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tv   Iran Protests  CSPAN  January 8, 2018 8:40am-10:09am EST

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house live on c-span and the senate live here on c-span2. >> the c-span bus continues its 50 capitals tour this month, with stops in raleigh, columbia, atlanta, and montgomery. on each visit we'll speak with state officials during our live washington journal program, follow the tour and join us on tuesday, january 16th at 9:30 a.m. eastern for our stop in raleigh north north carolina, when our guest is north carolina attorney general josh stein. >> next, a look at the scale and potential implications of ongoing protests in iran. this discussion was hosted by the washington institute for middle east policy. it's about an hour and a half. >> newt for near east policy.
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>> folks, thank you for making the effort to get mere on this snow day in washington. it's not really a snow day, but half an inch on the ground. that qualifies as a snow day here in washington. needless to say, i don't think any of us expected that here in the first week of 2018 the iran story we would be focused on would be this story, a story of protests, domestic unrest, really, in the sort of biggest demonstrations we've seen since 2009. on the contrary, i think that what everybody expected to be talking about this week and next week was the question of sanctions, waivers, decertification of the jcpoa and efforts in congress to amend the legislation. and that obviously, all still is in play, but it's now been cast in i think a quite different light by what's happening inside iran. and so, we have convened a
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panel of our experts to discuss this issue, the protests in iran and their implications for not just the region, not just iran, but also for u.s. policy. from a lot of different angles. i'm going to introduce folks in the order i'll call on them. we'll start with patrick clawson. patrick is the morningstar senior fellow and director of research here at the institute. and he's going to look at the background to these protests. where are they coming from, what are the causes and what's been happening inside iran, especially economically that can explain the unrest we're seeing and then we'll turn via video to our colleague, one of washington's most skillful interpreters of domestic events in iran and he'll look where the protests are now and where they might be going in the future. and then we'll turn to mike eisensta eisenstadt. mike is the director of our
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military studies program at the institute. he'll look at the role of security services in these protests and also, what the protests might mean again for the-- what it will mean. and i'll turn to hanin ghaddar, he's going to look at how the protests might reverberate in lebanon, outside of iran's borders, certainly in places where iran is spending the billions of dollars that the protesters have cited at one of their grievances and throughout all of this, as is our practice here at the washington institute, we will talk about what u.s. policy makers should be doing about all of this. i think so far, i'll just give you my sort of one minute of personal take here. so far, i think the trump administration has tried to demonstrate its support for the protesters through the president's twitter feed, through statements by u.s.
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officials, and it's tried to rally some sort of international response, international pressure to complement the u.s. statement. i would say so far international statements have been relatively mild especially compared to american statements, so that effort is still underway. i'm sure that we'll see this effort develop as the days and weeks unfold. we may see some more sanctions on iran for human rights abuses, and of course, i think it will inevitably play into the big decisions next week regarding sanctions waivers, and certification or decertification of the jcp 0. a, butle-- but i'll leave my contribution from that. we can speak from here or the table, patrick. it's up to you. >> so my former colleagues at the international monetary fund may report about iran's economy say what we macro economists would say about iran's economic situation, namely that it's
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pretty good, that iran's gdp to grow this year more than the u.s. gdp. iran's budget deficit is going to be smaller relative to the size of the economy than that of the united states. iran is running a healthy current account surplus in its international trade, unlike the united states, which runs a large deficit. and so that the picture looks pretty decent. well, i thought that it was telling that when the new york times ran a very nice article the other day by-- about iran's economic situation, it was written by a novelist, who got the economic situation much better than my imf colleagues did. while the macroeconomic numbers may be pretty good, the situation for ordinary iranians has not been. that it hasn't been at all a trickle down, that in fact, the annual survey that iran does of the living standards of people
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has shown that those standards are still 10% or a little more than 10% below where they were a decade ago and that unemployment is rising. it's at 12 1/2%. and, in fact, what's happening is that, as more jobs are being created in iran, that more people are coming into the labor force. we discovered that there are a lot of iranians that always wanted to have jobs and just got en discouraged and dropped out of the labor force and are now coming back in and in particular, inflation is back up again. that's one of the accomplishments of rouhani's first term, he was able to bring inflation down from 43% down into single digits, well, it's back up again. furthermore, the price increases are heavily concentrated on items consumed by ordinary working people. so, bread prices rose for the first time in three years by 15% a couple of weeks ago.
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iranians, by the way, eat 353 pounds of bread a year, think about that. that's impressive. and famously, egg prices and chicken prices are up sharply. furthermore, as pointed out, the rich in iran are flaunting their wealth. i recommend the instagram account that has well over a quarter of a million followers called rich kids of tehran. you can see the life styles that truly ostentatious. if you're in the market for a nice maserati, you can see a good selection of them and the parties that they throw, the clothes that they wear, i know enough things to my significant other, about clothing to say, that's expensive. and frankly, it looks like nothing so much, the feel of what's going on in iran at the moment is nothing so much like what happened in the shah's days where the shah in 1971
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organized a coronation ceremony, bringing thousands of foreign guests, chefs from france, they drank over 2000 bottles of wine. i mean, it was ostentatious wealth and the shah's government shifted from concentrating on national economic development and concentrating on the good times for the select few. and that is increasingly what the islamic republic feels like. so, that's the overall picture behind these protests. now, let me focus on two specific issues though, one is the cost of iran's destabilizing foreign activities. we often say that, oh, well, there's support for these various terrorist movements and their nuclear programs, really not that expensive. well, that may be true in absolute numbers if you compare it to the u.s. economy, but
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it's not particularly true compared to the size of iran's economy. now, we don't have precise numbers, obviously on how much they spend on supporting the syrian government, various terrorist groups, the u.s. government often likes to use its internal thinking, the number $7 billion a year, which i think is a bit high, but if we throw in the nuclear program and the missile program, it's certainly in the billions of dollars, i think it would be very hard to make the argument that the expenditures are less than about 4 or 5 billion a year, roughly half of that going to the syrian government, a big chunk going to hezbollah, that nuclear and missile program is not cheap either. and at 4 to 5 billion dollars, that's 1% of the gdp. well, by comparison 1% in the united states it would be 180 billion dollars. now, i don't think anybody would say that $180 billion is a small amount of money.
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well, 1% of gdp is real money. and that's a minimal estimate. as i say, what the u.s. government usually uses is the estimate twice that and furthermore, that's just for the direct cost. if we throw in indirect costs we get a lot higher number. so, for instance, the new budget that was proposed by president rouhani for the next fiscal year in iran says that military expenditures are going to be $12 billion. well, much of that's frankly, not necessary, except because of iran's adventurous foreign policies. and so, certainly there's another, at least 1% of gdp that is due to the adventurous foreign policy. by the way, that $12 billion estimate, some people have said, oh, he's trying to inflate it in order to embarrass the revolutionary guards. actually, that's finally brought the iranian government estimate of what it spends on the military close to that of
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international institutions like the usual arbiter of these things, the stockholm international peace institute which says iran's spending is $12 billion a year. my first would be iran's destabilizing activities are, in fact, real money. indeed, it's instructive that the amount that iran is spending on these activities, minimal estimates, 1% of gdp, that is more than the budget cuts that rouhani proposed. he proposed cutting in half the expenditure and cash money to be given to the ordinary iranians, and that would not have been necessary, except for the expenditure on these destabilizing activities. well, my second point would be things could get a whole lot
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worse. the -- the banking system in iran is -- there has been explosion of credit institutions. they're kind of like credit unions in the united states that hold 25% of deposits and many of them are connected with the revolutionary guards and many are prominent clerks, claiming they're collecting islamic taxes. and these credit institutions have paid little attention to the central bank of iran, and they've been paying outrageous deposit rates and charging outrageous loans. when you're charging 35% a year for loans, i tell you, there's not a whole lot of legitimate economic activities that can pay that kind of interest rate. and several of them failed in november, and we saw street protests in tehran, the first time we've seen chants of death
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during those protests, there's no system of deposit insurance, if the credit institution fails, you lose your money. the banks are not much better shape. they are desperate for liquidity. they've been borrowing from credit institutions. the central bank of iran has put a cap on the amount that institutions can pay in interest. 90% of the institutions were violating that cap as of last june. and the central bank has been trying to get iran's banks to report under iran's generally accepted accounting practices, not the international accepted practices, but iran's accepted practices and the fewest banks that have done that have gone from reporting the profits to massive losses. the government has spent two years dithering about the situation. there's been no action on proposals to modify the central bank law to allow it to regulate the credit
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institutions and this is a classic recipe for disaster. if you think that i'm exaggerating, let me just quote from rouhani's speech, in which he was introduced with the budget. he said, quote, 25% of the money market is in the hands of fixed fraudulent institution. when they want they interfere with the money market, the gold market, and i raise this with great urgency with the supreme court leader, discuss how 3 or 4 million people are having their lives totally ruined by the actions of these fraudulent institutions. i've gotten pressure from all sides. you will not believe the pressure letters that i started to get from different institutions at the state. frankly, the banking system in iran could collapse. and as i say, there's no deposit insurance. this, by the way, is what keeps
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iran's banks isolated in the international financial system. independent of what happens with u.s. sanctions, independent of what happens with the financial action task force, which is meeting later this month in may will evaluate now iran's action plan is going, it is this problem with the banks which keeps the banks away from the international financial institutions. finally, one last word of pessimism about we economists like to steal from other social scientists, so let me steal from demography. demographers tell us it's young people out for protest. there's a general rule of thumb that revolutions are more likely to occur where the median age was under 26, which is where iran was in 1999. iran's population is rapidly
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aging. the median age in iran is exact same as globally. slightly higher than the median age in israel and it's eight higher than the median age in pakistan. ten years higher than the median age in iraq and india and 11 years higher than afghanistan. with the average age in iran 31 and revolution rarely occurs when the age is over 26, within the decade the average age in iran will get to be 36. >> all right. thank you, patrick. i feel like with everything that's happened in 2017 and 2018 so far, we all feel like we're rapidly aging, not just the iranians, so we're going to turn now to a video. and i see we have him right here. now, take it away.
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>> oh, we cannot hear him. just one moment while we sort this out. [inaudible conversation] >> cory, should i move onto the next speaker, do you think? [inaudible conversation] >> all right. so-- while we sort out the technical issues, let's move to mike eisenstadt as our next speaker. >> thank you. let me just say that first, i
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think the first thing i would say is that the regime has been very effective in closing down information coming out of iran, and as a result, it's been very hard to really read events there. as it is in any-- it's hard enough even when there is a flow of information in these kind of developments to read events going on thousands of miles away during potentially violent and potentially revolutionary situations. but even the videos that have been getting out have been very low quality and it's been very hard to judge which units are to judge and what's going on in the streets. that said my comments are somewhat tentative. there are things that are rooted in long-term trends in iranian society and in terms of the way the regime has responded to previous bouts of violence, which enable us to at least create a frame work of analysis here. so let me just say the first
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thing in talking about these kind of events in iran, is to understand that the founder, the founders of islamic republic are revolutionaries and there's nothing that revolutionaries fear more than counter revolution. because, first of all, they know that revolutions can occur. they made a revolution once in their youth. also, the political in iran, and it's rooted in conspirat conspiratorial world view and see that arn the republic and some of these are true, there have been conspiracies in the past and that also kind of informs the regime's response. and then finally, what they've seen is that in the past, many of the events of outbreaks of violence, whether it be in the 2009 or 1999, or in the mid '90s, '94, '95 period were in
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cities and were done by, in many cases, the urban middle and upper classes. now we see a series of protests which involve the provincial working class and while the recent events have exposed deep class and regional cleavages in iranian society, it does not bode well for the future. one thing they said in 2009, if only the people in tehran and other large cities protesting from the urban middle and upper-- middle classes could get their rural working classes involved, the regime would really be in trouble. well they're involved now, but the urban middle class and upper middle class in tehran is more interested in evolutionary change and reform and not revolution, but this does not bode well for the future because the most important classes in the country are shown to be, at least elements of those classes, to be disaffected from the regime.
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another thing that the regime's concerned about is, in the past they've been concerned about invasion and rightfully so. historically iran has been invaded a number of times. the arab invasion, the mongols, world war ii, the brits and the russians. and then you had iraq in 2003. but after 2003, with the u.s. getting mired in insurgency, counter-insurgency campaigns in iraq and afghanistan, those fears have been diminished somewhat. iran has been more concerned about soft warfare, efforts to subvert the regime. now, iran has great strategic depth or geographic depth to deal with invasion. they have mountains around the perimeter of the country, but every iranian citizen is vulnerable to messages, subversive messages from outside the country brought in by satellite tv and internet,
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and the like. that's why they've put a lot of efforts in jamming satellite communications and controlling the internet and the like. now, let me just say a few things about the lessons that the people who rule iran today drew from their experience in making the revolution against the shah. and these lessons learned have been modified by their own experiences in dealing with subsequent bouts of violence as i mentioned before in the mid '90s, and 1999 and 2009 and now most recently, the most recent round. first, the need for strong decisive leadership by the political echelon. the shah was constantly driven by doubts about-- first of all, he was suffering from health problems, with cancer, he was on medications, he was constantly fearful that the united states would abandon him and throw him under the bus and was conspiring with the opposition against him. and as a result, he showed the-- he didn't have-- he didn't show the necessary resolve when push came to shove
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to do what it-- what needed to be done from the regime's point of view, in order to stay in power. and as a result, the islamic republic has by and large been very quick in responding to signs of opposition to the regime, and we've seen this, although in in case, in this current case, i think they've-- because of the social base of the opposition this time, i think they were a little more hesitant than in the past for reasons i'll explain more in a minute. it had to do with the social composition of the security forces and there's-- first they have guidance and enjoy strong political support. the shah has converted his military from a pillar of the regime to a regional power projection force during the course of his rule. so when the events in '78 and '79 occurred they weren't ready
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for internal security. they did not perform well in this role, either acting with excessive or insufficient restraint in some occasions, resulting in large numbers of casualties, but not enough casualties to nip in the bud the revolution and to count the opposition. so it's kind of really, the worst of both worlds and also, the shah's response and his self-doubt prevented the military from operating effectively. the security forces must also be properly trained and equipped and employed. now, we've seen iran has spent a lot of money on the riot forces and you see in the equipment that they bring, when they face the public, they have special units with riot gear, and i'm not sure the training is so great. that's one issue where i think they could use a-- more work, but one thing that's been very important as a result of their experience in the revolution, what happened
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during the revolution, against the shah, when people were killed, you had a 40-day mourning period and at the end of the 40-day morning period for the people killed in the previous round of demonstrations, sudden another round and they have to be careful with lethal force to prevent that from happening. as a result, they tend to rely on face-to-face violence on the street, and by and large, only the very discriminate use of firearms. i think in some lack of discipline, firearms were used, the second round of violence, but they're very careful to an avoid local overkill. and during the shah's rule, a lot of the junior ranks of the military, the junior officers
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had recently had gotten college degrees and were exposed on the college campuses to many of the revolutionary currents in iran and many of the officers were sympathetic to the opposition as well as many of the enlisted ranks who were from the same social background. this has been the constant problem or con standpoint fear of islamic republic. this was maybe not such a problem in 1990 or '99 when still a lot of the security forces who are by and large drawn from, you know, not from major cities or from middle and lower middle classes and the working class, were dealing with upper middle class people and there was a class divide that was at work there, but during the current round of violence, this has been a real problem because now you have the people who in theory the revolution was made for facing against the security forces who are supposed to be protecting those people and representing
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those people and in many cases are drawn from those parts of iranian society. so, this has also been a factor, i think, in their kind of very restrained and careful response in dealing with the current violence. that said, let me just discuss, and i'll wrap it up in just a couple more minutes. iran's message, their art and science and social control. as i mentioned, trying to avoid large scale use of lethal force, there's no tianmen square moment, but you saw in tiananmen square, in china, the army went out with tanks in the street. you don't see that in iran. there's also fear that this would fracture the military and again, they don't want to set and train this kind of snowball effect against the regime. prefer face-to-face and previous rounds of violence,
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there were chains involved. the security forces would come with chains and that would tell the people who were less down hearted in the opposition, and intimidating and it has an effect on the opposition. they prefer to identify leaders of the opposition and pull them away, put them under house arrest, induce confessions about, you know, that they're working with foreign intelligence services and there by demoralize the opposition. as we saw in 2009, a lot of common protesters were brought in, subject to mistreatment, sexual and scatological humiliation, sleep deprivation and let loose to go home and tell people what they experienced under detention, which was extremely humiliating and had a dramatic psychological impact in demoralizing the opposition. undermining the morale of the opposition is key to how the iranians do it.
