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Iran: A New generation wants an end to the Islamic Republic — and a rebirth of freedom

Michael Ledeen,
There is a revived revolution in Iran, forcing the regime into a harsh crackdown all over the country. Most observers think the uprising against the Khamenei regime is the most intense ever, now exceeding one hundred cities and towns all over the country. Hundreds of protestors have been arrested, scores have been killed, and control over several major cities changes by the hour. A tweet from Alireza Nader sums up the situation:

half of Shiraz is on fire. As are parts of Tehran, Karaj, Isfahan etc. Regime forces are shooting at people freely, even from helicopters. There’s no way casualties are in the hundreds. The regime has blacked out Iran so it can kill freely

The country is on fire. All classes, all tribes from the Persians to the Kurds are fighting the security forces and the Revolutionary Guards, the Basij, and an increasingly divided Hezbollah. The leaders of the regime are unrestrained in their crackdown. In order to keep their actions as far as possible from public view, the leaders have killed off the internet links with the outside world, and despite American boasts that Washington can turn on the internet at will, the regime has kept communications with Iranians at historic minima.

The proximate cause of these demonstrations was an overnight increase in the cost of gasoline. I say “proximate cause” because the anti-regime outbursts had been ongoing for months, if not years. The increased price for gasoline was significant, but not decisive. So far as I can determine, the crowds of demonstrators chanted political slogans, not economic ones. They wanted an end to the Islamic Republic, not lower prices for gas.

The Iranian eruption is only one of many in the region, as Lebanese and Iraqis also joined the protest against Tehran. Iraqis, led by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, called for an end to the Hezbollah domination of the country as part of a general demand for a thoroughgoing political transformation.

The most radical demand is the downfall of the whole sectarian, political Islamist system. This is the first and most important demand in Tahrir Square — they want a separation of religion and politics. This demand includes the government resigning, especially Adil Abdul-Mahdi, the prime minister.

They’re also demanding new job opportunities, enhanced unemployment insurance, electricity, basic services, the end of the rule of Iranian-sponsored militias, and an end to corruption and foreign rule, whether it be Iranian or American.

In the words of Rick Moran, whatever reasons were invoked, protesters in Iraq originally took to the streets to express their frustration with the government have now been tossed aside and outright revolution has become their goal.

The same applies to Lebanon, where ongoing demonstrations are calling for an end to Iranian domination of the country. The Lebanese people want Hezbollah out, their demonstrations—largely in Beirut—demanded a clean break with the Iranian forces, of which Hezbollah is certainly a central element.

In other words, Iran is fighting on multiple fronts, against a new generation that desires an end to the Islamic Republic and a rebirth of freedom. The regime is fighting fiercely, killing significant numbers of people and arresting thousands of others.

During the internet shutdown, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked Iranians to send him evidence of the repressive measures taken against the people. There was a significant response: almost 20,000 messages.

Last week, I asked the courageous Iranian people to send us evidence documenting the regime’s violent crackdown of #IranProtests. So far, we received nearly 20,000 messages. The U.S. already took action against Iran’s Disinformation Minister. More sanctions are coming.

For its part, the regime came down as hard as possible, and Iranians went to extraordinary lengths to stay out of their clutches. The country’s emergency rooms proved dangerous for those shot or beaten by the security forces, and the wounded took shelter inside friendly homes, where they were less likely to be rounded up.

Meanwhile, the people struck at the symbols of the Islamic Republic, notably torching the Iranian consulate in Najaf. The country’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has long resisted the efforts of the Iranian regime to impose its will on Iraq. This was a major battle between Iraqi protestors and Iranian-supported SWAT fighters. The Iranians failed to rescue their diplomats, who were forced to escape through a rear exit. During the fighting, six Iraqi demonstrators were killed, along with several pro-Iranian guards.

The numbers here are approximate at best. The Iranian regime has no desire to tell the true story, nor do the protestors. If we ever know the facts, the odds are long that the regime has killed a big number of internal enemies, maybe thousands of them. Time will tell. But one thing is certain: the protests have reached a new level, and vengeance will be delivered upon the killers.

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