I may be something of a pacifist (well, sorta) but I'm also a bit of a war nerd. Conflict fascinates me. Violence fascinates me. Politics fascinates me. So when these things all converge cataclysmically I find myself sucked in completely which often leads me to making the fatal mistake of picking sides. For better or worse, I usually go with the underdog. Call it a Marxist thing or a Christian thing or a queer thing or an Irish thing, for whatever reason, I frequently find myself inflicted with the unshakable urge to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. In Warsaw I'm a Jew. In Gaza I'm a Palestinian. In Turkey I'm a Kurd. And so on and so forth.
Which makes the current situation in Iran a little bit complicated. I have a general tendency to side with the Shia on most matters in the Persian Gulf do to their typically defensive position towards the US favored Sunni majority and when I saw another deluge of reports on the latest Iranian anti-government protests, dripping with the sentimental fromage the mainstream media usually reserves for it's neoliberal pet projects, I thought, "Oh brother, not another color revolution".
The last time I heard this story was back in 2009, during the so called Green "Revolution". When a handful of bourgeois brats in Tehran's toniest enclaves took to the streets to violently protest the completely legitimate reelection of right wing populist (and raging homophobe) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. With their ties to US sponsored exile groups and their professional grade skill at media manipulation, it didn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that these poor dumb fucks where being manipulated by outside forces to cook up another Yankee approved neoliberal color revolution like the ones seen throughout the former Soviet Union.
So when I began seeing similar reports on such uprisings a week ago, I figured this had to be round two. But the more research I did into this latest uprising the harder it became for me to disprove its legitimacy. For one thing, this movement didn't start in Tehran. It started in the working class city of Masshad (think Chicago with more mosques), generally considered to be a conservative stronghold, and it spread across a dozen other hard-scrabble hamlets that could be called Persia's Rust Belt. In other words, not prime territory for Western manipulation. This was Ahmadinejad country, populated by the kind of folks who keep portraits of the Ayatollah over the dinner table and wouldn't piss on Uncle Sam if he was on fire.
They also didn't spring out of nowhere over night. These protests had been building slowly for months and they weren't calls for liberal democracy and apple pie, they were protests against the austerity programs of the moderate leadership of Hassan Rouhani. After finding his dangerously one dimensional petro-state in dire straights after the Saudis had flooded the markets with cheap oil (in a likely act of revenge for Iran and Russia's efforts to squash their latest little jihad in Syria), Rouhani gambled on accepting a draconian nuclear deal proposed by Barack Obama that eased the crippling sanctions the US has used to punish Tehran for overthrowing our preferred despot, the Shah, since 1979. Rouhani subsequently moved to cut inflation by slashing subsidies that many working class Iranians depended on to afford bread and fuel. The market may have stabilized enough to make up for these cuts if Donald Trump hadn't gone out of his way to scare off foreign investment with his repeated threats to rescind the nuclear deal and his full throated support for tightening the still existing non-nuclear sanctions.
All this shit put Iran in a similar spot as Venezuela, economically sabotaged by forces both external and internal and bleeding like a civ. The Iranians who took to the streets were the working class stiffs left with the tab while members of Iran's theocratic aristocracy remained fat and happy, with excessive portions of Iranian subsidies still going to religious institutions and the military. Even so, these proletarian protests didn't explode into a full blown uprising until the Revolutionary Guard choose to suddenly and very violently overreact in Masshad last week.
This is where I believe outside interference may have come into play. Contrary to popular western mythology, protests are not an uncommon occurrence in Iranian life. In many ways Persian society is the Middle Eastern equivalent to France with it's twin cultures of social radicalism and religious traditionalism. Hell, the Iranian Revolution itself was part of this complicated tradition, with leftists like the late, great, Ali Shariati leading the fight against Western colonialism until they were back-stabbed by their Islamist comrades, led by the Ayatollah Khomeini. Regardless, the Iranian Revolution itself had its roots in a synergy of Islamic liberation theology and secular social democracy and this syncretic foundation continues to foster a decidedly metropolitan culture in the Islamic Republic, with female guards serving on the front lines of the Iran-Iraq War and Iran leading the world, just behind Thailand, in sex change operations with the Mullahs footing a hefty chunk of the bill.
Under Rouhani this liberal attitude has only expanded which makes the totally unnecessary and counterproductive crackdowns against what were initially largely peaceful protests all the more perplexing. Here Iran stands, economically strained but on the verge of reaching an unprecedented level of legitimacy on the global stage, with their faithful obedience to the most restrictive regulations ever put on a nuclear state (one that, according to our own government, hadn't even sought nuclear weapons since the fall of Iraq in 2003) and their leading roll in shattering the Islamic State. And they choose now to overreact? After months of tolerating these protests, what changed?
Well, for one thing, our pathologically Persophobic president, Donald Trump, is rapidly approaching legal deadlines on the nuclear deal that he absurdly claims is offensively unfair... to us! Trump has made little secret about his desire to welch on his governments own deal but he can't do it alone without further isolating the crumbling American Empire in the eyes of the international community. His only hope is turning Western Europe against the deal. Then suddenly the Mullahs become convinced that protesters in the heartland who have been in the streets for months have just now become foreign puppets.
I don't believe this to be the case but I do believe that it is strongly possible that the Revolutionary Guard has fallen victim to a disinformation campaign designed by someone to turn them against their own base. The only person who doesn't appear to be drinking the Kool-aid on this charade is Rouhani himself, who has bravely contradicted the Ayatollah by voicing his support for the protesters and condemning the violence on both sides. In spite of being part of the initial problem, Rouhani does seem to be legitimately devoted to being a part of the solution. If he stands his ground, refuses to take the bait, and defies the Mullahs reactionary stance to legitimate dissent, Rouhani stands a heroes chance of strengthening his republics democratic roots while weakening the position of both the hardliners and the foreign crowd exciters flaming them on. And this would be truly revolutionary.
Here's hoping he stays the course. Regardless, dearest motherfuckers, this time I'm on the side of the protesters. I pray to the same god as them that Rouhani, in spite of his flaws, is too. A second Iranian Revolution may depend on it.
Viva La Revolucion!- CH
Soundtrack; Songs that influenced this post.
* Heroes By David Bowie
* Cochise By Audioslave
* Hummer By Smashing Pumpkins
* Children Of The Revolution By T. Rex
* The Beautiful People By Marilyn Manson
* Machine Gun By Slowdive
* I'm The Man By Joe Jackson
* Sweetness And Light By Lush