February 11th marks the 31st anniversary of the Iranian revolution, one of the most significant dates in the political calendar of the Islamic Republic and certain to be a pretext for more opposition protests. Ahead of this, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has warned the opposition to distance itself from the country's ‘Western enemies'.
The protests that were ignited by the fraudulent June 12th reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have set the streets of Iran alight with the fury of millions of protestors. The regime's attempt to curtail the actions of the ‘Green Movement' — so called because of the campaign colour of reformist candidate Mir Houssan Mousavi — by killing, torturing or imprisoning protestors has only fanned the flames, and opposition protests persist.
The regime, evidently anxious about the increasing strength of the opposition and its own inability to curtail the demonstrations, has used a traditional tactic of blaming foreign powers in the hope that the Iranian people will aim their frustration beyond their borders. Fars News Agency released pictures of demonstrators in support of the regime, holding pictures of three reform leaders (Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karoubi and Mohammad Khatami) on the three points of a Star of David with the sign reading ‘lovers of Israel'. The regime has also accused the Mossad of penning the last open letter written by Mousavi, and asserted that he and other leaders of the reformist camp are an Israeli fifth column. Iran's ambassador to Bahrain even claimed that Iranian authorities had carried out investigations and revealed that groups from Britain and the U.S. were carrying out assassinations by infiltrating the opposition.
This culture of blaming the West has always been used as a tool to divert attention away from the regime's domestic problems. It is exemplified by the popularised Persian novel My Uncle Napoleon, which satirises the widespread Iranian belief that the British are responsible for all of Iran's afflictions. The panjandrum of the book, ‘Dear Uncle', is a paranoid and delusional character who imagines himself as Napoleon and believes there is a British plot to destroy him. As an extension of this, he sees the hidden hand of the British behind every event in Iran. Even when considering the history of Britain's imperial intervention in Iran, the level of paranoia that ‘Dear Uncle' — and indeed many others in Iran exhibit — is so extreme that it goes beyond reason.
But the regime cannot deceive the opposition, who are now in the majority. It exists, it knows it exists and it understands that its grievances are real — not a seed planted in its head by the West. What's more, the opposition is only gaining support — Ahmadinejad is losing backing among his conservative base and his former allies are turning against him in disgust over the abuse of protestors. The protests themselves are no longer exclusively ‘Green' but are being frequented by religious and conservative Iranians who have become disillusioned with Ahmadinejad and by extension, the Supreme Leader and the regime. The protests are also no longer exclusive to Tehran but are spreading across the country, to the less secular and affluent cities.
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