If there is one thing you can always bank on, it is the desire by Iran’s mullahs to always figure out a way to antagonize and terrify the rest of the world even as it says it only wants a nuclear and conflict-free relationship with the rest of the world.
It is an amazing stretch of creativity by Tehran that would rival anything Don Draper could come up with on “Mad Men,” but unlike that seminal cable show which ended its run this weekend with Draper dreaming up the “I Want to Teach the World to Sing” commercial for Coca-Cola, Iran’s mullahs have opted for a repertoire of brutality and provocation.
For example, the regime announced its intention to put Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, imprisoned for the past 10 months, on trial on May 26 alongside his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who is also a journalist, on charges of spying for the U.S.
What is unusual is Iran’s decision to try the case in the Revolutionary Court which typically handles cases of national security, drug smuggling and espionage. The Court was notorious for holding a series of show trials of more than 250 journalists, human rights advocates, dissidents and protestors after the disputed 2009 presidential election that involved forced confessions, stiff prison time and publicized executions.
To say the move by the regime is worrisome is an understatement. It is also even more mindboggling that while social media such as Twitter was flooded by statements of outrage from news organizations and human rights groups, Iran’s lobbying cohorts in the U.S. such as the National Iranian American Council was conspicuously silent. In fact, a casual perusal of Trita Parsi’s Twitter feed showed no condemnation or mention of Rezaian’s plight.
The regime certainly kept busy sending out aggressive messages including one by top mullah Ali Khamenei who in a speech in which he promised the regime’s support for the “oppressed” peoples of the Persian Gulf region, including Yemen and Bahrain. His comments were aimed squarely at Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States who are currently engaged in an air campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebel forces in Yemen.
Those tensions were exacerbated when an Iranian ship headed to Yemen in violation of a coalition naval blockade was joined by Iranian warships as it headed into the Gulf of Aden.
This comes on top of Iran welcoming a delegation from the Taliban from Afghanistan, while Ramadi in Iraq fell to ISIS and Iranian-controlled Shiite militias prepared to move in what could be a sectarian bloodbath with 25,000 refugees caught in the middle.
But the discontent Iran that is brewing isn’t just abroad. In a move to bolster an economy bled dry from corruption, mismanagement and the diversion of billions of dollars into funding proxy wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, Hassan Rouhani announced the suspension of a program that provided financial handouts to Iranians which was itself a replacement for another broken promise for subsidized electricity, gas, water and bread.
Suspension of the payments is likely to fuel even greater discontent among ordinary Iranians whose economic situation worsens while the elites and families of the politically connected enjoy a luxurious lifestyle.
All of which adds up to what promises to be the beginning of a hot summer for Iran filled with domestic discontent.
By Laura Carnahan