The rally was supposed to be against “financial corruption” and “government mismanagement,” but the banners held by the attendees, which contained messages threatening moderate President Hassan Rouhani, turned the event into an even more controversial demonstration, with moderates and reformists attacking the organizers.
A few conservative grand ayatollahs unexpectedly came forward to condemn the rally. What angered them weren’t the banners but a speech by a hardline theorist.
These were the main conclusions of a September 13 panel on the topic organized by the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative.
The system imposed in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution seeks a return to conservative social values through rigid interpretations of Islamic law. From women losing rights previously enshrined in a 1975 Family Protection Act, to intimidation and repression of civil society at large by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Judiciary, Iran has violated a wide spectrum of ethnic, social, and religious rights.
Though Secretary of Defense James Mattis has denied that either are on the agenda, the White House's rhetoric and actions betray a different motive. The US president himself has trumpeted the harsh impact of reinstated sanctions and said that it is a “question” as to whether the Islamic Republic “will survive.”
President Donald Trump’s approach is slated to impoverish the Iranian population, cripple Iranian civil society, and eliminate prospects for peaceful democratic change. Indeed, state collapse and domestic turmoil loom larger on the horizon.
As the closest confidante of the former president, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei has long been despised by much of the Iranian ruling elite for leading a supposed “deviant current,” and advocating a strange mix of ascetic mysticism, Iranian nationalism, Shia millenarianism, and anti-establishment sentiment.
After years of controversy, Mashaei was finally arrested last March. He was charged with “collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the regime,” and “insulting judicial authorities.” Along with his patron, the ex-president, Mashaei had spent much of the last few months agitating against the judiciary, especially after it targeted Hamid Baghaei, Ahmadinejad’s number three: his former vice president and a disqualified candidate during the 2017 presidential elections. Earlier this year, Baghaei ended up being sentenced to fifteen years in prison and fined for embezzlement.
Probably the last person a Jeffersonian-style tweet would be connected to is former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Irony seems to be lost on Ahmadinejad, given that social media—Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube—were banned under his presidency after the 2009 post-election protests known as the Green Movement. For almost a decade now, Iranian internet users have had to rely on circumvention tools to bypass censorship, while the former hardline president tweets like it’s his day job—which is more and more becoming the case.
Asking members of al-Qaeda to address whether they collaborated with Iran to carry out international terrorism is unlikely to yield a credible response. “Listening in” on what al-Qaeda members, their families and jihadists in their orbit were “saying” about their ties to Iran is far more credible.
During a recent meeting with President Hassan Rouhani and his cabinet members, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to emphatically rule out any negotiations, asking, “What negotiations can we have with the current disrespectful and brazen US officials who are making no secret of their hostility toward Iranians? Therefore, no talks will take place with Americans at any level. Not just the president but the foreign and intelligence ministers as well.”
Whatever slim opening existed as a result of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has been closed shut, replaced by a cacophony of mutual threats, personal insults, financial sanctions and the absence of even basic communication between Washington and Tehran.
Donald Trump, who won the presidency partly because of his vow to make better deals for the American people, has instead ushered in a period of intense uncertainty with Iran. This could very well produce a dangerous miscalculation if communication channels between the two capitals are not re-opened on a full-time basis.
Due to these complications, Zamaneh Media—a Persian language media organization based in the Netherlands—has stepped in to monitor labor developments. This month they published “Labor Rights in Iran,” Zamaneh Media’s first bi-monthly report on the issue. The report analyses seven key areas: child labor; contractual issues and unemployment; discrimination in the workforce and fair wages; freedom of association and unionization; labor legislation; women in the workforce; workplace security and health.
One way to end the nightmare is for the United States to withdraw its support for the war, compel the Saudi-led coalition to accept a ceasefire and ensure a peace process that keeps millions more from unnecessary suffering.