What really happened in Iran?

By Pepe Escobar – posted with permission

A fuel tax hike set the country ablaze and triggered a social backlash

A scorched gas station set ablaze by protesters during a demonstration against a rise in gasoline prices in Eslamshahr, near the Iranian capital of Tehran. Photo: AFP

On November 15, a wave of protests engulfed over 100 Iranian cities as the government resorted to an extremely unpopular measure: a fuel tax hike of as much as 300%, without a semblance of a PR campaign to explain the reasons.

Iranians, after all, have reflexively condemned subsidy removals for years now – especially related to cheap gasoline. If you are unemployed or underemployed in Iran, especially in big cities and towns, Plan A is always to pursue a second career as a taxi driver.

Protests started as overwhelmingly peaceful. But in some cases, especially in Tehran, Shiraz, Sirjan and Shahriar, a suburb of Tehran, they quickly degenerated into weaponized riots – complete with vandalizing public property, attacks on the police and torching of at least 700 bank outlets. Much like the confrontations in Hong Kong since June.

President Rouhani, aware of the social backlash, tactfully insisted that unarmed and innocent civilians arrested during the protests should be released. There are no conclusive figures, but Iranian diplomats admit, off the record, that as many as 7,000 people may have been arrested. Tehran’s judiciary system denies it.

According to Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, as many as 200,000 people took part in the protests nationwide. According to the Intelligence Ministry, 79 people were arrested in connection with the riots only in Khuzestan province – including three teams, supported by “a Persian Gulf state,” which supposedly coordinated attacks on government centers and security/police forces.

The Intelligence Ministry said it had arrested eight “CIA operatives,” accused of being instrumental in inciting the riots.

Now compare it with the official position by the IRGC. The chief commander of the IRGC, Major General Hossein Salami, stressed riots were conducted by “thugs” linked to the US-supported Mujahedin-e Khalq (MKO), which has less than zero support inside Iran, and with added interference by the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Salami also framed the riots as directly linked to “psychological pressure” from the Trump administration’s relentless “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran. He directly connected the protests degenerating into riots in Iran with foreign interference in protests in Lebanon and Iraq.

Elijah Magnier has shown how Moqtada al-Sadr denied responsibility for the burning down of the Iranian consulate in Najaf – which was set on fire three times in November during protests in southern Iraq.

Tehran, via government spokesman Ali Rabiei, is adamant: “According to our information, the attack on the consulate was not perpetrated by the Iraqi people, it was an organized attack.”

Predictably, the American narrative framed Lebanon and Iraq – where protests were overwhelmingly against local government corruption and incompetence, high unemployment, and abysmal living standards – as a region-wide insurgency against Iranian power.

Soleimani for President?

Analyst Sharmine Narwani, based on the latest serious polls in Iran, completely debunked the American narrative.

It’s a complex picture. Fifty-five percent of Iranians do blame government corruption and mismanagement for the dire state of the economy, while 38% blame the illegal US sanctions. At the same time, 70% of Iranians favor national self-sufficiency – which is what Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has been emphasizing – instead of more foreign trade.

On sanctions, no less than 83% agree they exerted a serious impact on their lives. Mostly because of sanctions, according to World Bank figures, Iranian GDP per capita has shrunk to roughly $6,000.

The bad news for the Rouhani administration is that 58% of Iranians blame his team for corruption and mismanagement – and they are essentially correct. Team Rouhani’s promises of a better life after the JCPOA obviously did not materialize. In the short term, the political winners are bound to be the principlists – which insist there’s no possible entente cordiale with Washington at any level.

The polls also reveal, significantly, massive popular support for Tehran’s foreign and military policy – especially on Syria and Iraq. The most popular leaders in Iran are legendary Quds Force commander Gen. Soleimani (a whopping 82%), followed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (67%) and the head of the Judiciary Ebrahim Raisi (64%).

The key takeaway is that at least half and on some issues two-thirds of Iran’s popular opinion essentially support the government in Tehran – not as much economically but certainly in political terms. As Narwani summarizes it, “so far Iranians have chosen security and stability over upheaval every time.”


What’s certain is that Tehran won’t deviate from a strategy that may be defined as  “maximum counter-pressure” – on multiple fronts. Iranian banks have been cut off from SWIFT by the US since 2018. So efforts are intensifying to link Iran’s SEPAM system with the Russian SPFS and the Chinese CIPS – alternative interbank paying systems.

Tehran continues to sell oil – as Persian Gulf traders have repeatedly confirmed to me since last summer. Digital tracking agency Tankertrackers.com concurs. The top two destinations are China and Syria. Volumes hover around 700,000 barrels a day. Beijing has solemnly ignored every sanction threat from Washington regarding oil trading with Iran.