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they basically focus on, as i mentioned decaptation, what do you do in the current circumstances, you have a leaderless opposition. it doesn't work. demoralization, pushing back gradually over time i think is their preferred, wait, quote, of doing things. let me quote a news week correspondent in tehran in 2009, to cover the uprising then, where he talked about what he was told by a government about the techniques for dealing with these problems. the minister said the problem with the shah's secret police they thought they could break the will through physical pressure. that hardened the victim's resolve. how to break a man's soul without using much soul against his body. i think that really encapsulates kind of the regime's approach to dealing with these kind of problems. so, how does this end and where
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does it go? first of all, i have no idea the exact future trajectory of violence and opposition in iran. these things are impossible to predict. to some extent it will be a function of how the regime handles it. if they engage in missteps we could see a dramatic increase in violence. if you have in iran black sunday of 1978 where several hundred people were killed in one day and further energized the revolution. so, if they engage in missteps, it could add new impetus to the opposition. long-term, i think in the past we've seen iran after 2003, after, for instance, the u.s. invasion of eye-- iraq, iran would have more that would fight an american invasion force. i think we see in the coming years more to internal security, away from force building that might be-- have use in external
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operations. but that said, in terms of iran's deployment in places like syria and yemen and iraq, by and large, they're using very small numbers of people from a very small portion of the military and also some other parts of the irgc. it's never been less than a fraction of 1% of iranian military deployed overseas as part of their regional activities so i don't really think it will have a major impact on their activities in syria, for instance. anyhow, syria is winding down and iranian casualties in syria are way down over the past months. to the degree that people are demanding an end to iran's intervention in foreign area, they could taye, look, we're retrenching and deaths in syria in december are way down compared to the previous month, about less than half, i think from 12 to 5 and i think all they have to do is use more
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lebanese, hezbollah, and other fighters, they will be okay in that regard. finally in terms of policy, i think what we should be doing, i think by and large, events in iraq, iran will be most affected by developments on the ground, but it's important that we do certain things to shield to the degree that we can, the iranian people from the harsh, potentially harsh actions by the regime. and create space for the opposition to continue to protest peacefully. again, the longer these go on, the longer it will have impact on the economy and there's no reason for us in that light to snap back op nuclear sanctions because these will have an impact on slowing the economy. a, people will stay home because of the security situation and they won't go to work and b, any company that was thinking about investing in iran now i think will think twice and the numbers i think we're thinking of investing are much less than expected because
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of the threat of american sanctions and the like and i think this will only further chase potential investors away. so, i think, really, you know, there's no need for us to waive the nuclear-- to not waive the nuclear sanctions now, we should continue with the policy we're going, don't pull out of jcp 0. a because that will redirect the attention of the iranian people from the regime's inability to solve their financial problems to us and we shouldn't make the united states the issue here now. and i'll conclude my comments with that. so, thank you. >> great, thanks very much, mike eisenstadt. i think we're ready to go now with this, so let's try turning to him once again. [inaudible] >> we still cannot hear him.
