News

Fallout of 2009 Iran Protests to Carry Over into New Year

2009 marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Shah of Iran and the establishment of a new Islamic Republic to replace the monarchy. But a questionable presidential election in 2009 also sparked the largest anti-government demonstrations in Iran since that revolution.

Supporters of Iran's defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi dressed in black during a mass protest in Tehran, 18 Jun 2009
Supporters of Iran's defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi dressed in black during a mass protest in Tehran, 18 Jun 2009

Multimedia

When protests erupted over the declared outcome of the June presidential election, many Western analysts proclaimed Iran was on the eve of a new revolution that would topple the theocracy.  But it did not happen.  Not only was there was no revolution, but the theocratic rulers remain in power and many of the protesters have been arrested and tried.

No revolution

Some Iran-watchers say that was because the protesters were not able to draw support from the middle-class shopkeepers and merchants.  But others say the explanation is simpler. 

The head of the National Iranian-American Council, Trita Parsi, says it is because the protesters were never demonstrating for regime change - at least not in the beginning.

"I think the reason there was not a revolution was that they were not aiming for a revolution.  This movement started off by people demanding that their votes be counted.  As the government showed itself to be completely uncompromising and radical in its clampdown and started to use violence in the extreme, then of course the demands of the protest began to increase," said Parsi.

Demonstrations continue

The protests have continued, but more sporadically, and Parsi says the situation remains very, very volatile.  The protesters have gotten more radical and the government's rhetoric against the reformists has correspondingly ratcheted up as well.  Parsi says the protesters will have to bend a bit to avoid a government bid to totally wipe out the reformists.

"If they manage to continue this fight, if they manage to continue deprive the government of any normalcy, then, in order for them to actually claim victory, they need to offer a way out.  Otherwise, the government will feel they have no other option but to be radical as well," said Parsi.

Reformists criticized

Senior officials have publicly criticized key reformist figures, like Moussavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and former presidents Mohammad Khatemi and Hashemi Rafsanjani for the protests but these figures remain at liberty. 

Editor Alex Vatanka, of the English-language newsletter on the Islamic world, Jane's Islamic Affairs, says that may indicate President Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have concerns about a potentially explosive situation.

"If Khamenei or Ahmadinejad factions were so powerful, why are they not arresting Rafsanjani and Khatemi and Moussavi and Karroubi?  Why are these people, despite the allegations they are making, why are they still free?  That right away brings to my mind the question, maybe they are not powerful enough, brave enough, to do it because they know might unleash something they can not control," said Vatanka. 

Nuclear complications

The protests complicated U.S. President Barack Obama's plans to reach out to Tehran and Iran's response to those overtures, particularly on the sensitive nuclear issue.

Iran continues to insist it has only a peaceful nuclear program.  But in October Iran appeared to finally agree in principle to sending nuclear material to a third country for enrichment.  But Iranian officials then backed away from the proposed deal after it came under criticism in Tehran.

Alex Vatanka says it is not clear if the shifting response was a sign of political overreach by President Ahmadinejad or a stalling tactic.

"Question is, was this miscommunication?  Was this Ahmadinejad's people getting ahead of themselves in pursuit of perhaps reaching some sort of dialogue with the West and Khamenei being upset about it and stopping it in Tehran? Or is it a deliberate, fully calculated, tactical game that Iran, some have argued for a while, plays, which is, plays for time?" asked Vatanka.

Other analysts suggest it was because power is too deeply fractured and diffuse for Iran's leaders to reach a consensus on such a sensitive issue.

Will sanctions work?

Whatever the reason, the response has heightened a push for new sanctions against Iran at the UN and from the U.S. Congress as well. But analysts say any sanctions should be carefully calibrated against the government of Iran and not the Iranian people. 

Trita Parsi says sanctions could backfire against the reformist movement.

"What you do not want to do is put the opposition into a position in which they suddenly now, instead of focusing their energy on challenging Ahmadinejad, have to defend themselves and defend their nationalistic credentials by coming out and blasting the U.S. sanctions.  The opposition is in a tough position enough fighting such a brutal, repressive system," said Parsi.

But analysts point out that no significant sanctions will be coming without the backing of Russia and China.  Both have so far been reluctant to back such measures. 
 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs