Blogger Neda Amin leads a protest against the Iranian regime outside the Old City, January 2018.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Tehran on Tuesday ratcheted up its accusations against Saudi Arabia for allegedly stoking the unrest in Iran and vowed there would be strong punishment against Riyadh.
Meanwhile, Saudi media praised the protesters and voiced hope the unrest would force Iran to scale down its regional involvements in Lebanon, Yemen and Syria, which the Saudis view as a grave threat.
“Certainly the Saudis will receive a proper response from Iran and they will not understand the origin of this response,” said Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s national security council, according to Iran’s Fars news agency. “The ruling Saud family is well aware of the danger of our response.”
Shamkhani, speaking a day after President Hassan Rouhani said Riyadh was involved in fomenting unrest, said the Saudis were waging a social media campaign to “provoke” Iranians to participate in street protests. “Based on studies, around 27% of the hashtags which have been made belong to the Saudis. Of course they don’t belong to the Saudi people, but the Saudi government.”
Saudi media, meanwhile, has been dismissive of the Iranian accusations, echoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of such allegations when they were made against Israel. The Saudis are also echoing Netanyahu in praising the protesters. Like Israel, their de facto ally against Iranian expansion, the Saudis are hoping that the unrest in Iran will diminish Tehran’s ability to pursue its quest for regional primacy.
“This is a battle in the heart of Iran and we are not the ones who transferred it there,” wrote columnist Hilah al-Mushawah in the Okaz
“It’s a popular intifada, it’s a rising against the Khamenei occupation.”
The intifada, she wrote, “is against the plundering of wealth in the country and spending it in fighting in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen at the time the Iranian citizen doesn’t have a single loaf. This is a message against injustice, tyranny and despotism and the rule of one individual.”
The regime, she wrote, “has been funding the so-called resistance such as Hezbollah, but now the people are demanding that the funds return to Tehran, to the hungry people.”
Mushawah wrote that the demonstrations won’t fail to bring change as did the wave of protests in 2009 that was suppressed by the regime. “These are different in form and content from 2009. The barrier of fear has been broken and the demonstrators do not pay attention to the reaction of the regime reflected in its oppression and killing. They believe in the justice of their cause.”
“It is clear that things have gone beyond control. They can put more security forces, more revolutionary guards in the streets but no force will stand against the will of the masses who decided to bang on the door of freedom with their bloodied hands.”
At one point in her column, Mushawah seemed to be gloating over the Iranian regime’s troubles. “Iran, which bragged that it controlled four Arab capitals, has lost control of the crowds in the cities in Iran,” she wrote.
“The volcano of anger exploded in the streets of Iranian cities especially those with religious importance. This is a clear indication this wretched regime has no future,” she wrote.
Abdulrahman Rashed, former editor of the London-based, Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat wrote in that publication and in Arab News that the best outcome of the unrest for the region is not regime change, but regime weakening so that Tehran ends its foreign involvements.
“As far as we – and I mean the states in the region – are concerned, the ideal situation would be the continuation of the present regime but with a change in its foreign policies and an end to its hostile projects. This view may seem strange but the justification is that the region is already suffering from a great deal of destruction and cannot afford new chaos, additional civil wars and many more refugees.”
“But if the popular Iranian uprising succeeds in changing Iranian foreign policy and ending its foreign operations and forces the regime to focus instead on internal reform and development, this would be the ideal option compared with the frightening scenario were the regime to collapse.”
Rashed wrote that the Iranian leadership was arrogant for thinking it could threaten Israel and Saudi Arabia. “They think they can expand the republic and make it a regional empire, geographically occupying some regional states, competing with international powers and threatening their interests in the Middle East, seeking to besiege Saudi Arabia and threaten Israel and fighting multiple simultaneous wars. This is the way arrogant people think, ignoring the limits of Iranian power in a country whose people are suffering and which is considered to have one of the poorest regional economies.”
Meanwhile, Syria’s foreign ministry condemned the US and Israel for allegedly interfering in internal Iranian affairs. A statement published by the official Sana news agency voiced “condemnation and absolute rejection of the stances of the US administration, the Zionist entity and their tools regarding the current situation in Iran.” It said the US and Israel are playing a “destructive role in destabilizing the region with the aim of controlling it, seizing its resources and weakening the resistance axis in the region.”
The statement voiced “full confidence in the Iranian leadership and people being able to thwart this conspiracy.”