Blaming ‘foreign enemies’ for domestic problems regime policy since 1979: Iran expert

Demonstrator dressed as the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei at a rally near the White House in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2018. (AP)
Updated 10 January 2018
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Blaming ‘foreign enemies’ for domestic problems regime policy since 1979: Iran expert

JEDDAH: Since its establishment in 1979, the Iranian regime’s modus operandi has been to blame “foreign enemies” for Tehran’s domestic problems and the population’s dissatisfaction with the regime, Majid Rafizadeh, Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist, told Arab News on Tuesday.
He was reacting to tweets by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Tuesday saying: “Once again, the nation tells the US, Britain, and those who seek to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran from abroad that you’ve failed, and you will fail in the future, too.”
Rafizadeh said it is also a tactic that the Iranian authorities use in order to suppress domestic opposition. “In addition, by blaming foreign powers, the regime avoids taking any responsibility and accountability,” he said.
Iranian security forces arrested some 3,700 people during widespread protests and unrest over the past two weeks, a lawmaker said, offering a far higher number than authorities previously released.
The demonstrations, which began Dec. 28 over economic grievances, quickly spread across the country to become the largest seen in Iran since the disputed 2009 presidential election. Some protesters called for the overthrow of the government, and at least 21 people were killed in clashes.
Rafizadeh said many of those who are arrested are from the younger population, women, and university students.
“In an unprecedented move, the regime forces are also engaged in ‘preventative’ arrests. They are continuing to arrest people who were not involved in the protests. The arrests are aimed at imposing fear in society. It also provides the Iranian authorities with the pretext to arrest more people who are considered an opposition to the regime.”
Human rights activists outside of Iran told The Associated Press they were not surprised by the figure. Some 4,000 arrests followed the 2009 protests.
Rafizadeh said human rights organizations, Amnesty International and the UN should closely monitor the situation of those who are arrested in Iran. “Following the 2009 demonstrations, many protesters who were arrested were tortured and raped in Kahrizak Detention Center. The international community should also put pressure on the Iranian authorities to stop its campaign of ‘preventative’ arrests and release innocent detainees,” he said.
Activists also said they had concerns about Iran’s prisons and jails being overcrowded and dangerous, pointing to allegations of torture, abuse and deaths that followed the mass arrests of 2009. The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran says at least three detainees arrested in the recent protests have already died in custody.
“Given the systematic rape and torture of detainees in 2009 in very overcrowded and inhumane conditions, we are extremely worried about the fate of these thousands of detainees and the lack of information and access by their families and lawyers,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the center. “It is a very troubling situation.”
Mahmoud Sadeghi, a reformist lawmaker from Tehran, offered the new figures for those arrested in a report carried Tuesday by Parliament’s official news website. Authorities previously spoke of hundreds of arrests in Tehran, while other provinces offered only piecemeal figures, if any at all.
Sadeghi said 3,700 was the best number he could immediately offer, given that various security forces around the country had been involved in the arrests. Iran put more police on the streets over the arrest, including anti-riot squads, while the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard also deployed its motorcycle-riding Basij volunteer force.


US downgrades Palestinian mission, places it under embassy in Israel

Updated 51 min 27 sec ago
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US downgrades Palestinian mission, places it under embassy in Israel

  • The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership
  • Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the US recognized the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel

WASHINGTON: The United States downgraded its main diplomatic mission to the Palestinians on Thursday, placing it under the authority of the US embassy to Israel.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the consulate general, a separate office which handled dealings with the Palestinians, would be replaced by a new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the controversial new US embassy in Jerusalem.
The move will make the US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who is reviled by Palestinians over his support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the main interlocutor with the Palestinian leadership.
The change, quickly condemned by the Palestinians, follows a series of setbacks for them at the hands of President Donald Trump, who has turned US policy sharply toward Israel.
Pro-Israel advocates hailed the decision, saying it confirmed the US recognized the whole of Jerusalem as part of Israel.
“This decision is driven by our global efforts to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations. It does not signal a change of US policy,” Pompeo said in a statement.
He said the United States “continues to take no position” on how any peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians would take shape.
The Palestinian leadership rejected Pompeo’s “efficiency” explanation.
The decision has “a lot to do with pleasing an ideological US team that is willing to disband the foundations of American foreign policy, and of the international system, in order to reward Israeli violations and crimes,” the Palestinians’ chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said.
“The Trump administration is part of the problem, not part of the solution,” he added.
International powers have for decades maintained separate and autonomous representations to Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of supporting the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state.
They have insisted that the status of Jerusalem, which both the Israelis and Palestinians see as their capital, should be negotiated between the parties as part of any end deal.
Last December, Trump reversed longstanding US policy and recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, prompting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to boycott his administration.
The embassy was officially transferred on May 14.
Since then, the Trump administration has forced the Palestinians to shutter their Washington mission and has slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, in a bid to force them to the negotiating table.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, alongside Friedman and peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, has been working for months on a still-secret peace proposal, which Palestinians fear will be overly one-sided toward Israel.
The move Thursday nearly closes off all direct diplomatic contacts between the United States and the Palestinians, analysts said.
Ofer Zalzberg of the International Crisis Group think-tank said the US would be the only major power without a separate, independent representative office for the Palestinians.
“Other countries have gone to great lengths to avoid having the same representatives to Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” he told AFP.
Robert Danin, a former senior US government official dealing with Israeli-Palestinian issues, said the move was a victory for “hard right partisans” who have sought to eliminate the Palestinian-focused consulate general “for decades.”
The consulate general “is THE eyes and ears into Palestinian politics and society. Its independence from US Embassy Israel provided Washington w/solid, unvarnished reporting and analysis,” he said on Twitter.
But Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor with the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum and advocate for the embassy move, said the decision was more evidence the US considered Jerusalem to be fully part of Israel.
“This step confirms that the US recognizes the entire city as Israel’s capital,” he said.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert defended the move, saying the new Palestinian Affairs Unit inside the embassy would maintain contacts with Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem at the same level as before the change.
“We value our relationship with the Palestinian people. We look forward to continued partnership and dialogue with them and, we hope in future, with the Palestinian leadership,” she said via Twitter.