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What's All the Buzz About 2019 Iran Gasoline Protests?

Monday, December 30, 2019

Alireza Hashemi

The Iranian government imposed petrol rationing and raised gasoline prices from 50 percent to 200 percent mid-November.

Many Iranians were shocked by the move, which was not preceded or followed by adequate explanation on the part of the government.

People were generally worried about yet another squeeze on living costs, following a big plunge in value of the national currency last year that hiked consumer prices to an alarming degree.

Iran offers a costly subsidy program that covers many sectors, from energy to basic foods to essential goods. But low prices have led to overconsumption and increased smuggling and economic circles have long been debating how best to reform the program.

The government of Hassan Rouhani had once tried to increase fuel prices last year, but the move was blocked by the parliament over concerns about the consequences.

Violent Turn
Understandably, there were legitimate protests against the price hike, and many netizens used social media to express dissatisfaction.

The government later said the move was aimed at raising funds to offer cash handouts to the needy, who are in the grip of economic slowdown.

But the sporadic street protests in Iran turned violent, with some protesters vandalizing public property. Dozens of banks and buildings were torched, and many vehicles were destroyed.

The Iranian government is suspicious that the protests were taken advantage of by anti-Iran elements, just like the late 2017 protests inside the country.

Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of Supreme National Security Council, said on Thursday he is confident adversaries have tried to manufacture fake martyrs, probably for propaganda purposes.

“Over 85 percent of those killed during the recent incidents in Tehran’s counties were not present in any gathering and [they] have been suspiciously killed using [personal] cold and hot weapons,” he said.

Regardless of that who was behind the violence, exploiting the legitimate protests of the Iranian people for other purposes is shameful and below any human level.

Propaganda Machine Comes In
In the meantime, the western governments and mainstream outlets found new ammunition for their anti-Iran propaganda campaign.

They portrayed the protests as evidence that Iranians are fed up with a corrupt and brutal regime, conveying a message that Iran is in need of change.

The storyline goes something like that: The Iranians nation who has been grinded down by a despotic regime can no longer withstand oppression and anger resurfaces from time to time in the form of public protests. 

But fact-checking the details of the story shows questionable journalism and dubious sources.

Protests against price hikes are not strange for the global public opinion. Many governments moved to adopt austerity measures in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, and many nations voiced widespread disapproval in the forms of public protests.

A recent example is the case of Ecuador, which in October witnessed massive gatherings in protest to the government’s economic and social austerity measures that nearly paralyzed the country.

Interestingly, the gas price hike in Iran happened at least in part due to the western sanctions campaign, designed to make life harder for Iranians so the West can draw much-needed concessions from the country.

Brian Hook’s Teachings
The western governments and MSM outlets dedicate extensive coverage to protests in Iran while under-reporting similar demonstrations in other places.

We see no similar reaction to France protests, which have been ongoing for over a year now.

Let’s consider the facts: Yellow vest protesters have been shot in the eyes by police bullets and hundreds have been injured. The protests have put in jeopardy President Emanuel Macron’s chances of re-election, so they are of far more significance.

But regarding Iran, there is no indication that the violent protests have moved beyond a small number of people or that they represent the will of the nation at large.

This campaign is in line with the 2017 teachings of Brian Hook, who currently serves as US Special Representative for Iran.

In a 2017 memo leaked to Politico, Hook explained to the former US state secretary Rex Tillerson how to perform his job with regard to human rights violations, implying that the US government must downplay the human rights violations of US allies but scrutinize human rights performance of other governments.

“In the case of US allies such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Philippines, the Administration is fully justified in emphasizing good relations for a variety of important reasons, including counter-terrorism, and in honestly facing up to the difficult tradeoffs with regard to human rights,” Hook explained in the memo.

“…We should consider human rights as an important issue in regard to US relations with China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran,” Hook wrote.

That’s why the sort of enthusiastic non-story cheerleading is typical for western narrative of the Iran protests, while the same people consistently downplay protests against western or western-allied governments.

Apparently, the US jumps at any chance to convince public opinion that the Islamic Republic lacks legitimacy, as part of its strategy to have independent nations either obedient or marginalized.

 

 

Source: Siasate Parsi