I’ve spent some time in post-Shah Iran, enough to know that there’s a frustrated, festering young population, especially women, who are less than pleased about dress codes and public-morality policing. Worse yet is the hypocrisy that it’s not remotely like that–including liquor in a dry country–behind closed doors in certain privileged communities.
As a means of placating would-be reformers and angry protesters, police in Tehran have announced that they will no longer arrest women for failing to observe the Islamic dress code that’s been in place since the 1979 revolution.
Just a hunch. This won’t work.
The massive, increasingly violent, street protests–expedited by social media–that we’re now seeing in Tehran and elsewhere reflect something we can identify with right here: It’s the economy, stupid. Inflation, unemployment and the shortage of consumer goods are roiling the masses. Blatant, hard-liner corruption adds insult to the outrage, and expensive foreign-policy adventures are scorned. The 2015 nuclear deal hasn’t brought a better life yet.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has no mandate from these masses. Moreover, he’s become the target of “Death to the Dictator” chants. Maybe the Pahlavi family doesn’t look so bad after all.
One thing the U.S. should not do: Get involved. Unfortunately, President Trump finds Iranian protests to be irresistible grist for his tweet mill. The U.S. is still relatively toxic in official Iranian circles, so Trump’s insertion–goading the government and cheerleading the protesters–is counterproductive, provocative and, ironically, a welcome diversion for the government.
So far, the upheaval in Iran has little to do with the “great Satan,” but Trump’s intrusion could alter that script.