Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, January 04, 2018

More analysis on Iran

Thomas Erdbrink, writing in The New York Times offers some analysis on events in Iran.

Hard-Liners and Reformers Tapped Iranians’ Ire. Now, Both Are Protest Targets.
Antigovernment protests roiled Iran on Tuesday, as the death toll rose to 21 and the nation’s supreme leader blamed foreign enemies for the unrest. But the protests that have spread to dozens of Iranian cities in the past six days were set off by miscalculations in a long-simmering power struggle between hard-liners and reformers…

But the anger behind the protests was directed against the entire political establishment.

While the protests that swept Iran in 2009 were led by the urban middle class, these protests have been largely driven by disaffected young people in rural areas, towns and small cities who have seized an opening to vent their frustrations with a political elite they say has hijacked the economy to serve its own interests.

Unemployment for young people — half the population — runs at 40 percent, analysts believe. Meanwhile, Iran has spent billions of dollars abroad in recent years to extend its influence in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

The initial catalyst for the anger appears to have been the leak by President Rouhani last month of a proposed government budget. For the first time, secret parts of the budget, including details of the country’s religious institutes, were exposed.

Iranians discovered that billions of dollars were going to hard-line organizations, the military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and religious foundations that enrich the clerical elite. At the same time, the budget proposed to end cash subsidies for millions of citizens, increase fuel prices and privatize public schools…

In reaction to the protest in Mashhad, Hesamodin Ashna, a trusted adviser to President Rouhani, sent out a Twitter message on Friday, highlighting “the unbalanced distribution of the budget.”

Iran’s military forces, active in several countries in the Middle East, saw their budget increase to $11 billion, a nearly 20 percent rise, he said. The budget for representatives of the supreme leader in universities was increased. An institute run by the hard-line cleric Mohammad Taghi Meshbah-Yazdi was to receive eight times as much as a decade ago…

As protests took off in about 40 cities across the country, Tehran remained largely quiet. In 2009, over three million people took to the streets disputing the elections.

But this time, many said they feared the raging, leaderless protests.

“They are angry, and have a right to be, but there is just nothing more, no plan for the day after,” said Hamidreza Faraji, a cosmetic and honey salesman…

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