On Thursday, what began, according to some, as a relatively small protest over a limp economy and government corruption has developed into widespread unrest, which has become political in nature. As the situation has unfolded, a number of observers have tried to argue the complexity of the situation. Prima facie, their position seems to have merit as counter-protesters have also descended into the streets over the weekend. Possibly further boosting this line of thinking, President Hassan Rouhani has declared that protesters have the right to criticize the government in an effort to quell the turmoil that has rocked the theocracy. According to the BBC, he also admitted that there was validity to some of the anger expressed while making the distinction between the expression of these grievances and acts of violence or the malicious destruction of public property.
As the protesters of the regime continue to fight for a different Iran, their plight has elicited mixed reactions from world leaders and other key figures on the world stage. President Trump has stood apart from many in unequivocally condemning the Iranian regime; it has garnered a lot of attention.
With his string of comments, Trump has again signaled the departure that the United States has taken under his administration from Obama’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Tehran. Some have welcomed such bold talk. They see it as an indication that America is again acting as a world power should.
Others, however, have opted for a different approach from that of the president. As an example, former Secretary of State Kerry has shown support for the right of Iranians to speak freely while otherwise exercising restraint in rhetoric.
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. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching! #IranProtests— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2017
The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most.... pic.twitter.com/W8rKN9B6RT— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2017
With humility about how little we know about what's happening inside Iran, this much is clear: it's an Iranian moment and not anyone else's. But the rights of people to protest peacefully and voice their aspirations are universal and governments everywhere should respect that.— John Kerry (@JohnKerry) December 31, 2017
Moreover, the LA Times reported that some critics have charged that Trump’s vocal backing of the protesters is not enough: He must equally put forth “a more coherent policy toward Tehran” than he has thus far.
There are then other major players in the international political arena that have remained largely silent on the protests. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have done little apart from watching the tumultuous events from afar. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, has refrained from making any statement as has Italian politician, Federica Mogherini, who has often spoken on the subject of human rights.
Perhaps in defense of the listless reactions or speechlessness of these people and others, some have asserted that these protests lack the organization and possibly the stamina of those of 2009. This assertion seems irrelevant though. The Iranian protesters are challenging the pillars upon which the theocratic regime rests in a way that has resonated not only throughout their country but also the world, despite the silence in some corners. In their struggle, hundreds have been arrested, and two have been tragically killed in the western town of Dorud. As such, it is ultimately difficult to justify the muted response or complete absence of engagement on the part of important players on the international stage.