The end of the protests in Iran?

The wave of protests in Iran seems to be losing momentum. Iran's Revolutionary Guard announced on Sunday that the rallies were over and blamed states like the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia for the unrest that began on December 28 and quickly spread throughout the country. Europe's press examines the response of the EU and the Iranian regime.

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24 Chasa (BG) /

Government using ruses and trivialising tactics

Middle East expert Mohammed Khalaf describes in 24 Chasa what strategy the Iranian government is using against the protests:

“Sometimes it behaves simply as an observer, then it gives the impression that it wants to give in. ... In the media it is trying to play down the events by suggesting that the protesters are taking to the streets solely for economic reasons. The Revolutionary Guard's accusations that the US, Israel and the UK are behind the protests and the blocking of the messenger app Telegram and the online platform Instagram reveal the government's real fears, however.”

Daily Sabah (TR) /

Western intervention misses its target

Western states love to seek influence in the Middle East by supporting anti-government protests - but that no longer works, Daily Sabah contents:

“Today the same methods are being used in Iran that were also resorted to during the Gezi protests in Turkey. However despite the support of Western media organisations they have nothing concrete to show for it. Clearly this method of trying to secure political influence no longer works in the Middle East. President Trump's message at the start of the protests that it's 'time for a change in Iran' will ultimately only lead to more support for the Iranian government - and not for the demonstrators or for the wave of rebellion.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Europe still has no clear stance on Iran

Europe urgently needs a well-thought out Iran policy of its own, historian and political scientist Gian Enrico Rusconi writes in La Stampa:

“Europe can't look on idly as Tehran crushes the protests and arrests thousands of demonstrators. It must resolutely criticise this course of action without trying to imitate Trump, who is still seeking to fuel the revolt. Because in so doing Trump is not only confirming accusations that the revolts have been fanned by foreign powers. He's also ineluctably worsening relations with the Iranian regime. Weakened ties between the two countries would dovetail perfectly with his desire to cancel the nuclear agreement with Tehran. ... Europe must develop an independent, binding, active Iran policy. The opportunity is at hand - precisely because the situation is far more complex than Trump's simplistic view would have us believe.”

Contributors (RO) /

Waiting for the young generation

Political analyst Valentin Naumescu says on blog portal Contributors that this year won't see the fall of the government:

“It could be that President Rouhani's camp exploits the developments to get rid of its rivals from the conservative camp. That Rouhani removes them from the offices they hold (thanks to corruption and abuse of power) to initiate a modest but highly media-oriented reform. The problems of the government in Iran will likely increase - as they stand to do in Saudi Arabia as well - and only start moving towards a solution between 2019 and 2020, once leaders of the young generations in both these leading Islamic countries have become established.”

Karar (TR) /

More participation would change much

The protests will continue until Iran becomes more democratic, Karar is convinced:

“According to the constitution Iran may be a theocracy, in other words a religious state, but in view of the strength of the electoral system you can't say there is no democracy there. It is, however, definitely an inadequate democracy when you look at the weakness of the judiciary, the media and civil society. ... One way to dispel the social doubt and concerns would be to strengthen the institutions and to increase social participation not just at the poll stations, but everywhere else too. Instead of developing conspiracy theories, the best thing to do is to confront the reality of the situation. Because this is the cleverest way to stop those who are benefiting from this turn of events and want to interfere in Iran's affairs.”

Le Soir (BE) /

The media are the key

Means of communication like the messaging service Telegram are hugely important for the demonstrators. At the request of the regime, however, Telegram has limited its services in the country. This is where the international community must seek to apply pressure, Le Soir urges:

“The Iranian regime's willingness to reform so as to offer better living conditions to the population cannot be measured simply in terms of the severity of the physical repression (already 15 to 20 dead and hundreds of arrests). An at least equally important criterion is the degree to which the media are gagged - or granted new freedoms. This is where the focus of the international community must come to bear: so that the Iranians themselves can put pressure on their leaders.” (RU) /

Clerical states have no future

The Iranian regime won't be able to maintain its grip on power in the long term, sociologist Igor Eidman writes in a Facebook post published on

“Progress is unstoppable. The urban youth in Iran, Turkey and Egypt has begun to actively oppose clericalism in recent years, therefore the latter has no future in these countries. Over the last few centuries the states in Europe, in the two Americas and in the Far East have become secular. The clerical reaction today is mainly active in the Islamic world and in Russia. But sooner or later in these countries too, religion will give up its attempts at political and moral dominance and assume the banal role of providing opportunities for family meals and children's costume parties.”

De Volkskrant (NL) /

Time for an end to unrest, war and terror

Europe must do all it can to bring about a change of regime, Iranian-born journalist Ehsan Kermani writes in De Volkskrant:

“Many dictatorships have been toppled with the help of foreign aid. Now the Netherlands and Europe have a golden opportunity to lend the Iranians a hand. Europe must condemn all violence used against the demonstrators and put human rights high on its agenda. ... Like the US it must also place the Revolutionary Guards on its list of terrorists. ... The fall of the regime would put an end to 40 years of unrest, war, terrorism and mass exodus.”

Ir (LV) /

Europe wrong to remain silent

The weekly Ir is angered by the European Union's reaction to the events in Iran:

“[It's] truly scandalous. The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini hasn't made a statement on the events. The EU clearly doesn't intend to use its diplomatic instruments to proclaim its support for a democratic solution to the situation. It's lamentable that the EU is increasingly giving up its principles. ... It seems that the capitals of most European countries are silently hoping that the Iranian regime will quickly quash the unrest and a state of deathly calm will prevail so that they can continue trading with the country unhindered once more. Thanks to this trading Tehran now has billions with which to support the wars in Syria and Yemen and to threaten Israel on a daily basis.”

