Over the past few weeks, massive protests in one of the most criticized Middle Eastern countries erupted and resulted in Western media feasting on the current Iranian administration. Many political pundits have invoked 'The Iranian People' and sided with their intense hatred for the oppressive regime that controls their lives, but much of the noise around the Iran protests is simply hyperbole and political fantasy aiming to destabilize a country the U.S. has been meaning to overthrow since the Ayatollah's popular revolution in 1979. Let's set things straight about these protests:
The protests began with economic frustration
Economic dissatisfaction is a common motivator that revolutionary analysts agree can and will mobilize a population extremely quickly. Given that, the Iran deal was seen as a lifesaver for the country and its people. The tremendous sanctions placed on Iran by the U.S. and its allies obliterated the Persian economy and threw it into extreme instability, culminating in a -5% GDP growth rate at the end of 2016.
Iranians gained an outlook of hope after the successful compromise of the nuclear deal and everyone expected rapid improvements in living standards. That didn't happen for several reasons: corruption, a lack of investor confidence, and costly Iranian military operations. Many reports claim that the price hike of eggs is what eventually lit the fire of the secular, anti-corruption, pro-democracy protests and riots.
But the contrast between U.S. media's criticism of Rouhani and his vast popularity in 2016 is sharp. Rouhani's relatively moderate policies and successful implementation of the Iran nuclear deal led him to a re-election win of almost 20 points over his opponent, but coverage has focused on the assertion that the masses dislike Rouhani; inversely, the popular president is the very one who gave them the hope for prosperity that they're seeking to cash in on.
People do not like the Ayatollah
One correct depiction of the protests was the resistance of the Ayatollah, Iran's formal supreme leader. The Ayatollah is relatively inactive among day-to-day operations, especially within the country, and rather directs foreign policy (another point of contention for Iranians) how he sees fit, acting similarly to an unelected American president.
This is a point everyone should agree on: the unelected supreme leader has to go, and the government needs to become more secular. The current clerical leadership of Iran is extremely disliked by the general public and seen as a corrupt, elite class. The previous Ayatollah led a popular uprising in 1979, but its time has long gone; an unpopular foreign policy and broad corruption will be its demise.
The government response
Amidst some police station takeovers and riots, the state response has been relatively violent, but usually only in response to protester violence. The government shut down many social media sites in order to disperse the demonstrations and make it harder to communicate. This is another point that should be internationally condemned and mostly has been. Disallowing the use of social media simply because demonstrators are on the streets is a severe misuse of power and bordering on despotic behavior. Nevertheless, the government has since restored use of these social media tools, but not after causing great damage to the movement.
Finally, the hypocrisy
The same political pundits criticizing Iran's large foreign policy expenditures and 'siding with the demonstrators' are the ones who promote the U.S. military expansion and foreign domination while its citizens largely oppose it, similar to Iran. They use the same exact argument of deterrence as Iran when justifying the military expenditures but still refuse to heed the people desperately advising the military to cease the endless wars abroad.
Amir Amini outlines a great principle below: If you can replace 'Iranians' with 'Americans' and maintain the same meaning, you're being deceitful.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., claimed that Iranians were demanding that their government "stop the support for terrorism, stop giving billions of our money to killers and dictators, stop taking our wealth and spending it on foreign fighters and proxy wars".
This is certainly a valid criticism of the United States as well, so let's shift the language.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., claimed that Americans were demanding that their government "stop the support for terrorism, stop giving billions of our money to killers and dictators, stop taking our wealth and spending it on foreign fighters and proxy wars".
The 'pro-activism' narrative also falls apart when taking a look back a few weeks to the Palestinian increased resistance to the Jerusalem decision. Palestinians in the West Bank protested and rioted against a foreign army, without any voting rights to affect policy, and are subjected to an apartheid-style law system in which military law is applied to Arabs and civil law to Jews in the same region. The condemnation of Palestinian popular resistance to despotic rule was widespread in American media, diverging from the pro-demonstration agenda they've been parading around regarding Iran.
These observations only confirm what is already known about the media complex and politicians in the United States: they abuse political events to their advantage, if and only if it supports the state's agenda, and misconstrue reality to support their fiction.