As anti-government protests — and government repression — flare in Iran, Jewish groups remain focused on the issue of nuclear proliferation there, prioritizing this problem over concern for the country’s opposition movement.
In interviews, Jewish leaders voiced sympathy for the cause of democracy backed by the protesters. But even as the administration is reportedly considering a shift to a strategy of narrow, targeted sanctions toward Iran — in part to take account of the surging protest movement — the Jewish community remains committed to more sweeping sanctions that Iran’s democracy activists decry as harmful to their cause.
The proliferation issue, Jewish activists say, should come first.
“For us, this was always the primary concern, because a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to Israel,” said Meagan Buren, director of research and training at The Israel Project, a pro-Israel group active on the Iranian issue. [continued…]
The mayhem that has swept over Iran in the past few days is once more calling into question the Islamic Republic’s longevity. Recent events are eerily reminiscent of the revolution that displaced the monarchy in 1979: A fragmented, illegitimate state led by cruel yet indecisive men is suddenly confronting an opposition movement that it cannot fully apprehend. It is premature to proclaim the immediate demise of the theocratic regime. Iran may well be entering a prolonged period of chaos and violence. In the aftermath of recent disturbances, however, it is obvious that the lifespan of the Islamic Republic has been considerably shortened.
In retrospect, the regime’s most momentous, and disastrous, decision was its refusal to offer any compromises to an angered nation after the fraudulent presidential election in June. The modest demands of establishment figures such as Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, including for the release of political prisoners and restoring popular trust (via measures such as respecting the rule of law and opening up the media), was dismissed by an arrogant regime confident of its power.
Disillusioned elites and protesters who had taken to the streets could have been unified, or their resentment assuaged, by a pledge by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for the next election to be free and fair, for government to become more inclusive or for limits to be imposed on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s prerogatives. Today, such concessions would be seen as a sign of weakness and would embolden the opposition. The regime no longer has a political path out of its predicament. Ironically, this was the shah’s dilemma, as he made concessions too late to fortify his power and broaden the social base of his government. [continued…]
On Wednesday, the Islamic Republic of Iran reacted to last Sunday’s violent demonstrations by marshaling supporters in countrywide demonstrations and launching a media offensive against the opposition Green Movement.
At least 37 people were killed Sunday on the deadliest day of rioting since June’s disputed presidential election, which saw hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad returned to office amid widespread elections of fraud. For the first time, demonstrators switched from nonviolent tactics to engage the police with stones and batons. In response, the police fired tear-gas and bullets.
Government-funded newspapers lashed out Wednesday at the thousands of demonstrators who fought running battles with security forces during Shiite Islam’s major festival, labeling them “apostates” and calling for their “arrest and execution.” [continued…]
Behind the drama unfolding in the streets of Iran, the regime is quietly clamping down on some of the nation’s best students by derailing their academic and professional careers.
On Wednesday, progovernment militia attacked and beat students at a school in northeastern Iran. Since last Sunday’s massive protests nationwide, dozens of university students have been arrested as part of an aggressive policy against what are known as Iran’s “star students.”
In most places, being a star means ranking top of the class, but in Iran it means your name appears on a list of students considered a threat by the intelligence ministry. It also means a partial or complete ban from education.
The term comes from the fact that some students have learned of their status by seeing stars printed next to their names on test results.
Mehrnoush Karimi, a 24-year-old law-school hopeful, found out in August that she was starred. She ranked 55 on this year’s national entrance exam for law schools, out of more than 70,000 test-takers. That score should have guaranteed her a seat at the school of her choice. Instead, the government told her she wouldn’t be attending law school due to her “star” status. [continued…]