The demonstrations in Iran have now entered a third week. How worried are the Iranian authorities? How is this wave of protests different from those in the past? And what needs to happen for the demonstrations to become a revolution and overthrow the regime?
In this week’s “Middle East News Hour,” I discussed these issues with Ahmad Obali, founder and director of Gunaz TV, a U.S.-based Azerbaijani satellite television channel that broadcasts into Iran, Europe and the Middle East.
An ethnic Azerbaijani, Obali is originally from northern Iran, one of the hubs of the current protests. He fled Iran as a young man after the regime arrested him.
According to Obali, it is important that the West express its support for the demonstrators.
“Moral support and giving people the opportunity to express their voice is the best thing that Western governments can do,” he said. Guaranteeing access to the internet is also crucial, he added.
A post-Khomeinist Iran
Obali emphasized that Iran is a multi-national country. He believes that a post-Khomeinist Iran can hold together as a unitary state if it provides cultural and language autonomy for these ethnic groups, along the lines of Canada, Switzerland or India.
“The regime has to go, but the problem is that the regime doesn’t go because there are issues that haven’t been solved, such as lack of coordination among all the ethnic groups,” he says.
According to Obali, the Rubicon will be crossed, in terms of bringing down the regime, if students, tradesmen and oil workers go on strike, paralyzing the state. The Arab Spring revolutions in Egypt and Tunis are the model that apply to Iran today, he argued.
In this week’s episode, I began a new feature: Opening remarks. I spoke about actions taken by the left a month before the election to undermine Israel’s ability to function as a liberal democracy. Let me know what you think. My opening focused on two events: The decision by the Central Elections Commission Chairman Justice Yitzhak Amit to bar former MK Amichai Chikli from running for office and caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s petition to Amit’s commission asking for the CEC to shutter Israel’s only non-leftist television station, Channel 14.
For background on Amichai Chikli, watch my podcast with him from last December here.
Full disclosure, I serve as Channel 14’s diplomatic commentator.
Apologies: My microphone is broken, and the sound from my end is not the best. We are working hard to ensure that the sound problems will be resolved once and for all with a new microphone and a new video program by the next program.
Here’s the show on Youtube.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Caroline Glick