The unrest in Iran that started last week has continued to the present and shows no sign of letting up. As of today, at least 22 people have been killed and probably a significantly larger number injured in one manner or another; more than a thousand have been jailed–and in the custody of the Iranian regime, one can only imagine the condition they will be in – now and in the future. Given the regime’s track record, some of those in custody face a very uncertain, and quite possibly, short future. The courage of those protesting cannot be understated – they of all people have to know the risks they are taking with this repressive regime.
The obvious question: What can we do about it? The United States is in no position to offer materiel support and to encourage the protesters, knowing we cannot offer any physical support is nothing if not disingenuous. However, an inability to offer materiel support does not mean the US is powerless. Sanctions have been mentioned, but these would seem to be counterproductive: the current protests have been caused by the worsening economy – not political unrest based on a questionable election. Adding sanctions to the mix would only make matters worse for the people doing the protesting and, actually, play into the hands of the government. Instead, the US should be doing everything we can to help the protesters organize – which means doing everything we can to see that the Iranian people have access to all of the social media outlets that are available. If they need help organizing, social media is an excellent way to do this. The Iranian government is obviously going to try and prevent this from happening. So, the US should do everything we can on the cyber front as well, to shut down the Iranian jammers. In addition, the VOA needs to continue broadcasting throughout the region letting everyone know throughout Iran that the world is behind them.
The current protests are probably not going to topple the government, but multiple reports indicate that the Iranian mullahs are quite nervous–we need to be doing everything we can to increase their anxiety.