"They are lying that our enemy is America! Our enemy is right here!"
--Iranian students, this week, at a protest
What the Persians need is their version of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Amnesty International says the government of Iran killed more than 300 of its citizens in November as they protested gasoline prices. Just mowed them down in the streets. Tin soldiers and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's coming . . . .
We trust that Iran's poets will work it out. And a counter-culture will come along, even if they're not called hippies. For there are protests in the streets all over Iran. What the United States went through in the late '60s and early '70s, Iran seems to be going through now. And it couldn't have happened to a nicer country.
It might not be noised about in the American (free) press, but the sanctions against Iran are doing what those sanctions were meant to do: put pressure on Tehran. Imagine protests against gasoline prices in a country with Iran's oil reserves. And there is no outside market for Iranian oil, either. Seriously, no market. One educated guess, from Oxford Economics, is that exports of Iranian oil were basically zero last month. The national economy is shrinking--contracting at nearly 9.5 percent annually.
For the Iranian people, this is a shame. But these sanctions were implemented for a reason. The government running things from Tehran has been a bad actor since, oh, about 1979.
The Shah was no saint, either. But his corrupt regime and secret police were replaced by a terrorist regime and, yes, more secret police. We're not holding out for a Jeffersonian democracy in Iran, but the people there surely want better than the last two regimes. Worse and worser aren't the only options in government.
Something tells us, namely experience, that things can't go on this way. After the government shot down a civilian plane by accident, killing 176 people, denied everything, then had to admit as much when video became available, the protests against the government--already bigger than the protests against the Shah in '79--grew in size. According to a story in Arkansas' Newspaper this week, demonstrators in one city chanted "Death to the dictator!"
Hint: They weren't talking about any imagined American dictator, or even about the Great Satan herself. They were protesting against a dictator closer to home. "They are lying that our enemy is America!" they chanted. "Our enemy is right here!" It might have rhymed in Farsi, and thus sounded better before translation. But the mullahs understand perfectly. For they answered.
Videos sent to the West, and confirmed as legit by the Associated Press, show people being tear-gassed and shot near Azadi Square in Tehran. But authorities tell you not to believe your lying eyes. Or as the police chief of the city told the papers: "Police treated people who had gathered with patience and tolerance. Police did not shoot in the gatherings since broad-mindedness and restraint has been the agenda of the police forces of the capital."
The solemn asses speaking to the press in Tehran aren't much on humor, except maybe the unintentional kind.
It would be a mistake to think that history flows toward freedom and democracy automatically, like water flows downhill. The mullahs aren't going to step aside. These latest protests could be just an extension of the Green Revolution of 2009, which was put down violently. If real change does come, however, maybe the Iranians could rename Azadi Square. They could call it Neda Agha-Soltan Square.
Either way, if real change comes to Iran, reformers won't need the (all too public) help of President Trump's tweets. In fact, the regime in Tehran might use those tweets against the kids in the streets. For if the leader of the Great Satan says something good about you, etc., etc.
The president should most definitely do what he can to support those looking to cast off their chains. But, when it comes to Iran, he should do it on the down-low.
Or as the proverb from that part of the world puts it, be a lion at home, a fox abroad.
Editorial on 01/18/2020
Print Headline: Let it simmer