Iranian President Hassan Rouhani did the right thing going on television and at least acknowledging popular anger over hard economic times. Inflation is high at 12% but down from 40% at the start of Rouhani’s first term. And the recent increase in fuel and food prices by up to 40% has hardly helped.
That was part of Team Rouhani’s 2018 budget, which cuts subsidies for the poor – a key feature of the previous Ahmadinejad administration.
Then there is youth unemployment, which hovers around the 30% mark. Similar figures recently came out of Spain, a member of the European Union. Of course, that explains why the bulk of the protesters are under 25 from working class backgrounds.
What Rouhani should have explained to Iranians in detail is the direct consequences of hard economic times and United States sanctions, which are affecting the country.
These were coupled with financial threats against western firms now back in business, or at least contemplating opening up operations, in Iran.
Still, what is happening now in Iran is that legitimate protests related to economic hardships have been hijacked by the usual suspects in a move to influence the minority. After all, Rouhani’s administration is comparatively liberal compared to the populist Ahmadinejad government.
So, what we have is a concerted attempt to turn legitimate protests into a “revolutionary” movement with the aim of bringing about a regime change. In all practical purposes, this would be civil war.
Well, it will simply not work. Anyone familiar with Iran knows the country’s civil society is far too sophisticated to fall into such a crude and obvious trap.
For a clear take on the foreign influence angle, you should watch Professor Mohammad Marandi, of the University of Tehran, an academic of absolute integrity, arguing with a former BBC employee on the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera television network.
Indeed, what is certain is that foreign elements are acting as provocateurs to influence the protests. This “whole world is watching” tone is meant to intimidate Tehran’s response.
Yet there has to be a crackdown against the violence as Rouhani strongly hinted. Imagine the police response if the level of violence seen on Iranian streets was happening in France or Germany?
Regime change is unlikely but what is in play is setting the scene for a further renewal of economic sanctions against Iran. Possibly, in this case by the EU. Hopefully, it will not fall into this trap.
Anyway, Tehran is already gearing up to increase business across Eurasia through China’s new Silk Roads, the Belt and Road Initiative, and the Eurasia Economic Union.
In the end, it is up to Team Rouhani to be creative in alleviating the burden on the economic front.
The US risks finding itself out in the cold if it continues to push its anti-Iranian agenda, Sputnik contributor Igor Gashkov writes. Calling upon its European allies to sever ties with the Islamic Republic, Washington has failed to take EU economic interests into consideration.
The Iran issue has deeply divided The United States and Europe: while Washington has declared Tehran a sponsor of terrorism, EU member-states continue to invest in the country's economy, Sputnik contributor Igor Gashkov writes.
"There is an immense difference between Europeans and Americans on this issue," Director of the Center for Middle Eastern and Central Asian Studies Semyon Bagdasarov told Sputnik. "A big contract was signed by Tehran and the French to modernize the [country's] entire aviation fleet. Paris and Berlin are actively investing in the production of Iranian hydrocarbons. European business has great prospects in Iran, and new sanctions threaten to frustrate cooperation. The interests of the US and the EU are diametrically opposed to each other here."
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