On Iranian Protests, US Should Stay Silent

In 2009, Iran experienced a “Persian Spring” or Green Movement, where many reformists protested what they saw as the fraudulent election of then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The movement was characterized by support for secularization and democratization of public institutions. Members were organized, objectives were clear, and its leaders were clearly recognized. While it did not succeed, it the most highly organized protests in Iran in recent history.

The Iranian protests we are seeing now are nothing like that.

Large rallies in support of the leadership are now being held in cities around Iran (AFP)

As Titrya Parsi notes in her opinion piece, the influence of Green reformists is very little to none at all.

The absence of slogans and chants invoking Green leaders such as Mousavi, Karroubi or former President Mohammad Khatami gives credence to their claims that they are not a driving force behind these protests. In fact, no major reformist figure has come out in favor of the protests, and some activists have even spoken out against them.
Key operatives in the Green movement that I have spoken to both in Iran and in exile have clearly adopted a calculated distance from the demonstrators, though they express sympathy for the population’s grievances.
The fact that reformists — who have been at the center of most of the large-scale protests in Iran for the past two decades — appear to be neither driving nor even particularly involved presents a new political phenomenon in Iran.
Most of it has to do with Iran’s declining economic situation while others are motivated out of political concerns. However, its very unlikely that this mass unorganized protest of economic grievances will materialize into anything substantial – or at least, not yet.
In which case, it is best that the US sticks its nose out of this one. There is not much to gain and more to lose. In fact, the US should mostly steer away from addressing these issues because our statements can end up being used against us.

It’s very common for third world countries to use the US as a bogeyman for all their problems (e.g., Venezuela). Thanks to Trump’s unrestrained tweeting, Iran has accused US leadership of “grotesque” interference because “numerous absurd tweets, [had] incited Iranians to engage in disruptive acts.”

If we want whats best for these Iranian protestors, it’s best we keep our mouth shut. Give the Iranian government no choice but to address these problems as a result of their own internal failings.

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