Articles > > Khamenei Shuts the Door

Articles - Addostour - Date: 2019-11-19
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

By publicly endorsing [Iranian] President Rowhani's government's decision to ration gasoline and raise prices, [Iranian supreme leader] Sayyed Ali Khamenei has shut the door to any possibility that the government may back down from its decision, as in the case of other countries both Arab and foreign that have witnessed mass protests in response to a decision to hike prices or raise taxes.
 
Rowhani and his government now have only two options: To resort to excessive force and 'hard' dealings with the protesters in the Iranian cities and towns, or to adopt a combination of soft and hard force in contending with the protestors. The first option is very costly and could leave the country exposed to all manner of possibilities, while the second option, which seems most likely, could allow the protests to fade away or lose their edge.
 
The world is keeping a close eye on what is happening in Tehran, as developments there do not concern Iran alone. Its allies and friends want to be reassured of its domestic situation's integrity since it is the cornerstone upon which they are built, and the collapse of one wall could cause other walls to crumble across the region from end to end. Iran's adversaries have viewed the protests as an opportunity to undermine and besiege its regime, if not to topple it as they crave, without firing a shot or bothering with a fourth war that would spare no one should it erupt.
 
Iran is likely choose a combination of soft and hard power in dealing with the protests. Since the first day, the Iranian leadership has expressed its 'understanding' of the protesters' demands and it has previously acknowledged that three-quarters of the Iranian people live below the poverty line (60 out of 80 million). It also knows that unemployment has reached unprecedented highs and that inflation is approaching the 40% threshold. Even in the course of justifying the decision to raise gasoline prices, its declared goal was to take from the rich to give to the poor, saying that the proceeds from the hike would be deposited in a special fund to support 18 million poor Iranian families.
 
However, the Iranian authorities are simultaneously talking about a 'hard core' among the protesters with its own agenda fundamentally serving foreign interests and driven by the [U.S.-led] 'axis of arrogance'. The authorities will use soft force to handle the masses of peaceful protesters, and appeals have been made to speed up the transfer of the gasoline price hike to the poor people's accounts. As for the 'hard core' or 'intrusive faction', it will be dealt with harshly and with the utmost severity, as it is viewed as a bridgehead for foreign interference in the country's internal affairs.
 
Iran's tactics in dealing with protests are in fact no different from that of most of the region's governments and authorities in dealing with similar movements. The story always begins with understanding for the people's demands and sensitivity to their pain, then transitions to calling on the protesters to be 'realistic' in outlining their demands, and ends in talk of 'covert operation rooms', 'fifth columns', 'intrusive factions' and 'embassy spies.' We have heard this same medley play out on most of the streets and squares, and here it is again today, except in the Persian tongue.
 
It is difficult to say with certainty what the Iranian protests' outcome will be, but allow us to borrow from [Iraqi Shiite religious authority] Sayyed Ali al-Sistani's words in describing the Iraqi protests: 'Iraq in the protests' wake cannot return to where it was before.
 
Similarly, Iran in the protests' wake cannot return to its former state; thus is the circle of life.