Iran gloats over US protests despite domestic woes

Iran gloats over US protests despite domestic woes

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses the nation in a speech marking the anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran on June 3, 2020. (AP)
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The Iranian leaders and state-owned media outlets seem to be seizing the opportunity to criticize, undermine and lecture the US on human right issues.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reacted to the death of George Floyd by tweeting that “if you’re dark-skinned walking in the US, you can’t be sure you’ll be alive in the next few minutes.” Khamenei added that slavery “is one of the tragic events in history.”

Besides human rights issues, Khamenei also shed light on the US’ economic problems, stating: “In the US, for every $100 of white families’ wealth, African-American families only (make) $5. While African-Americans make up 9 percent of the population of Los Angeles, they comprise a third of the homeless. In the year 2015, unemployment rate in the US was 10.4 percent for blacks and 4.7 percent for whites. Life expectancy in the US (is) 71 years for blacks (and) 76 years for whites.” While there is partial truth in some of these statements, Khamenei is capitalizing on the ongoing US protests for his own parochial interests, rather than to promote human rights issues and economic justice.

The history of the Islamic Republic reveals that the ruling mullahs utilize any kind of protests in the US — such as the 1992 Los Angeles riots — as a tool to undermine Washington, push their revolutionary agenda, and appeal to far-left Americans.

The Islamic Republic has also consistently promoted the narrative that the world order, in which the US is considered the superpower, is on the verge of collapse. That is why Iran’s state-owned media outlets last week dedicated significant coverage to advancing this narrative. For example, Javan newspaper’s front-page headline was “Night of Conquering White House,” Kayhan said “US Can’t Breathe: White House Knocked Down,” Khorasan’s headline was “US on Fire, in Blood,” and Afkar reported “Faced with Protests, Foundations of US Fake Democracy Shake: Iran Commander.”

The ruling mullahs utilize any kind of protests in the US to undermine Washington and push their revolutionary agenda.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

The Iranian leaders are known for making predictions about the “collapse” of governments that are considered their enemies. The late Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini, who believed that the only successful system of governance is that of the Islamic Revolution’s Velayat-e Faqih (Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist), famously warned the Soviet Union: “Mr. (Mikhail) Gorbachev. It is clear to everybody that from now on communism will only have to be found in the museums of world political history, for Marxism cannot meet any of the real needs of mankind. Marxism is a materialistic ideology and materialism cannot bring humanity out of the crisis caused by a lack of belief in spirituality — the prime affliction of the human society in the East and the west alike.” Gorbachev responded by criticizing Iran for interfering in his country’s domestic affairs, saying: “This invitation is an interference in the internal issue of a country, because every country is free for selecting its school of thought.”

The Iranian leaders are also currently attempting to score a political victory against many young Iranians, who appear to be pro-American, by advancing the narrative that the US is no different from other authoritarian countries that suppress protesters and commit human rights violations.

Furthermore, the regime is trying to deflect attention from its own grave domestic problems. Iran is facing a serious public health crisis and continuing protests, as many people in Iran appear to have come to the conclusion that the regime is more concerned about its own survival than the living standards and health of its citizens. Some 35 prisoners were recently killed by the regime’s security forces for protesting over fears of contracting the coronavirus. An April report by Amnesty International highlighted: “In recent days, thousands of prisoners in at least eight prisons around the country have staged protests over fears of contracting the coronavirus, sparking deadly responses from prison officers and security forces. In several prisons, live ammunition and tear gas were used to suppress protests, killing around 35 prisoners and injuring hundreds of others, according to credible sources.”

The Islamic Republic’s economic outlook is also extremely bleak, which has caused the regime to request an emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Finally, the regime must also address its own systematic suppression, killing and subjugation of ethnic and religious minority groups, including Ahwazi Arabs, Kurds and Sunnis. Iran was also second in the world when it came to the number of people executed in 2018, and first in terms of the number of executions per capita. The executions included juveniles and women, with Iran being a leading executioner of children.

In conclusion, Iran is using the US protests to undermine Washington and push its own revolutionary agenda. However, instead of gloating over the US protests, the ruling mullahs should address their four decades of egregious human rights abuses.

  • Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh
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