By Heshmat Alavi
Al Arabiya, 9 January 2018-- For nearly two weeks now protests are mushrooming across Iran and literally shaking the very pillars of the country’s ruling regime. Various discussions continue over the scope of these protests, their comparisons to the 2009 and 1999 uprising episodes, what should be expected from the international community and how to trek forward, amongst other subjects.
What goes neglected to this day is the main source of the Iranian regime’s fear. Yes, this regime has a history of quelling small protests and major uprising, especially thanks to the world’s deafening silence.
And yet all the while, Iran has been vividly pinpointing the very source of its main concerns, being the existence of an organized opposition movement navigating and providing political depth to such a nationwide uprising. Tehran understands this concepts, considering how it unfortunately took advantage of such a void in the Arab Spring.
As the world strives to determine if these protests enjoy an organized nature, debating which party – if any – is behind this seemingly spontaneous movement, state-backed media in Iran are claiming that the Iranian opposition People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) has been shaping the ongoing protests from their very beginning.
Supporters of Lebanon’s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah during a public appearance by Nasrallah in Beirut on October 11, 2016.
The PMOI/MEK is the main member of the Iranian opposition coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Here’s a brief chronology of semi-official Iranian state outlets pinpointing this reality:
Dec. 29, 2017—Astan-e-Razavi TV: Mashhad’s Friday prayer imam Alamolhoda blamed the PMOI/MEK and the U.S. for organizing the growing protests.
Dec. 31, 2017—Daneshju News Agency: Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s high representative in the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) said, “When [NCRI President] Maryam Rajavi officially sends messages and calls on people to pour into the streets, it’s proof that they are the first to be present in the uprisings.”
Dec. 31, 2017—Fars News Agency (affiliated with the IRGC): In an interview with the al-Mayadeen TV network, Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said the PMOI/MEK is the flagbearer of this Saudi scenario and pledged to retaliate.
Dec. 31, 2017—Dolat-e-Bahar website (affiliated with former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad): The order for the uprisings was given by the evil triangle (US, UK and Israel), paid for by the Saudis and implemented by the PMOI/MEK.
Dec. 31, 2017—Resalat daily (affiliated with Khamenei’s faction): The uprisings’ organization on Saturday prove that the PMOI/MEK provides the leading infrastructure, and intelligence services such as Mossad, CIA and MI6 were their associates. The secret of why the French continue to provide service to the PMOI/MEK in Paris was revealed in recent unrests. This episode was similar to those of 2009. At the time, the excuse was “vote rigging.” Today, it’s “high prices” and “inflation.”
Dec. 31, 2017—Tasnim News Agency (affiliated with the IRGC Quds Force): In a video message to the protestors, the MEK leader called for the focus of the rebellion to expand. The MEK also supported uprisings in 2009.
Dec. 31, 2017—Tasnim News Agency blamed the MEK for the destruction of public property in Tehran and setting the Iranian flag ablaze.
Dec. 31, 2017—Youth Journalists Club website wired a report saying the PMOI/MEK “is behind the recent turmoil and manages it.”
Jan. 1, 2018—Mohammad Ali Asoudi, a senior consultant to Khamenei’s representative in the IRGC, in an interview with the ‘Daneshju’ News Agency: “Regarding the presence of PMOI/MEK members and affiliates in these riots, it is notable that when Maryam Rajavi officially sends a message and calls on everyone to rush to the streets, it is evident that their members and supporters are in the front row.”
Jan. 1, 2018—FOX News website: A leaked report provided to FOX News shows how [Khamenei] met with political leaders and heads of the country’s security forces to discuss how to tamp down on the deadly nationwide protests…
The meeting notes that the leader of the NCRI, Maryam Rajavi, and the “Infidels,” which the translation says refers to "the West,” “are united for the first time.” It continued, “Maryam Rajavi is hoping for regime change,” saying the protests are “definitely organized,” and “the security forces report that the MEK is very active and is leading and directing them.”
In its first 2018 session, the @UN Security Council held emergency meeting on #Iranprotests; unprecedented during the rule of clerics in Iran. The session is a huge warning sign to the regime and encouragement for the protesters that the world is finally on their side. pic.twitter.com/cUWhknDOeT— Alireza Jafarzadeh (@A_Jafarzadeh) January 5, 2018
A reality neglected
State-backed media in Iran, and the liberals who enjoy influence over the majority of what is considered main stream media in the West, both due to their interests, are reporting that the protests are dying. The fact is the protests are continuing. However, footage is arriving literally with a delay of 12 to even 36 hours due to the authorities’ severe throttling of internet speed.
Considering the reports constantly flowing from activists inside the country, protests are lasting, the morale and loyalty of regime forces are wearing down, leading to many repenting. Senior officials lack trust in state police and in many scenes officials are dispatching IRGC and the Basij paramilitary.
However, protesters are in the streets night after night in cities checkered across the country. The regime’s provincial forces are literally unable to respond to each and every city, town and village. As demonstrations expand, people are overcoming their fears, realizing how they can force the regime to retreat and how the international scene is far different from 2009.
Reaching a new level
Proving once again how this administration is in far contrast with its predecessor, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called for an emergency UN Security Council session to discuss the ongoing protests and Tehran’s crackdown.
A number of countries, including obviously Russia and China, touched upon the very subject that will haunt Tehran about Washington’s request. The mere fact this issue was debated in the UNSC signals a historical elevation of Iran’s human rights dossier to the highest international body, and there is literally no turning back.
This shows a major turning point for the Iranian people, as their true opinions about the ruling regime are being heard the world over. This is exactly what terrifies the regime even further, knowing how the Iranian opposition PMOI/MEK, under the NCRI umbrella, has the potential of significantly electrifying these protests into well-awaited regime change.
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Fast track developments
The bravery shown by the Iranian people in their continuing protests is being heard and there are signs of movement in support for their cause. US senators and Trump administration officials met at the White House on Thursday, according to Reuters, seeking to hammer out new legislation to stiffen restrictions on Iran.
Four senior Senators, Bob Corker, Ben Cardin, Bob Menendez and Marco Rubio, representing a bipartisan approach, placed forward a Senate resolution “expressing support for the rights of the Iranian people to have their voices heard and condemning the Iranian regime for its long history of human rights abuses.”
In the House of Representatives, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, are introducing a resolution supporting the Iranian people and condemning Tehran following street protests that state authorities have replied by killing more than 50 and arresting more than 2,000, according to reports.
Vote on the measure is set for Tuesday, coming as the Trump White House seeks to increase international pressure on Tehran over its handling of the demonstrations. To raise the stakes even further for Tehran, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the Trump administration supports the aspirations of Iranian protesters, including calls for a “peaceful transition of government.”
As the Iranian regime signals the main source of its concerns, the international community is more than ever coming to realize the path forward.