The Times (GB) /

West needs a common stance on Iran

The Europeans need to reconsider their policy towards Iran, The Times believes:

“So far Tehran has played the European signatories of the nuclear deal off against Trump. Now we have to sit down with the Trump team and agree on common aims: is it in the joint western interest that Iran becomes the military leader of the region? How can additional sanctions help? How do we reach ordinary Iranians and convince them that their government's subversion abroad is damaging their standing in the world? That their economy is being usurped by the rapacious Revolutionary Guard? For Iranians there is a clear choice to be made, between guns and butter. We should nudge them towards the right future.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Danger of authoritarian backlash

Western calls for a change of regime could be counterproductive for the demonstrators' cause, Der Standard warns, and accuses countries like the US of pursuing their own agenda:

“Hardly any expert believes the protests could actually topple the regime. The likely medium-term outcome of an escalation of violence would no doubt be an authoritarian backlash in Iran - and the definitive end of Rouhani's efforts to give the people a little more breathing space. Of course the crude reality is that most (non-Iranian) opponents of the regime based abroad wouldn't feel too much regret about that. Because as long as the Iranians' living conditions remain halfway decent the next revolution will be even longer in coming.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Trump shouldn't get involved

Donald Trump's tweets in support of the protests in Iran are causing nothing but harm, Hürriyet Daily News believes:

“Does U.S. President Donald Trump think Iranians are fools with goldfish memories, who cannot remember the CIA-sponsored coup in their country in 1953? Does he also think other governments in this ancient part of the world were not alarmed by Trump's tweet voicing support for Iranian protesters? ... They are worried that the U.S. policy of supporting military coups in Latin America and the Middle East from the 1950s to the 1980s may well be back with Trump, and the same thing may happen to their governments.”

Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Russia's fear of a rebellion

Moscow, one of Iran's few allies, is worried about the wave of protests, the radio broadcaster Echo of Moscow reports:

“We fear all these Maidans, these orange and other coloured revolutions and therefore watch anxiously whenever unrest strikes in another country, seeing it as a test run for what could happen here in our own. The Iranian leadership claims that the whole thing is a rebellion rather than a protest - the rebellion of a minority! Yet this minority is effectively rebelling throughout the country. And the leadership is nonetheless blaming external forces, saying the people are being incited from abroad. All this resembles the situation here! As if the people couldn't be discontent and protest of their own accord.”

Cumhuriyet (TR) /

The Iranians have had enough

The protests are the result of widespread anger, Cumhuriyet comments:

“This is an unprecedented situation for the Iranian Islamic Republic. It is interesting that the demonstrations arose neither under the control of a political movement nor as a reaction to a political development. On the contrary, they are disorganised and spontaneous, and bring together various sections of society. ... This is neither a revolution nor a politicised social movement, but an explosion. The reason is growing unemployment, especially among the young, the deceleration of the non-oil-based economy, the reduction in buying power - in short: existential problems that have become unbearable.”

Basler Zeitung (CH) /

Unfortunately not an Iranian spring

Despite the anger and frustration the demonstrations in Iran won't topple the regime, Basler Zeitung sighs:

“Although the scenes taking place in Iran are reminiscent of the uprisings in countries like Tunisia or Egypt seven years ago, the demonstrations in Iran don't represent a danger for the regime. Firstly it has enough possibilities to quash the uprising with the help of its propaganda machine in the mosques, its police and its army. In addition, at least until now the demonstrators have neither a leadership nor a programme that could give the protest movement a direction and concrete goals. For that reason - unfortunately - there can be no talk of an Iranian spring.”

The Times (GB) /

Stop fuelling the protests

The Times believes the demonstrations could gain momentum but at the same time urges the West to exercise restraint:

“Although the overthrow of the shah is now 39 years ago, Iran can still recall that it was economic grievances and a burning sense of repression and injustice that fuelled the mass movement supporting the exiled cleric Ayatollah Khomeini. ... The iron fist is exactly the response the shah adopted to the uprising in 1979, and it cost him his throne. Today's protests are more serious than the demonstrations against the rigged elections in 2009 because they are more widely based. It would be unwise for the West, and especially for President Trump, to egg on the protesters, as this could rally the hardliners. Better to wait and watch a flawed regime unravel in its own contradictions.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Don't leave dissidents in the lurch this time

The West must not repeat its mistake from 2009, La Stampa warns:

“Back then the Iranians hoped the West would support them. Instead they experienced a political and moral betrayal for which then president Barack Obama was chiefly responsible. ... Obama took America - and Europe - in the direction of a policy of appeasement vis-à-vis the regime that the Iranians are once again protesting against with their heads held high - at the risk of their own lives. That's why the Trump government's decision to back the demonstrators from the start is so important. Europe too must decide. After the first timid statements from Berlin and Brussels it now has the opportunity to radically change the failed policy it has been pursuing vis-à-vis the Ayatollahs for the past eight years.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

The West must not turn a blind eye

If violence is used against the demonstrators Europe must not remain silent, De Telegraaf also warns:

“With the nuclear deal Iran was reintegrated into the international community in 2015. ... But owing to the ongoing aggression in the Middle East and a series of missile tests President Trump is considering reimposing sanctions this month. Europe is against this, but if today's protests are crushed in the same way they were in 2009 it can hardly continue to close its eyes to the brutal regime in Tehran. ... If it comes to a crackdown by the Revolutionary Guard, Iran could not only lose all international support but also foment further unrest within its own borders.”