The elite narrative on Iran brushes aside fury of Iranian people
In case you missed it, Tehran’s admission that it shot down that civilian Ukrainian plane triggered massive anti-regime protests, complete with fresh denunciations of the late Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Plus, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist just defected, denouncing the regime for its brutal oppression of women.
And you might well have missed either story — because much of the US media is downplaying this news, simply because it doesn’t fit their pre-existing narratives.
It’s not just Trump Derangement Syndrome, but part of the outlook of much of the Western elite, which tends to assume that the West’s past sins are the root of all the world’s evils — and that any anti-Western regime, however oppressive, still has a fundamental legitimacy, and popularity.
Thus, the blatant glossing over, amid all the fallout from the droning of Qassem Soleimani, of the unpopularity of the Iranian regime as well as the perils it poses to its neighbors and the world.
A vast wave of “news analysis,” commentary and even straight reporting suggests that President Trump is to blame not just for Iran’s downing of that plane, but even for the dozens of trampling deaths at Soleimani’s funeral. That’s insane: No matter what the context, both were the result of horrible screw-ups by Iranian officials.
Same for the absurd media treatment of public reactions in Tehran and other Iranian cities after the Soleimani killing — taking the anti-US demonstrations at face value as real signs of public anger, and thus supposedly proof that Trump had rallied Iranians around the government. In fact, they closely resembled the rent-a-mob “fury” the regime has staged for decades.
Such anti-Trump analyses also conveniently ignored the spontaneous celebrations that broke out in Tehran and elsewhere as soon as word broke of Soleimani’s death — genuine public anger at the Iranian government, which also surfaced when the regime admitted the obvious, that Iran’s own “defenses” had shot down the Ukrainian plane.
Because the regime and its supporters have all the guns, we don’t pretend that the huge discontent (also seen in months of massive demonstrations late in 2019) makes it sensible for Washington to put all, or many of, its Iran-policy chips on “regime change.” But it’s even more foolish to act as if that anger doesn’t exist, because it greatly limits the options of Iran’s leaders — and means that, for just one example, killing Soleimani was far less risky that Trump’s critics pretend.
How broad is this anger — and how extensive the regime’s efforts to conceal it from the world? Consider the letter the Olympian, 21-year-old Kimia Alizadeh posted on Instagram on Saturday to explain her flight to the West, calling herself “one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran who [Iran’s rulers] have been playing with for years.”
“They took me wherever they wanted. I wore whatever they said. Every sentence they ordered me to say, I repeated. Whenever they saw fit, they exploited me,” she wrote.”I wasn’t important to them. None of us mattered to them, we were tools.”
She “didn’t want to sit at the table of hypocrisy, lies, injustice and flattery” any longer, she wrote, nor remain complicit with the regime’s “corruption and lies.” And: “My troubled spirit does not fit with your dirty economic ties and tight political lobbies.”
Apologists for the Obama nuclear deal don’t want to think about this reality, because it begins to expose how unreal the deal’s assumptions always were.
They also don’t want to talk about how the hundreds of billions of dollars the deal meant for Tehran went for military adventurism in Syria and Iraq as well as Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen — not to make Iran a better place. That’s another common theme for Iranian protesters — and more proof that the deal didn’t make the world safer.
“How Trump brought us to the brink of war” is the headline for one major piece still up on The New York Times site — a story that sticks to the delusion-ridden elite understanding of Iran’s relations with its own people, including the refusal to recognize that Iran’s been quietly, carefully at war with America ever since the revolution.
As we say, regime change can’t be the center of US policy on Iran. But that policy is still at its wisest when it sides with the Iranian people — and not with their despised rulers.