Muhammad Jassem, a rhul Postgraduate student made the following interview recently with Al-Sura media/website:
The original text is in Deutsch, and the following is a translation:
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH RUSSIA TODAY: IRANIANS DO NOT WANT A DEMOCRACY BASED ON US MODEL
By Ali Özkök (RT News)/Translated by Ammar Atiyeh (Al Sura Media)
For more than a week, protests have been taking place in several cities throughout Iran. RT Deutsch spoke exclusively with the Iran expert and political correspondent for Al-Sura network, Muhammed Husain.
International representatives such as Maryam Rajavi or Cyrus Reza Pahlavi are trying to use the protests in Iran to gain momentum for their own agenda. Despite all their efforts, however, they have hardly any real influence on the Iranian population. The Iranians do not want a democracy based on the US model, says the Iran expert and political correspondent of the Middle East news portal al-Sura, Muhammed Husein, in an interview with RT Deutsch.
In your opinion, what triggered the protests in Iran?
My sources in Iran have stressed that the protests were triggered for economic rather than political reasons. The rise in prices for everyday items and inflation is what triggered these protests. Demonstrating against such abuses is the right of every human being and even the Iranian government agrees that these protests should be allowed. People have real concerns and grievances that the Iranian government needs to answer. However, when these protests are politicized to serve specific agendas, they become problematic.
Do you think that the protests could reach a level that we experienced in the past during the Arab Spring in Libya, Egypt or later in Syria? If not, what is different in Iran?
I do not think that the protests in Iran could develop into such as in Libya, Egypt and Syria, since many of these protests started as political and not economic uprisings. We heard chants like “Al Sha’b Yureed Isqat al Nizam,” which means in English “The people want the downfall of the regime”, already in the first days of the protests in these countries. In Iran, these chants were brought by a small minority of individuals. The majority of the protesters chanted anti-corruption slogans, meaning that the spirit of the protests is completely different. Additionally, we saw harsh reactions from governments during the Arab Spring, while in Iran we saw many elements in the government, including President Rohani, who welcomed the protests.
Especially Kurdish and Arab-populated areas in Iran, ie the regions around Kermanshah and Ahwaz, seem to be centers of protest. What does that say about the nature of the protests?
Well in terms of these minorities there are two issues at hand. First we have to acknowledge the systemic disenfranchisement of minorities by the government. They lack their basic rights, especially in economic terms. Major economic problems hit minorities hardest, with many believing that they have nothing to lose by protesting. Second, many Arab and Kurdish regions have long been receiving support from Saddam Hussein and Western and Arab countries seeking to destabilize the Iranian government.
It should be remembered that the oil-rich Arab territories in Iran were one of the main motivators for Saddam’s eight-year war with Iran. There are paid and trained elements in both Kurdish and Arab Iran, which now see the perfect opportunity to preserve their influence through conflict and protests, and to abuse government disfavour as an excuse.
Meanwhile, foreign organizations or even personalities such as Maryam Rajavi and Cyrus Reza Pahlavi have expressed solidarity with the protests. Do you believe that these personalities enjoy genuine popular support, or do they just want to use the protests?
To say that Rajavi and Pahlavi dont have support is untrue. However, most of this support comes from so-called foreign Iranians who were disenfranchised during the 1979 revolution. This is similar to the Baathists in Iraq.
As a rule, these people have a high purchasing power and can invest in disseminating news that only serves their position. They lose more if the current system remains intact, so they use their economic benefits against the government. It is similar with individuals like Rajavi and Pahlavi. They are docking on this wave of protests in order to make themselves relevant again in Iranian politics.
In reality, the vast majority of Iranians do not want regime change. They want politics to work more efficiently and meet basic economic needs. Many of those who protest do not want democracy based on the US model. They have been allowed to observe the Western style of democracy education in neighboring Iraq and Syria. They’re not willing to sacrifice their country to for it.
According to Iranian media reports, the US in particular fueled the demonstrations. How credible is that, in your opinion?
Iran is a country used to political upheaval and external intervention. In 1953, Mohammed Mossadegh’s government was overthrown by a series of protests that were fueled by the US foreign intelligence service CIA. The government had it under control, but the CIA’s massive intervention in favor of certain elements within was what had caused the overthrow of the democratically elected leader Mossadegh.
Once again, the US has, to some degree, fueled the demonstrators, whether through tweets by President Trump or by the massive amount of propaganda and negative rhetoric being circulated.
The goal was to lead the protests to serve external or personal interests. Looking at the reactions worldwide, the only countries supporting the protests are the typical anti-Iranian countries. If they really tried to support democratic change, they would not have called for a war with Iran in recent years. Instead of direct foreign intervention, these countries now consider it safer to promote fractures in Iranian society. This is far more cost effective than direct intervention.
To what extent could the protests influence Iran’s foreign policy in Iraq and Syria, where Tehran is one of the main geopolitical actors?
I do not believe that these protests will really affect Iranian foreign policy. There are many examples of political unrest within a country, but these riots have no bearing on foreign policy. For example, in the US there are constant social protests, but these rarely affect foreign policy. Foreign policy is generally detached from the political process, as there are different goals and resources specifically earmarked for foreign policy.