Iran rocked by new protests as economy heads for collapse

Iranian protesters chant slogans during a demonstration in central Tehran on June 25. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 01 August 2018

Iran rocked by new protests as economy heads for collapse

  • Hundreds chant “death to the dictator" at industrial complex
  • Rial plunges ahead of US sanctions

LONDON: Iran faced fresh warnings over human rights abuses on Tuesday as its economic crisis worsened and hundreds of protesters took to the streets.
Demonstrations spread to the historic city of Isfahan, with protesters demanding an end to the Iranian regime's costly interference in the affairs of neighboring countries in the region.
At least 29 people have been arrested on vague charges of “economic disruption,” and some face the death penalty.
Signs of further unrest emerged on Tuesday as shopkeepers and other workers went on strike in protest at the decline of Iran’s currency.
“In recent weeks and months we’ve had many protests,” Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, spokesman for the Oslo-based Iran Human Rights group, told Arab News. “Human rights are suffering … and every day they suffer more. Iran is amongst the biggest violators of human rights in the world today.”
He said the recent arrests were unlikely to have targeted the corrupt officials who occupy the “inner circles” of Iranian public life. The arrests serve two purposes, he said — to suggest the Iranian government is acting to stamp out “huge corruption,” and to instill fear in the public. “There are people who have been executed for economic corruption. But … the trials are not public so nobody knows that what the authorities are claiming is true.
“From the authorities’ view, these death sentences are more important as instruments of intimidation and spreading fear. If they really want to go after the corruption, they will be in deep trouble because the corruption is at the highest levels.”
Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh also said the reasons for Iran’s economic crises go to the top of government.
“The Iranian regime’s financial corruption, misuse of public funds, the widespread banking crisis, and the hemorrhaging of billions of dollars … on militia and terror groups are among the major reasons behind the present currency and economic crises,” he said.
Protests in Isfahan
In Isfahan, striking shopkeepers, farmers and truck drivers were joined by other citizens in the Amir-Kabir industrial complex in New Shapur, according to Iranian activists.

Video footage showed hundreds of protesters shouting: “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon, my soul is Iran’s redemption.” The slogan refers to Tehran’s costly military adventures in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, at the expense of the domestic economy.




Amiry-Moghaddam urged the world to do more to address the human rights situation, which he said was a result of a regime looking to cling on to power. “The main reason for people suffering is the regime: There is a lack of accountability and huge corruption … and use of violence to keep power.”

The slogan has been repeated at a series of protests that started at the end of last year. It refers to the regime’s expenditure on the regional military interventions instead of using the funds to tackle the country’s economic woes. 
In December and January widespread protests against economic conditions shook the country. At least 25 protesters were killed and nearly 5,000 arrested in a brutal response by the security forces. 
Last month, protesters clashed with police outside parliament in Tehran in three days of protests sparked by the plunging rial.
On June 25, a strike shut down the stalls of the Grand Bazaar in Tehran and several other markets. 
Meanwhile, a truck drivers’ strike entered its eighth day in cities across the country, according to reports.
And railway workers in Tabriz, north-east Iran, protested on Monday after receiving no salary over the past four months, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).
It reported that the workers had cut off the railway route, which connects Tabriz with the rest of the provinces.
Activists on Tuesday continued to publish pictures showing an intense presence of security forces and police in Tehran.


Scramble for Syria after US withdrawal

Updated 56 min 8 sec ago

Scramble for Syria after US withdrawal

  • Turkey considers the SDF and YPG to be terrorists allied with the PKK, who have been involved in a bloody campaign for autonomy against Turkish states for decades

ANKARA: As Ankara pressed on with its offensive in northeastern Syria amid international criticism, Washington announced some 1,000 soldiers were withdrawn from the zone.

With the US departure, the attention turns to how the regional actors, especially Turkey and Syria, will operate in their zones of influence in the war-torn country where the possible escape of Daesh fighters from prisons could result in more chaos.

Some experts claim that with the US decision to withdraw its forces, the territorial claim of northeastern Syria by the Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has finished.

Turkey considers the SDF and YPG to be terrorists allied with the PKK, who have been involved in a bloody campaign for autonomy against Turkish states for decades. The PKK is listed as a terror group by Turkey, the EU and the US.

But, whether some 50,000 YPG fighters will be integrated into the Syrian Army or will try to maintain their autonomy is still a matter of concern.

Mazloum Abdi, commander-in-chief of the SDF, recently wrote for Foreign Policy that the Kurds are finally ready to partner with Assad and Putin.

Yury Barmin, an analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, said: “Damascus and the SDF struck a deal at the Russian base in Hmeymim to let the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) enter the Kurdish-controlled area in the northeast and deploy at the Syrian-Turkish border. The SAA is set to take control over Manbij, Kobane and Qamishli.”

However, Barmin told Arab News that a deal between Damascus and the SDF would greatly contribute to a buffer zone that Turkish President Recep Yayyip Erdogan intends to create in northern Syria, allowing Kurds to take some areas along the border without directly antagonizing Ankara. This policy, Barmin added, would be unacceptable to Moscow.

“There are now lots of moving targets and the goal of the Syrian Army — whether it will take some strategic cities or control the whole border along Turkey — is unclear for now. As Russian President Vladimir Putin is on his official visit to Saudi Arabia, his decision for Syria will be clearer when he returns home,” he said.

HIGHLIGHT

Some experts claim that with the US decision to withdraw its forces, the territorial claim of northeastern Syria by the Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has finished.

Barmin also noted that Russia let Erdogan operate the Adana agreement to a certain extent, under which Turkey has the right to conduct cross-border operations.

“But now, Russia would like to show Turkey its own red lines in the region,” he said.

However, Navvar Saban, a military analyst at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul, said that the Syrian regime is not capable of striking a deal without being backed by Russians, and that Moscow would not want to lose its relationship with Ankara.

“Russians always talk about the Adana agreement. We are now talking about a renewal and reactivation of the agreement with new specifications to allow Turkey to go deeper into Syrian territories. In this way, the Russians will have a bigger chance to allow the Syrian regime and Turkey to communicate. It is something that will open the diplomatic channels,” Saban said.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “Big sanctions on Turkey coming! Do people really think we should go to war with NATO Member Turkey? Never ending wars will end!”

Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said that if the US is completely out of the way, Russia and Turkey will have to either agree or contest each other to take over the US territorial control in northeast Syria. He added that this might be the most crucial race in the coming weeks.

Concerning the diplomatic channels between Damascus and Ankara, Macaron thinks that the channels were and will remain open between Moscow and Ankara since they have common interests beyond Syria.

“If Turkey had no other option, it might have to settle for controlling a few border towns, but this means Erdogan can no longer effectively implement his plan to return Syrian refugees, most notably without funding from the international community. Ankara is more likely to succeed in striking such a deal with Moscow than with Washington,” Macaron told Arab News.

Many experts agree that the Syrian chessboard will be determined predominantly by Russian moves.

“Assad has no say in what will happen next, Russia is the decision maker and there is little the Syrian regime can do unless Iran forcefully intervenes to impact the Russian-Turkish dynamics in the northeast,” Macaron said.