If the shoe were on the other foot, one can imagine the absolute outcry in the Western media. If social protests were to break out in the United States or Europe, and Iranian leaders issued interfering calls in support of those protests, there would be mouth-foaming denunciations of Tehran for “mischievous meddling” in others’ sovereignty.
Yet over the past week, this is exactly what Western governments and news media have been doing in regard to public protests in Iran.
The US government has taken the lead with President Trump labelling the Iranian authorities a “brutal and corrupt regime”.
European governments have been a little more circumspect in their statements, urging the Iranian authorities to be “restrained” and to “allow peaceful protests”.
Nevertheless, European leaders are subtly shoring up the American narrative that the street demonstrations across Iran are a righteous democratic cause against an oppressive regime. That was the implication in statements made by Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson and French president Emmanuel Macron. This week, the French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian cancelled an official trip to Tehran. Such moves represent an unacceptable attempt to undermine the Iranian authorities.
Images carried by American media, in particular CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post, of protesters holding up clenched fists have sought to simplify the events in Iran as a “good-citizens-versus-bad-regime” scenario. Notwithstanding that the protests have been relatively small and the grievances are mainly about economic concerns – not a rebellion against state institutions.
By contrast, Russia called on foreign states to back off making prejudiced comments on the Iranian disturbances. Moscow said the events in Iran were an internal political matter for Iranians to resolve without foreign countries interfering.
The irony of Western doublethink is rich. Over the past year, there has been a recurring theme among Western governments and media of “foreign interference” allegedly in their political affairs. Russia has been the focus of these allegations, even though there is no evidence to support such claims. The ever-so pious Western governments and media have no such reservations about “foreign meddling” when it comes to their brazen rush to pile into Iran’s internal politics as shown this week. Or in the forthcoming Russian presidential elections.
Western interference is not just limited to pejorative statements on Iran’s protests. The US State Department has openly admitted that it is communicating via social media with anti-government protesters. This active involvement by Washington is a repeat of similar outside agitation during the so-called Green Movement disturbances in Iran back in 2009. As mentioned above, one can imagine the hue and cry in Western capitals if Iran, or Russia, or some other foreign state, was agitating anti-austerity demonstrations in Washington, London and Paris.
Iranian authorities have sound reason to suspect that Western interference may be even more sinister. The protests – while largely peaceful – have included what appears to be an organized violent element. At least one police officer was reportedly shot dead and police stations have come under armed attack. The rapid escalation of violence and burning of public property suggest a subversive agenda. Comparisons have been made to the way protests in Syria in 2011 were exploited by Western powers for an agenda of regime change which led to all-out war in that country.
For now, the demonstrations in over a dozen cities across Iran appear to have subsided. They have been replaced by much larger public rallies in support of the government and President Hassan Rouhani, as well as the country’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
The economic grievances that sparked the initial protests last week are real enough. Iranians are reportedly enduring hard economic times with soaring inflation of basic living costs and high unemployment among the youth population. But this is a political challenge for the Iranian government to overcome in response to their nation’s grievances.
Ironically, however, it illustrates another aspect of Western doublethink. Western media have reported – with upside-down logic – that President Rouhani “has failed to deliver on economic improvements”. But that “failure” is largely due to the US and Europe not fully implementing the nuclear accord signed with Iran in July 2015, which was also signed by Russia and China and who are abiding by the treaty. That internationally binding accord obliges the end to decades of Western-imposed economic sanctions on Iran.
While the Europeans have begun normalizing economic relations with Iran, not so the Trump administration. Washington has in fact increased the financial blockade under the tendentious pretext of Iran’s alleged “support for terrorism”. Trump has repeatedly threatened to rip up the 2015 nuclear accord. Washington has also intimidated European states, companies and banks from engaging fully with Iran.
The European Union needs to show more backbone towards the US and tell Washington that the nuclear accord is a legal mandate to lift economic sanctions off Iran. Iran’s economic problems are directly related to the bad faith that Western states are showing with regard to the UN-approved nuclear deal. Washington’s policy towards Iran is a continuation of decades of US-led aggression towards the Islamic Republic ever since its 1979 revolution against the American-backed stooge regime of Shah Pahlavi.
The readiness shown by the US and Europe to interfere in Iran’s internal problems is nothing but arrogant doublethink. Get over it.