For Mansour Osanlou, the former head of the bus driver’s union in Tehran, a “new revolution” has begun in Iran.
The protests, which began on Thursday in Iran’s most religious cities and spread throughout the country within twenty four hours, now bring together workers and intellectuals, the unemployed, and the elites – a combination not seen since the 1979 revolution that toppled the Shah.
On Saturday, security forces in Tehran used rubber bullets and truck-mounted water canon in an unsuccessful attempt to disperse protesters at Tehran University who were seeking to march on the Supreme Leader’s compound, Osanloo told me in a telephone interview.
They were chanting, “Death to the Dictator,” and “Khamenei should go.” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been Iran’s Supreme Leader since 1989, and until now, he has been portrayed as unassailable by friend and foe alike.
“We thank President Trump for his support, and call on the United States to hold the Islamic regime accountable if they kill or beat protestors or conduct mass arrests, as they did in 2009,” he told me.
The last time the Iranian people rose up, in June 2009, President Obama kept a shameful silence, allowing the regime to kill protesters in silence.
President Trump has the opportunity to change history by using his bully pulpit, which he began to do late Friday night through twitter.
“Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad,” the President tweeted initially. “Iranian govt should respect people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching!”
And then he added the hashtag that has spread worldwide, #IranProtests.
The State Department followed with a more mildly-worded tweet on Saturday. “We are following reports of multiple peaceful reports by Iranian citizens. The United States condemns the arrest of peaceful protests in #Iran.”
States spokesperson Neather Nauert quickly upped the ante, not only condemning the arrest of peaceful protestors but urging “all nations to publicly support Iranian people.”
And Trump himself continued tweeting over the weekend. On New Year’s Eve, adding this:
“Big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!
The BBC’s Persian service got in the game early, conducting triage of the thousands of cellphone videos posted to the Internet by protestors and posting those it could validate. The best of these can now be found on the pro-opposition website of the Islamic State of Iran Crime Research Center and their Facebook page.
After a slow start, the Persian service of Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty also used social media to rebroadcast selected cellphone videos.
But according to Osanloo, the U.S. government broadcast networks continue to impose a “boycott” on pro-freedom advocates such as himself, while allowing so-called moderate supporters of the Islamic regime free access to U.S.-taxpayer funded broadcasts.
This continued throughout the weekend, with Voice of America’s Farsi Service highlighting the economic grievances of the protestors, and giving equal play to counter-protests organized by the regime and to calls for calm from regime president, cleric Hassan Rouhani.
(The VOA’s English language flagship service was even worse, highlighting an Iranian regime claim that “foreign agents” were responsible for the deaths of protestors.)
I have been following anti-regime protests in Iran for the past thirty years. And while the 2009 Green movement protests involved much bigger crowds – so far at least – the protests of the past few days appear to be broader based, and more bitterly anti-regime in nature.
Early on, you heard calls of “Death to the Dictator,” not just in Tehran but around the country.
And most important of all, the protests erupted almost simultaneously in major cities in areas of the country dominated by Kurdish, Ahwaz, and Balouchi minority communities, who were pointedly absent in 2009.
For six years, until Obama flunkies fired me in 2016, I lectured on the Iranian opposition at the Pentagon’s Joint Counter Intelligence Training Academy (JCITA) in Quantico, Virginia.
I liked to tell my conferees, most of them from our military intelligence services, that if they took nothing away from my talk, to remember just two things: first, that Islamic Iran is not an ordinary country, like Belgium, but an ideological regime that enshrines Islamic supremacy and the export of its revolution in its constitution.
Second, that today’s Iran is no longer “Persia,” but a multi-national mosaic comprised of roughly fifty percent Persians and fifty percent Kurds, Balouchis, Azeris, Ahwazis, Lurs, Bakhtiaris and other minorities.
Many of these minority communities have been ostracized by the Tehran-centric, mullah-dominated regime and abstained from the 2009 uprising because the Green movement brushed off their demands of equal representation.
Today, that appears to have changed, with protests in Kurdish, Balouch, and Ahwazi cities.
Over the weekend, regime security forces drew first blood, gunning down protestors and vowing a brutal crackdown if the demonstrations continued.
Rumors are flying that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is planning a coup d’état to sideline the clerical leadership and impose an openly fascist military rule.
This is a time when the U.S. Treasury should exercise great vigilance to track down the billions of dollars stolen by regime leaders from the people as these corrupt dictators attempt to move their ill-gotten gains to financial safe havens.
But more importantly, this is a time when the White House needs to take control of the U.S. government, and use the Voice of America and Radio Farda as tools to enable protestors in Iran.
Phillip Gordon, a former Obama administration flunky, argued in the New York Times over the weekend that President Trump should “do nothing” to help the protestors.
Maybe Mr Gordon wasn’t aware that he was parotting Ayatollah Khomeini’s famous phrase during the 1979 revolution, when he said America could “do nothing” to stop the revolution. Or maybe he was. After all, Obama did more to enable the Islamic dictatorship than any U.S. president since Jimmy Carter.
A free Iran is in America’s best interest. Without the malevolent influence of the Iranian regime, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen would be very different places today.
Helping Iranians to win their freedom from the clerical dictators, and from the IRGC fascists, is a noble endeavor that goes to the heart of why Congress established the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.
It’s time to use those tools to assist pro-freedom loving Iranians, and for the United States to call-out the clerical regime in Tehran for its bloody crackdown on the fundamental human and political rights of Iranian citizens.