Khamenei, earlier this month, was adamant: “The US policy of maximum pressure has failed. The Americans presumed that they can force Iran to make concessions and bring it to its knees by focusing on maximum pressure, especially in the area of economy, but they have troubled themselves.”

In fact “maximum counter-pressure” is reaching a whole new level.

Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Hossein Khanzadi confirmed that Iran will hold joint naval drills with Russia and China in the Indian Ocean in late December.

That came out of quite a significant meeting in Tehran, between Khanzadi and the deputy chief of the Chinese Joint Staff Department, Major General Shao Yuanming.

So welcome to Maritime Security Belt. In effect from December 27th. Smack on the Indian Ocean – the alleged privileged territory of Washington’s Indo-Pacific policy. And uniting the three key nodes of Eurasia integration: Russia, China and Iran.

Khanzadi said that, “strategic goals have been defined at the level administrations, and at the level of armed forces, issues have been defined in the form of joint efforts.” General Yuanming praised Iran’s Navy as “an international and strategic force.”

But geopolitically, this packs a way more significant game-changing punch. Russia may have conducted naval joint drills with Iran on the Caspian Sea. But a complex drill, including China, in the Indian Ocean, is a whole new ball game.

Yuanming put it in a way that every student of Mahan, Spykman and Brzezinski easily understands: “Seas, which are used as a platform for conducting global commerce, cannot be exclusively beneficial to certain powers.”  So start paying attention to Russia, China and Iran being quite active not only across the Heartland but also across the Rimland.






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  1. As always, Pepe brings the facts. Especially, important are the internal Iran dynamics, the impact of local politics, popular sentiment, examination of mistakes and corrupt practices, and the stability of society under sanctions.

    As for the triad of Iran, Russia and China, the signs and signals are no longer obscure. All three are supportive of a concerted effort to protect one another from the hegemony and hybrid warfare launched against each nation.

    China’s foreign ministry has been outspoken numerous times of late in support of Iran. This is a major change in diplomatic practice for Beijing.

    Russia is working economically via loans to Tehran to bolster the Iranian infrastructure around energy projects. These will provide jobs, electrical output and a sense to the public that Iran is moving forward. Russia’s expertise in nuclear power and electrical grid transmission modernization will assure a swift success in this sector.

    Most importantly, Iran accepts the idea that it cannot stand alone against the Empire. In concert with Russia and China it will weather the storm and come out victorious, as Russia and China are doing.

      • ad hominem statement removed … mod

        1953 Iranian coup d’état
        The 1953 Iranian coup d’état, known in Iran as the 28 Mordad coup d’état, was the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in favour of strengthening the monarchical rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi on 19 August 1953, orchestrated by the United States and the United Kingdom. It was the first covert action of the United States to overthrow a foreign government during peacetime. Mosaddegh had sought to audit the documents of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, a British corporation and to limit the company’s control over Iranian oil reserves. Upon the refusal of the AIOC to co-operate with the Iranian government, the parliament voted to nationalize Iran’s oil industry and to expel foreign corporate representatives from the country. After this vote, Britain instigated a worldwide boycott of Iranian oil to pressure Iran economically.

  2. “Team Rouhani’s promises of a better life after the JCPOA obviously did not materialize”.

    Gosh, I wonder why?

    If A and B agree to a solemn contract whereby A pays B $1 million, and in return B pays A a quantity of goods… and then B declares that he is not after all going to deliver any goods, but still insists on the money…

    That is obviously A’s fault, eh?

    The Americans promised to raise sanctions of Iran met their terms. Iran met their terms, and then the Americans revealed that they had had their fingers crossed all along, and were not going to raise the sanctions.

    Hardly the fault of “Iranian corruption”, is it?

    All over the world the crooked lawyers of Washington have been playing the same tricks for decades. They attack a country with everything except all-out war, then criticize that country’s government for the consequences.

  3. “So welcome to Maritime Security Belt. In effect from December 27th. Smack on the Indian Ocean – the alleged privileged territory of Washington’s Indo-Pacific policy. And uniting the three key nodes of Eurasia integration: Russia, China and Iran”.

    The smart money on Diego Garcia will already be planning its escape routes. That place is such a sitting duck… and it could very easily become crispy fried duck.

  4. Smack on the Indian Ocean – the alleged privileged territory of Washington’s Indo-Pacific policy. And uniting the three key nodes of Eurasia integration: Russia, China and Iran.

    Smack in the middle of “INDO-PACIFIC” is the Honsha Islands (Paracel/Spratly), the Indian Ocean is not paert of Indonesia.


