s is profoundly of his own unique making. Congratulations Mr President you have finally fenced off America for it now is one big isolated country, as once again you deliver to this aging planet a beautifully hugely loud Trump original. Jerk!
As the Victorian British understood, the key to being a successful bully is to use high-flown language in public, with the backroom power of your bankers. Trump really is exploding the facade, but he’s also adding a healthy injection of his own personal sociopathy to what is thus exposed about American hegemony. It’s as if Victoria had been succeeded on the British throne not by Edward VII, who represented much of the good and evil of the capitalist status-quo oligarchy, but somehow by Wilhelm II of Germany, a man who could not be happy unless he was blowing things up.
It is difficult for the average US citizen to interpret events such as this. We know that the US has waged a campaign of subversion against the Iranian state for decades, spending large sums of money. We know Israel has an obsession with undermining the Iranian regime, as does Saudi Arabia. Both have well resourced intelligence agencies. The US has allies like the British that also routinely conduct covert activities.
So while it is very plausible that substantial discontent exists within the Iranian population concerning economic conditions, it is also undeniable that various well resourced foreign intelligence agencies are attempting to exploit the situation. There have been recent plausible reports of the US and Israel reaching agreements on an expanded covert regime change campaign. Timing seems to match those reports.
This raises the concern that the legitimate opposition in Iran (whatever its size), will be delegitimized as useful idiots of the US and its allies.
One concern, reports that the demonstrations “rose spontaneously as a result of social media activities.” That is right out of the color revolution playbook, and the collusion of facebook and google with the intelligence agencies is widely suspected.
What sounds good in a bar blaring out Fox News to its patrons likely won’t work in reality. I’m assuming that the US will find out what happens when it is run like a Trump Enterprise: Bankrupt, and with nobody willing to do business with us any more.
Jan Oberg comments
As usual, Juan Cole’s column is insightful and uses a wide spectrum of perspectives and possible interpretations of the events. I believe that this perspective deserves more elaboration in days to come: ” …it is also undeniable that various well resourced foreign intelligence agencies are attempting to exploit the situation. There have been recent plausible reports of the US and Israel reaching agreements on an expanded covert regime change campaign. Timing seems to match those reports.
This raises the concern that the legitimate opposition in Iran (whatever its size), will be delegitimized as useful idiots of the US and its allies.”
That the U.S. in particular – and in particular the Trump administration, suffers from a serious degree of Iranophobia can be categorized as proved beyond doubt. So one should not underestimate that aspect of what is reported from Iran here around new year 2018.
PS See also Farhang Jahanpour’s comment under Cole’s article.