Iranian president Hassan Rouhani called for unity as death toll skyrockets in the country’s 7-day civil unrest which has been ridden with violence and rights violation as Donald Trump warns the world will not watch for too long.
CNN reports that over a dozen citizens of Iran have died for daring to challenge an irresponsible, autocratic Tehran regime since mass demonstrations hit the country in 2009.
Image: Hassan Rouhani
In Rouhani’s call for calmness as his government makes callous effort to squash the widespread spontaneous uprising, he said, “Our great nation has witnessed a number of similar incidents in the past and has comfortably dealt with them. This is nothing.”
The statement made during a meeting with Iranian members of parliament on Monday attracted responses from the U.S. and Russia.
Mike Pence, the US Vice President, tweeted support for protesters, saying “We will not let them down.”
Vladimir Putin’s government weighed in on the call for a unified action against Rouhani, saying the demonstrations are an “internal affair” for Iran and external interference is unacceptable.
While the US President Donald Trump promised to offer support for peaceful protesters in Iran and to demand that the government there respond with restraint, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claims citizens were instigated by foreign “enemies” whose motive is to disrupt governance in the country amid allegations of terrorism sponsorship.
However, the protests that erupted in that country last week seem to be home-grown and motivated by dissatisfaction with high prices, unemployment and a corrupt ruling elite although events took a violent turn after claims that one of the protesters shot at a group of police officers, wounding three and killing one in Najafabad, according to CNN.
“One rioter in Najafabad took advantage of the situation (in that city) and used a hunting rifle to shoot at security forces, which caused the death of one policeman and injuries to three other security personnel,” the YJC said in a report posted on its website.
There are wide speculations that some protesters may have objected Iran’s supreme leadership, as Trump claimed in one of his tweets, because of the fact that their wealth “is being stolen and squandered on terrorism.”
In the words of L.A. Times editorial board, Trump and other American politicians need to be careful not to issue calls for regime change, however veiled, especially if the United States is unable and unwilling to back up with military action.
The U.S. president came close to making such a promise in a tweet on New Year’s Day that began with “Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration” and ended with the exclamation “TIME FOR CHANGE!”
In a similar vein, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said: “We should support the Iranian people who are willing to risk their lives.”
It’s clear that such language tends to offer Iranian dissidents false hope, just as former President George H.W. Bush raised the hopes of Iraqi Shiites and Kurds in 1991. At that time, near the end of the first Gulf War, the ex-president said that the Iraqi people could “take matters into their own hands, to force Saddam Hussein, the dictator, to step aside.”
When those Iraqis rose up against Saddam, U.S. forces didn’t come to their aid, and the world witnessed a bloodbath.
In this case, Trump’s words also make it easy for the Iranian regime to dismiss their protests as American-inspired, but that doesn’t mean U.S. politicians can’t sympathize with the concerns of young, disaffected people in Iran or that the U.S. can’t penalize Iran when it believes that country has misbehaved.
The American government has imposed sanctions on Iran for its support for militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah and for its testing of ballistic missiles potentially capable of carrying nuclear weapons, yet, if anyone should take blames for inciting protests, one of Rouhani’s recent comments gave the nod.
“We have no bigger challenge than unemployment. Our economy requires major corrective surgery,” the 69-year-old said ahead of the protests.
Iran’s Ministry of Information has reportedly told all participants in the disturbances that they would be “seriously dealt with” for taking part in illegal activities.
Over 450 protesting citizens have been identified and arrested.
Iranian authorities have slowed down on launching a wide-range crackdown similar to the strategies applied in 2009, preferring instead to contain the protests locally.
Protesters appeared to be playing a game of cat and mouse with police and security forces, according to Los Angeles Times reporter Ramin Mostaghim, who noted that he saw mostly younger protesters in the busy Azadi Street chanting “Death to Rouhani”, and later, a large number of people yelling “down with the dictator” and sprinting away from police on the side streets.
Hassan Rouhani is a lawyer, academic, former diplomat and Islamic cleric. He is Iran’s 7th and incumbent president.