    The pivot to INDO-PACIFIC is a choke-point to cut off oil/cargo to&from China & Iran

    The natural choke-points are Singapore, Penang, and Sea of China.

    I think the “Billionaires” all came to an agreement that the shooting war should happen in an isolated area for the USA to stage their blockade of shipping between IRAN & CHINA, and that remote location is the Paracel/Spratly, most interesting is that area has the “DEEPEST SINKHOLE” on earth. Why would CIA want that?

    Lastly “Spratly” was a UK boatbuilder for the East India Company (ANZ Founders), famous company that ran Opium between India & China, back in the 1800’s.

    • “INDO Pacific” used to mean, just what it say’s “Indonesia Basin”, and “Asia Pacific” Japan, Korea, Vietnam, to Indonesia, including Malaysia/Singapore.

      USA got involved and expanded it to India, with the intention of containing Iran. Original “Pivot to ASIA”, which was Obama’s CIA plan to contain China, has now under Trump expanded to contain China&Iran.

      This is interesting because Obama’s father was Indonesian CIA, thus Obama was quite familiar with Indonesia, and got them to go along with the “Pivot to ASIA”, under the “INDO Pacific” plan. But Trump “Heritage Foundation” pals, got the definition extended to include all of the Indian Ocean. What is going on here is like a UN, but of the sea, where USA gets member nations to be cops of the sea, which surely means boarding and such, but does it mean that India can board US-MIL ships?? Or are they exempt, or all member’s of the new “INDO Pacific” team exempt from boarding one anothers ships. Sound an awful like a ‘new club’ where if your not a member your not allowed to sail in your own waters, without risk of loss of your ship and/or cargo.

      Trouble with the new definition of “INDO Pacific” is the Indian’s are very reluctant to be cops in the South Sea of China, on the behalf of the USA, it truth what’s in it for them?

      Once again, most of this debate is USA/Israel(CIA) centric, thinking, and using maps and words that are biased towards CIA think.


      It’s fairly clear the INDIA is NOT playing ball, like the USA wants. India doesn’t even have control of its own Indian Ocean, but tell India to become a cop for all of the Pacfic Asian waters, will USA-Israel would have to pick up the tab.

      There is no doubt also that Australia is also being told to be a cop for this vast area’s of ocean, but again INTL MARITIME law is quite clear about ‘freedom of the seas’, seems like the CIA-MOSSA has redefine freedom as your free to sail, so long as you belong to the ‘club’

      WRT to IRAN of course all of this is to restrict China & Iran’s free right to ship stuff as they wish upon open waters, something that has been maritime law for +500 years.

      Vietnam too like Indonesia will have no problem belonging to the club, as South Vietnam is owned by the CIA-MOSSAD, almost all the factorys ( think NIKE ) in Vietnam are owned by the ANZ Israel dual-citizen passport holders. Vietnam will relish the right to police the “South China Sea” as it would give them the cover to steal stuff as they wish, wrapped by an American Flag.

  5. Israel’s War Minister Naftali Bennett Threatens Iran


    “Israeli ruling authorities are the most extremist in Jewish state history. Arab MKs aside, the vast majority of Knesset members are militantly hardline racists, threatening regional peace and stability.

    New Right party head Naftali Bennett earlier held various ministries, including Education, Economy, Religious Services and Diaspora Affairs.

    In early November, Netanyahu appointed him war minister,

    GE adherents believed all Judea, Samaria, and Gaza land belongs exclusively to Jews, the view shared by Yesha Council hardliners.

    Expanding settlements and displacing their longtime Palestinian residents reflects core Israeli policy.

    Bennett earlier encouraged settlers to shoot Palestinians,

    He bragged about “kill(ing) lots of Arabs in my life (during military service). There’s no problem with that,” he stressed.

    Over the weekend he threatened Iran, saying:

    “We are telling the Iranians: Syria will become your Vietnam. If you don’t leave, you will become entrenched and you will bleed because we will work without hesitation to remove aggressive forces from Syria (sic),” adding:

    “It is no secret that Iran is trying to establish a ring of fire around our country (sic). It is already based in Lebanon and is trying to establish in Syria, Gaza and more (sic).”

    “We need to move from containment to attack.”

    The neanderthals of jewnazia are very upset their plan to destroy and occupy Syria failed.

  6. The Manchurian in the WH has been instructed to upgrade the US nuclear arsenal so that Israel may have a modernised arsenal (the SoS is really in charge now, the wasps have been dethroned or replaced by malleable homos like Lindsey) that it cannot upgrade by itself. How the “resistance” will reply to this threat is the real issue before us now, both Russia and China do not want to spend trillions in an arms/space race with a great satan that has a limitless US dollar QE purse.