Moscow (GPA) – The Russian and Turkish Foreign Ministries have both issued statements on the protests in Iran sharing one message: external actors need to stay out Tehran’s internal affairs.
As Iran enters its seventh day since protests began in several major cities across the country, Tehran’s allies are now issuing warnings about external actors trying to exploit events on the ground. This criticism, primarily aimed at the US, came from both Ankara and Moscow who warned Washington not to repeat its previous patterns of “aiding” Middle East protests.
The Iranian government, for their part, has fully permitted these recent protests and even acknowledged that the demonstrators have some legitimate grievances. However, this apparently isn’t enough for the US and President Trump.
Trump has voiced his opinions on the Iranian protests several times since they began, in a tone that implies he hopes these events will ultimately topple the Islamic Republic. Such was the attitude on display when Trump tweeted about the protests for a second time on Monday, saying “The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!”
Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
Following these comments by Trump, the first Iranian ally to break the silence on the protests was Russia, which issued a statement via their US embassy’s Twitter. The embassy’s tweet started by expressing Russia’s hope that the demonstrations “won’t develop under the scenario of bloodshed and violence,” but went on to explain that no matter what happens “This is Iran’s internal affair. External interference destabilizing the situation is inadmissible.”
The US is apparently intent on ignoring this warning and instead doubled down by having their UN representative Nikki Haley call for an emergency meeting on the protests, for all “freedom loving people” to stand with Iranian protesters. As usual, Haley’s rhetoric went a step farther than even Trump’s eliciting another sharper response from Russia, this time through Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
Writing on Facebook, Zakharova decided to challenge the United States’ own record of dealing with protests. “There is no doubt that the U.S. delegation [to the U.N.] has something to tell the world,” Zakharova said, “For example, Nikki Haley can share America’s experience in breaking up protests, going into detail about how, say, the mass arrests and the stifling of the Occupy Wall Street movement happened or how Ferguson was ‘quelled.”
Zakharova was, of course, referring to massive protests that have rocked the US in recent years: one concerning corporate control of the US (Occupy Wall Street) and the other in reaction to police brutality. Both made global news when the highly militarized local police forces ended the demonstrations with chemical weapons, mass arrests, and sheer power.
Other Russian officials have also criticized Haley, including Senator Alexey Pushkov, who wrote on Twitter that “Haley, once involved in ‘peace and security’ in Syria, is now concerned about the ‘peace, security and freedom’ in Iran.” Pushkov’s comments make a crucial point in all of this, in that the current protesters (and the US response) look incredibly similar to the Western-backed “protests” in Syria in 2011.
It’s not just Russia that sees the threat of watching events like this play out again, but another Iranian [sometimes] ally, Turkey, has also jumped in to defend the Islamic Revolution.
Unlike their NATO allies in Washington, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry also reiterated on the need for the “preservation of social peace and stability.” Turkey still acknowledged the rights of Iranians to protest but also urged them to “avoid provocations” and said they stood with the Iranian government and recognized its right to “respond to rioters and lawbreakers.”
Ankara also recognized the impact statements from leaders like Trump could have and expressed their desires that “common sense prevails so that the events do not escalate, and that rhetoric and foreign interventions that incite developments are avoided.”
These sentiments were expressed again earlier today when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called President Rouhani. Erdogan expressed his solidarity with Iran, saying Turkey is familiar with being the subject of “hackneyed [and] meddlesome” comments from the US and Israel.
Rouhani has also addressed Trump’s comments several times in the past few days; most notably in a speech where he said: “This gentleman in America who is now trying to sympathize with our nation appears to have forgotten that he called the Iranian nation terrorists several months ago.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi, also issued a statement similar to Zakharova’s, saying “Instead of wasting his time sending useless and insulting tweets regarding other countries, he would be better off seeing to the domestic issues of his own country such as daily killings of dozens of people… and the existence of millions of homeless and hungry people.”
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.