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Support the Iranian people

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An Iranian woman raises her fist during a protest on December 30, 2017

An Iranian woman raises her fist amid the smoke of tear gas at the University of Tehran during a protest on December 30, 2017. (photo credit: STR / AFP)

 At the University of Tehran, students gather and declare: “We are ashamed of our officials who do not feel our pain.” In Qom, thousands throng the streets shouting: “We don’t want Islamic Republic, we don’t want it, we don’t want it!” In the southern town of Bandar Abbas, protesters tear down huge photos of Iran’s present and former supreme leaders Khamenei and Khomeini. In the western town of Khorramabad, thousands chant: “Down with the dictator!” In an unspecified city, a bareheaded woman stands above a crowd waving a stick with a chador (head covering) at the end of it, in brave protest against the religious repression of women in Iranian society.

No one who values freedom and liberty can remain indifferent to these images, and hundreds more, readily available on Twitter and other social-media platforms. The Iranian people, made up many diverse ethnicities and faith groups – from Azeris and Kurds, to Zoroastrians and Sunnis – are reasserting their human dignity in the face of a repressive and reactionary Shi’ite regime that is riddled with corruption and driven by an expansionist foreign policy. As the year winds to an end, this story unfolding across Iran is history in the making. It could well be one of the biggest stories of last year.

And yet news media both in Israel and abroad are strangely preoccupied elsewhere. In Israel, the demonstrations against purported corruption dominate the headlines. In many US media outlets, news about the “Russian inquiry” and other Trump administration-related stories are the top items.

We can only guess why this is so.

But we hope that world leaders who value freedom and justice inside Iran and want an end to Iran’s destabilizing role across the Middle East – including on Israel’s northern and southern borders – will not ignore the breathtaking events playing out now in Iran.

Former US president Barack Obama was rightly criticized for failing to come to the aid of Iranians during the 2009 Green Revolution, which was violently put down by the mullah regime in February 2010. A credible claim has been leveled at the Obama administration that its muted response was a result of its vested interest in advancing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Obama’s signature nuclear arms deal with Iran’s rulers. The former US president did not want to endanger the deal by angering the mullahs.

US President Donald Trump has spoken out clearly in favor of Iran’s opposition movement.

“Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad,” Trump tweeted. “Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching!”

Leaders in Europe and elsewhere – along with self-proclaimed proponents of human rights on the Left, not just the Right – should add their voices of support to the brave Iranians standing up to the Islamic Republic’s regime.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put out a video in which he said Israel was a friend to the Iranian people. The problem, he said, was with the regime.

There was a time not so long ago when Israel and Iran were allies. And if one day the Iranian political leadership will go, there is no reason why Israel and Iran cannot once again collaborate.

A free, democratic, and independent Iran would give full expression – not only to the richness of Persian culture, one of the oldest on the planet – but could also tap into the extraordinary talents and energies of this remarkable people. Imagine the synergies of combining Israeli and Iranian abilities.

The only way there is even an outside chance of this happening, however, is if the US under Trump’s leadership, along with other nations, make it clear to Iran that they will not tolerate continued repression of the Iranian people.

As part of restoring the deterrence lost during the Obama era, the US should meet every case of repression with clear consequences, whether in the form of renewed sanctions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or the curtailing of imports, or the suspension of business ties.

You might not be able to tell by reading leading newspapers or watching the major TV news outlets, but we could be witnessing unprecedented signs of change in Iran. World leaders should, through both words and deeds, take advantage of this propitious time.

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