Iran Guards praise protests crackdown that killed dozens as international condemnation continues

Iran's state TV showed footage of what it claimed were spontaneous pro-government rallies. (AFP)
Updated 21 November 2019

Iran Guards praise protests crackdown that killed dozens as international condemnation continues

  • Germany slams Iranian security forces for disproportionate action against the demonstrations
  • Iran's state TV showed footage of what it claimed were spontaneous pro-government rallies.

TEHRAN: Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on Thursday praised the armed forces for taking “timely” action against “rioters” and suggested calm had been restored after days of unrest sparked by a hike in petrol prices.
Authorities vowed to arrest leaders of the protests that started last Friday, which were sparked by a sharp hike in fuel prices but which quickly snowballed into wider demonstrations against the regime
During the protests, police stations were attacked, petrol pumps torched and shops looted.

In contrast, Germany joined the chorus of international condemnation against the crackdown.

"We are shocked by reports of the deaths of more than 100 victims, and condemn the disproportionate action by Iranian security forces. The right to peaceful protest must be respected," a foreign ministry spokeswoman said in a statement. "We call on the Iranian security forces to exercise the greatest possible restraint."
While the Internet remained mostly blocked for a fifth day, state TV showed footage of what it claimed were spontaneous pro-government rallies to celebrate that the conspiracy had been defeated.
Crowds chanted messages such as “death to seditionists, death to America” and “the blood in our veins is a gift to our leader” in cities including Qom, Isfahan, Shiraz, Bandar Abbas and Kerman.
In the days of unrest, “incidents, big and small, caused by the rise in petrol price took place in (a little) less than 100 cities across Iran,” said a statement on the Guards’ official website
It said the “incidents were ended in less than 24 hours and in some cities in 72 hours” as a result of the “armed forces’ insight and timely action.”
Protest leaders were arrested by the Guards’ intelligence arm in the province of Tehran and Alborz as well as in the southern city of Shiraz, said the statement.
The “arrest of the rioters’ leaders has contributed significantly to calming the situation,” it added.
A top Iranian security official, Rear Admiral Ali Shamkhani, vowed that “every single one of the rioters, wherever in Iran they may be, will be identified and punished.”
“Enemies wanted to exploit the Iranian nation’s protest regarding livelihood issues but failed due to the people’s vigilance,” Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, was quoted as saying by Mehr news agency.
Iran’s neighbor Iraq has also recently been struck by anti-government protests, with demonstrators voicing resentment against what they describe as Tehran’s meddling in their country.
The full extent of the bloodshed in Iran remained difficult to ascertain given the near-total Internet restriction.
Officials have confirmed five deaths, of four security personnel and one civilian.
The United Nations human rights office has said it was alarmed by reports live ammunition had caused a “significant number of deaths.”
London-based rights group Amnesty International said more than 100 demonstrators were believed to have been killed and that the real toll could be as high as 200.
Iran’s mission to the UN disputed the Amnesty toll in a tweet, saying figures “not confirmed by the government are speculative” and in many cases a “disinformation campaign waged against Iran.”
Iran’s ambassador to Britain Hamid Baeidinejad called those who had attacked public property “organized armed rioters” in a tweet.
He also said they had planned to “detonate Asaluyeh refinery” in southern Iran and to “sabotage the national phone system.”
The Internet blackout remained largely in effect on Thursday, with Iranians abroad tweeting hashtags like #Internet4Iran and calling for an end to the outage.
It was the powerful national security council that made the decision to pull the plug on Internet access, according to semi-official news agency ISNA.
Iran’s telecommunications minister said Wednesday the outage had caused some local businesses a “90 percent drop in transactions” and forced some Iranian companies dealing with foreign partners to temporarily shut down.
Reformist MP Ali Motahari argued that “continuing the Internet blackout is not necessary, since calm has returned to the country,” adding that the parliament would “react” if the outage continues.
ISNA said Internet access and connectivity to apps such as “WhatsApp and Instagram” had been restored in the southern province of Hormzgan, but this could not be immediately verified.

Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

Updated 10 December 2019

Dick Cheney: Upcoming decade bleak if US adopts ‘disengagement’ policy

  • Former US vice president sounds warning during panel discussion on ‘The global order 2030’
  • Remarks seen as indirect criticism of President Trump’s pledge to pull forces out of Syria

DUBAI: Dick Cheney, one of the most influential vice presidents in US history, has warned that “American disengagement” from the Middle East would only benefit Iran and Russia.

The 78-year-old politician’s warning came during a speech at the Arab Strategy Forum (ASF) in Dubai, an annual event in which the world’s leading decision-makers address global challenges and opportunities in “a precise, balanced and politically scientific manner.”

Cheney’s remarks could be seen as indirect criticism of US President Donald Trump’s pledges to pull forces out of northern Syria.

Addressing conference delegates, he cited the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and the 2015 lifting of sanctions against Iran during Barack Obama’s presidency, as events that amplified instability in the region.

“Our allies were left abandoned, and no one wants to feel that way again,” said Cheney, who was chief executive of Halliburton between 1995 and 2000 and held high posts in several Republican administrations.

The former VP’s remarks came during the forum’s concluding session titled, “The global order 2030: The Unites States and China,” which was attended by Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Joined by Li Zhaoxing, a former Chinese foreign minister, in a candid panel discussion, Cheney offered his views on the world order in the next decade within the context of Iran’s regional ascendancy, China’s rise and Russian ambitions in the Middle East.

“I am not here to speak on behalf of the US government, or to speak to it,” Cheney said, adding that his talking points reflected concerns he suspected everyone shared.

“For decades, there’s been a consensus of America’s influence in the world and how to use it,” he said, citing instances where US disengagement had caused the political situation in the Middle East to implode.

“Humanity has benefited from America’s protectionism of the world and its relationship with its allies in the region.”

According to him, the upcoming decade would be bleak should the US adopt a disengagement policy, with the pressures most felt by supporters and partners in the Middle East.

Turning to the role that the US and China would play in the global status quo by 2030, Cheney said there were still concerns over China’s reputation.

“We had hoped that there would be a political evolution in China, but that hasn’t happened yet,” he added.

Li said: “China will never learn from a world superpower and will never try to be hegemonic,” citing as examples China’s strong relations with the UAE and the wider Arab world, and the impact of the Belt and Road Initiative (a global development strategy) on Chinese foreign policy.

“History is the best teacher, but the US has forgotten its own history. You don’t keep your promises,” added Li, directing his statement at Cheney.

Cheney said that since the end of the Cold War, the US had expected that its policy toward China would have had a beneficial effect on its behavior and helped to deepen bilateral relations.

“It was disappointing to see that these expectations were not borne out – China has only grown richer, the regime has become more oppressive, and instead of evolving, it became more assertive,” he said.

In a separate ASF meeting at the Ritz-Carlton, Dubai International Financial Center, Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, discussed Iran’s policies in a session titled, “The race for relevance and influence in the region: GCC, Iran, Turkey and Russia.”

Sadjadpour said he expected in the next 10 years to see the arrival of “an Iranian Putin” with a military background as the country’s next leader.

“After 40 years of a clerical regime and a military autocracy, there is now a rise of Persian nationalism. This is a shift from the sheer revolution ideology,” he said.

Sadjadpour said there had been an evolution of “Shiite Arab” identity during the past two decades, with the focus more on religion than nationality.

Under the circumstances, he noted that Sunni Arab powers had an important role to play in welcoming Shiite Arabs into their fold “and luring them away from Iran.”

The analyst added that the future of the Arab world could not be explored and forecast without considering a growing mental health crisis. “Today, hundreds of millions of people in the region suffer from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), and the effects of this will be with us for decades to come, resulting in issues like radicalism.”

He said there was a need for training thousands of counselors in the field of mental health in order to reach out to those whose lives had been robbed by extreme violence and conflicts.