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Iran in Flames: US Sanctions Pit People Against Regime

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Iran in flames as protests erupt across the country (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)
Iran in flames as protests erupt across the country (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)

Iran is in flames with protests against the regime foreign terror spending, perceived to be the cause of the deteriorating economic situation in Iran.

America has heavily sanctioned Iran for its recalcitrant funding of international terror, putting an enormous pinch on the Iranian economy.

Massive protests erupted over the weekend after the Iranian government announced a 50 percent hike in gas prices as well as gasoline rationing.

See our infographic below on just how much Iran is spending financing terror in the Middle East.

Protesters took to the street in at least 53 cities. In some locations, security forces used snipers and opened fire on the protesters using live ammunition.

At press time, at least 36 protesters were killed and more than 1,000 arrested.

Demonstrators could be heard chanting against the regime: “No Gaza. No Lebanon. I give my life for Iran!” in a protest against Iran’s support for the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah.

In another location, protesters took the bold move of burning a picture of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Kamenei.

Protesters also set fire to at least 100 banks, 75 commercial centers, a government building and a base of the Basij, Iran’s volunteer government militia (part of the government’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps).

In response, the regime blocked Twitter (Facebook is already prohibited in Iran) and reduced the internet to seven percent of its capacity in the country.

Meanwhile, in Lebanon, Iran’s terror proxy group, Hezbollah has been taking a direct hit during the ongoing massive protests against the Lebanese government.

Demonstrators in Lebanon are fed up with governmental corruption and the deteriorating economic situation in the country. In addition they are demanding that Lebanon revert to a secular state.

With Hezbollah now a huge player in the government, the group understands that the protests are as much about them as the “government.”

Previously, Hezbollah would have been able to use strong-arm tactics to suppress such demonstrations. In fact, demonstrations that were even indirectly against the terror group would never have happened for this reason.

But the protests are now too large. In addition, there is the perception that the Lebanese people have freed themselves from “fear barrier” vis-à-vis Hezbollah.

The terror group is also afraid that using force against the protesters could spark a civil war. Since they are now part of the government, if that would happen, whatever credibility they have left as a “resistance” group would be destroyed.

At the same time, Hezbollah higher-ups have been shocked to see their own supporters and members joining the protests. These former members and supporters say they are tired of seeing Hezbollah higher-ups driving fancy cars and “living the life” while salaries of fighters have been reduced to an unlivable wage of $600 per month.

Under the crunch of U.S. sanctions and the corruption of its leaders, the terror group has also curtailed many of its social services to its members.

The Lebanese people have seen Hezbollah evolve from its raison d’etre of opposing Israel to its participation in the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen on behalf of Iran to its current interference in the Lebanese political system.

The people are well aware that Hezbollah’s ultimate goal is the establishment of a (Shiite) Islamic state run by sharia law, a goal they do not support.

 

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Ran Meir

Ran Meir is Clarion Project's Arab affairs analyst and a Shillman Fellow. He can be reached at [email protected]

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