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Geopolitics

Why The West Is Finally Taking A Harder Line On Iran

After years of ignoring or downplaying domestic protests in Iran, Western states and media have begun to imagine — and even prepare for — the still slim but growing possibility of a regime change in Tehran.

Why The West Is Finally Taking A Harder Line On Iran

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivering a speech during a ceremony marking the death anniversary of his predecessor Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini

Kayhan London

-Analysis-

LONDON — In past weeks, European countries and the United States have adopted a harsher tone against Iran, with criticisms going beyond the issue of stalled talks to revive the 2015 multilateral pact on Iran's nuclear program.

While the European Union and United States are still reluctant to declare the pact dead or ditch all hope of restarting talks with Tehran, they know the negotiations are at death's door. That is because the Iran has shown it has no intention of ending nuclear activities with the aim of developing a bomb.


Many of the regime's think tanks believe possessing nuclear weapons is its guarantee against foreign attempts to bring about regime change, and that Iran must follow the path of North Korea. Presumably, they must know that another communist state with a vast nuclear arsenal, the Soviet Union, could not prevent its own downfall amid widespread dissatisfaction at home.

Internal and external enemies

Discontent, strikes and unrest have increased notably in Iran, prompting the state to intensify its repression. The regime must today face enemies on internal and external fronts. The resilience of Iranian public anger has in fact forced foreign powers to contemplate the possibility, if not the immediate likelihood, of the regime's downfall. Not long ago, this was flatly ruled out.

This paper has accessed information from Italy and Germany, two EU states with the widest business links with Iran, on their governments already studying the possible scenarios for Iran after the ayatollahs. Diplomatic data from Germany fed into AI systems have concluded that the present regime will not last beyond the autumn of 2023, when Iran could enter a state of turmoil.

The changing nuances in the West are a symptom of the Iranian regime's weakness

Italian intelligence have in turn linked this turmoil to the death of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and subsequent jostling over his succession. The country's state security agency believes Khamenei's death may, in the context of grave socio-economic problems, pave the way for a transition. Both countries must plan ahead and anticipate scenarios if they are to keep their economic positions with a hypothetical successor regime.

At a protest against the Iranian government in Berlin

Paul Zinken/dpa/ZUMA

Biden and the West changing direction

Broadly ignoring the various protests in Iran over the past year, the Biden administration seems to have shifted a little at least in recent weeks through its statements in support of ordinary Iranians. On June 16, the State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned the use of force against peaceful protests, which he said were an expression of justified public demands.

This shift is more evident in Western media, which have finally decided to report on the repression of protests in Iran. The mainstream media line of past years was to view self-declared reformists inside the Iranian regime as the only proper opposition to itself. Reports of demonstrations insisted on narrowly attributing them to economic grievances, and refused to see or hear the highly politicized, anti-regime slogans heard at practically all protests in Iran since late 2017.

Iranians' disenchantment with the regime

But no longer.

For months now, Western papers and agencies have not only reported on chants of Death to Khamenei and Death to the Islamic Republic, but even begun to mention — ending a decades-long taboo — the possible role protesting Iranians envisage for the exiled heir-apparent, Reza Pahlavi, the oldest son of the last Shah of Iran.

These changing nuances among Western states and media are a symptom of the Iranian regime's weakness. Every day it is challenged by people who have lost all hope of it meeting their basic needs, and rightly concluded that the only way to clear the nation's horizon is to sweep away a failed polity. Belatedly, the West has seen this utter disenchantment.

That said, until it can see a clear alternative to a 40-year-old regime entrenched in power, it is unlikely to take further, or bolder, steps backing Iran's democratization.

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Coronavirus

Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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