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The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Right to Protest

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The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Right to Protest

A pro-government rally in the northeastern city of Mashhad, Iran. Nima Najafzadeh/Tasnim News Agency via AP

Written by Dennis M. Nilsen exclusively for SouthFront

One of the rights which the American public cherishes is the right to peacefully demonstrate against the government.  The right of peaceable assembly stands clearly in the First Amendment, taken from the constitutions of the newly-formed states which themselves took it from the English Bill of Rights of 1689, a component of the Glorious Revolution which ensured Parliamentary supremacy against the arbitrary behavior of the English monarch.

Beginning last week, tens of thousands of Iranian citizens took to the streets of several major cities to largely protest their government’s policies on employment and the prices of foodstuffs; it is increasingly being alleged that these movements were spurred and directed by the Sepah (Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran) and other Principalist elements who seek to discredit Rouhani’s government.  Nevertheless, some of these gatherings became marred by calls for the ending of the present form of government, and for either the return of the shah or of a secularist or even Communist state.  Combined with calls against the government were not a few acts of violence against public property and policemen, and several deaths resulted from this.  The Iranian Government responded severely to these latter demonstrations, with hundreds of arrests, while many more tens of thousands of Iranians devised counter-demonstrations in support of the government, making the important distinction between opposition to government policy and the form of government itself.

None of this made its way into the minds of the American Administration, symbolized by its call for a meeting of the UN Security Council.  Neither has the American press taken notice of this.  The remarks of Ambassador Nikki Haley exhibited this ignorance in making an outrageous statement of support for the protesters who were themselves breaking the laws of their own country.  In words noted for their ambiguity – but not for their cleverness – she was publicly urging the overthrown of the Iranian Government.  The ambassadors of China, Russia and France all rejected the relevance of these happenings to the business of the Security Council, noting that the sphere of the UN concerns international relations, not the internal affairs of any of its member countries.  Thus, the US Ambassador embarrassingly had the founding principles of the UN flung back in her face, and was made to appear as a devotee of an unrealistic, illogical and unlawful emotionalism in favor of the much-misunderstood right of self-determination.  However, she was merely echoing the thoughts of her superior, President Trump.

Two days ago, the Sepah – regardless of its possible actions in fomenting the initial protests – announced victory over the violent protesters.  Within the UN this was a cause for rejoicing in that a country had been returned to internal stability, despite the problems which continue, and respect for the rule of law had come back.  To the US, however, the use of public force to end an organized movement publicly desiring the overthrow of the government and using weapons against the police to get such a move started was morally reprehensible.

Why does the US insist on this busy-body behavior?  Is it because we consider ourselves the nation chosen by God to convert the whole world to liberal democracy?  Or do we involve ourselves only in areas vital to our very broadly defined national interests?  In the Middle East, this would be the maintenance of friendly Arab regimes who provide us with oil and natural gas, and a continual alliance against Iran to prevent a security challenge to Israel.  What the security – or even the existence – of Israel has to do with American security does not appear anywhere save in the minds of the Zionist/Christian Fundamentalist lobby in the United States which, albeit for different reasons, sees the continued existence of that state in its present form as a sine qua non for a harmonious world order.

This ultimately leads back to the issue of the 1967 borders between Palestine and Israel and both Israel’s continued refusal to withdraw from the West Bank and its obnoxious settlement policy – especially in East Jerusalem/al-Quds.  The Likudniks and their Christian Fundamentalist allies can reasonably argue that the Iranians want the complete annihilation of Israel as a country, but as we see that the phrase ‘Death to America’ almost always appears in conjunction with the more famous ‘Death to Israel’, and that the Iranians can’t possibly wish death to a country the size of the US – and further that Iranian public officials have constantly proclaimed that these statements have to do with Israeli and American policies – the Israelis should not be worried about their existence as a country – especially since they possess a nuclear deterrent.

By saying these words, Ambassador Haley exposed the charade of American neutrality in the political game of the region.  The American Government wishes to see a change of regime in Iran not for the benefit of the Iranian people, but solely so that it will not pose a threat to the Zionist State.  All this talk of the ‘Great Iranian People’ is that much more of a joke seen in light of this position.

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