Over the last few days, anti-government protests have broken out across Iran. It’s reported the protests are focused on deteriorating economic conditions and corruption in the Islamic Republic. Demonstrators have gathered in a number of cities, including Tehran, the holy city of Qom, Isfahan, Kermanshah, Rasht, Sari, and Hamedan.
While average Iranians undoubtedly suffer as a result of the policies and actions of a highly centralized religious government, we must ask if the latest round of anti-government activity is part of a foreign effort to destabilize the country by exploiting discontent with the country’s leadership.
In June, we learned that the Trump administration is behind an effort by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to topple the government in Tehran. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The Trump administration includes a number of hardliners on Iran, most notably Defense Secretary James Mattis, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, and Trump’s CIA director, Mike Pompeo.
Prior to his appointment, Pompeo called for military attacks on Iran’s civilian nuclear program. He also said “Congress must act to change Iranian behavior, and, ultimately, the Iranian regime.”
Additionally, he told Iranian Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani in a letter that the United States will hold Iran responsible for attacks on US interests in Iraq regardless of the source.
In June, Michael D’Andrea – a CIA officer known as the Dark Prince or Ayatollah Mike (for his conversion to Islam) – was appointed to run the agency’s Iran operations. He supposedly headed up the effort to capture Osama bin Laden, the former CIA groomed leader of al-Qaeda who died in Afghanistan back in December, 2001.
D’Andrea was involved in the use of torture during interrogations of suspected terrorists during the Bush administration. He also played a key role in the assassination of Imad Mugniyah, the international operations chief for Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah. The assassination was carried out with assistance from Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency.
Ezra Cohen-Watnick, Trump’s former Senior Director for Intelligence Programs at the NSC (he was ousted in January, reportedly by McMaster), told the administration he wanted to use covert activities to take down the government in Tehran.
The Saudi effort includes riling up dissident groups in Balochistan that cross over the border into the Iranian province of Sistan and carry out operations. For instance, in October 2009, Jundullah, a Balochi resistance group with alleged links to Al-Qaeda, launched a suicide bomb attack that killed a number of Iranian Revolutionary Guards on a bus in the city of Zahedan. Jundullah has also captured Iranian soldiers and border guards and executed them.
The terror group received training in Pakistan. Former CIA agents say the group is used as a proxy by the United States and its operations are funded by Saudi Arabia. The model, they explain, is similar to the one used to destabilize the government of Nicaragua in the 1980s.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE also support a Kurdish separatist movement inside Iran. In October, it was reported Anwar Eshki, a retired major general in the Saudi armed forces, told the Council on Foreign Relations Iran can be successfully undermined by supporting the Kurdish separatist movement. The event was hosted by CFR senior fellow, former Bush NSC member, Project for a New American Century founder, and convicted criminal Elliott Abrams. The move would undoubtedly create friction with the Turkish government, currently engaged in a sporadic war with Kurdish nationalists.
In July, Iran said Saudi Arabia was behind an Islamic State attack on the Iranian parliament and the tomb of the republic’s revolutionary founder that killed twelve people. “World public opinion, especially in Iran, sees the fact that this terrorist act was perpetrated soon after the meeting of the US president with the heads of one of the reactionary regional states that has always supported… terrorists,” a statement issued by the Fars news agency stated without mentioning Saudi Arabia by name.
The United States has a long track record in attempting to take down governments in Iran and install preferred clients, most notably the successful 1953 CIA sponsored coup against the democratically elected leader Mohammad Mosaddegh.
In 2009, the Obama administration moved ahead with a plan conceived by the Bush administration based on an earlier scheme blueprinted by Michael Ledeen and the neocon American Enterprise Institute in 2002.
Obama’s plan called for supporting a candidate chosen by pistachio tycoon Ayatollah Rafsanjani, disputing presidential election results, ousting president Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, terrorist bombings, setting up a transition government headed by reformist politician Mir-Hossein Mousavi, restoring the Pahlavi monarchy (installed by the CIA in 1953) and creating a client government.
The Iranian People’s Mojahedin Organization (Mujahedin-e Khalq) was responsible for coordinating the above mentioned bomb attacks and also clashes between pro-Ahmadinejad supporters and their opponents during the election.
“This organization, protected by the Pentagon, is considered a terrorist organization by the State Department and has been considered as such by the European Union,” writes Thierry Meyssan, founder of the Voltaire Network. “Indeed, it is responsible for dreadful operations in the 80s, including a huge bombing which killed Ayatollah Beheshti, four department heads, six department head assistants and one fourth of the parliamentary group of the Islamic Republic party.”
Propaganda was provided by the public relations firm Benador Associates, infamous for a fake story that appeared in Canada’s National Post claiming Iran had passed a law requiring Jewish residents to wear a yellow insignia similar to one used by the Nazis. Speakers for the firm have included a large number of neocons, including Michael Ledeen, Richard Perle, James Woolsey, and Meyrav Wurmser. The propaganda effort was later passed off to Goli Ameri, the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. She is a former colleague of Bush’s acting United Nations ambassador, John Bolton.
“As a new media specialist, she implemented infrastructure and Internet training programs for Rafsanjani’s friends. She also developed radio and television programs in Farsi for… State Department propaganda, in conjunction with the BBC,” writes Meyssan.
No regime change color revolution would be complete without the participation of the National Endowment for Democracy, USAID, and the CIA. In addition to a $400 million budget for just such an operation approved by Congress in 2007, these organizations gave an undetermined amount to the Rafsanjani family, the Pahlavi family, and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran.
The plan fell flat for a number of reasons, most notably due to its inability to make Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the focus of popular anger and the refusal of Iranians to blame him for US economic sanctions.
On December 28, Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton issued a statement of support for the latest effort to take down the Iranian government.
“Even after the billions in sanctions relief they secured through the nuclear deal, the ayatollahs still can’t provide for the basic needs of their own people – perhaps because they’ve funneled so much of that money into their campaign of regional aggression in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen,” Cotton said. “The protests in Mashhad show that a regime driven by such a hateful ideology cannot maintain broad popular support forever, and we should support the Iranian people who are willing to risk their lives to speak out against it.”
Cotton is a staunch neocon. He is a radical opponent of Iran and has engaged in numerous attempts to derail negotiations with the Islamic Republic. He urged collective punishment for individuals ignoring sanctions placed on Iran – including “parents, children, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, grandparents, great grandparents, grandkids, great grandkids.”
In November, it was rumored Cotton would be Trump’s pick to head up the CIA.
Meanwhile, the establishment media is demanding Trump support the latest protests. “President Trump today can stand up for those who are risking their lives to oppose a regime that has considered itself at war with America since it came to power,” writes Christian Whiton of Fox News, Trump’s favorite network.
Considering the role the establishment media has played in promoting violence abroad with its slanted, often fraudulent, and misleading propaganda – much of it designed by the government – we cannot accurately gauge the situation unfolding in Iran.
However, if we take a look at the behavior of the United States toward Iran following the Islamic Revolution in 1979, we can assume with a fair degree of accuracy the latest protests are at least in part directed by the United States using its time tested color revolution bag of tricks.