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[inaudible conversations] >> i'm sure that normally he's audible when he speaks. so he can hear us, but we can't hear him still. maybe we should move on to-- >> i'm going to hang up and re-call. >> we'll move on to hanin, musical chairs here, take it away. >> thank you very much, michael. the protests that we are witnessing today in iran are not restricted to iran in-- >> welcome to blue jeans-- >> apologies. to connect-- [phone dialing]
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>> can you hear us? so he can hear us, but we can't hear him. let's move on to hanin. thank you. >> okay so the discontent and the anger that has part of the process in iran that we're seeing today is not restricted to iran when it comes to the regime's operations in the region. hezbollah, that is leading iran's military operations in the region, is also facing its own and very similar challenges in its own constituency, mainly in lebanon. the context and the size of this content in lebanon are similar to what we're seeing in iran today and the background of the protests in iran. a little about the context here. the accumulating anger that led to these protests have-- we've been seeing a lot of
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signs of accumulated anger in lebanon. this has increased drastically with hezbollah's involvement in the war in syria. not only because the war in syria is dragging and the war in syria has caused the community more deaths, more losses than in all hezbollah's wars combined, but mainly because it has affected the economic situation of hezbollah's constituency as well. in lebanon, the only two institutions that are actually paying salaries on time today are the lebanese government, and hezbollah. the rest of the private sector, local ngo's, even except for the international companies, of course, are going through a major economic problem. so hezbollah and the lebanese state are-- lebanese state to is certain extent, of course. there are hezbollah southern suburbs, knowing that there are
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4.5 million lebanese in lebanon, and 700,000 residents. and within the shia community as a whole, according to estimates, a quarter of the she in lebanon are on hezbollah payroll. the rest are facing problems. see what happened-- this is the context. with the syrian war, like and also budgets in iran and the economic problems in iran. syria's war, hezbollah's budget did not increase, but changed drastically. in the past before the war in syria, the whole shia community was benefitting from hezbollah's social services, which had also sometimes served non-shias, lebanese. at one point this circle of beneficiaries start today
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shrink to only hezbollah's shias, hezbollah's constituency not all of the shia. so today, social services, because of these budget cuts, have shrank only catering to hezbollah's fighters and their immediate families. so, what we have today is hezbollah paying salaries for people to go fight and people are going to fight in order to get these salaries, for these people, it's not really about the same-- they're not fighting for the cause. they don't really feel they're doing this for because seriously, the road to jerusalem passes through damascus and aleppo. they're doing that because the salary is available. for the rest, the economic problems have really increased and the class decisions, divisions in-- are very clear today. if you go there today you have very, very poor neighborhoods
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and very rich neighborhoods. the middle class neighborhoods are start to go disintegrate into poor or rich. one considered a middle class neighborhood, part of it today is very poor and the rest is rich. the rich are benefitting from the war in syria and the poor have no options, but to fight in syria. so, and those fighting in syria are not only getting the salary, but also getting whatever is left of the social services and their families, so what you have today is a huge gap, not only a class decision, but a culture gap between the fighters and nonfighters and this is creating serious tension between the two communities within the shia communities. the fighter's community and the rest of the community, the shia community, including hezbollah's community. and so, this, the sign of this discontent had been expressed several times in lebanon and there have been protests inside the strong hold in beirut. there have been protests not
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really reported because they were not considered important and because they were contained very quickly, but there have been protests, one of them was probably more important than the other and most-- the poorest neighborhood in hezbollah's strong hold, in beirut. for the first time the shias, went to the street not for the first time they went to the street, but for the first time they went to the street and actually bad-mouthed hezbollah, and the war in syria. this has never happened before and this happened only a few months ago. there have been some economic protests, protests against inflation, protests against social services, but this is for the first time there have been protests inside by hezbollah supporters against political issues. so, this has been the case. only last year, during the municipal elections in lebanon, in some of hezbollah's headquarters and the city which
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is mostly shias. 45% of the shiites voted against hezbollah and amal combined, which, and this has-- this is only one example of many places in lebanon where the shiites voted against hezbollah. these are signs of discontent anyway similar to what we're seeing today. and the hezbollah by force, people who bad-mouthed hezbollah and apologized in front of the camera and they apologized because of the fear not because of regret. and it doesn't mean that discontent is-- has gone because nothing has changed and we're looking today at 2018 as the next step for hezbollah and the lebanese in general where we have the parliamentary elections, the next parliamentary elections in 2018. they're seen as the authority without services and in 2018,
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it will be the authority when they win almost 70% of the parliament in lebanon and they will be definitely like officially the authority that democratically won lebanon and they will keep on having decreased services and will not be benefitting from this authority, which means that we-- i will not be surprised if we see more protests within the community and if the protests continue in iran and things started to develop in iran, in lebanon this will reverberate and the shiites will look at this as a sign and they're already there. the discontent has not really gone away. it's not a coincidence when the protests happened. there was a video that went viral, of a woman telling-- bad-mouthing and telling that he has forced her and other women within the shia community
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in lebanon to sell their bodies and in marriage, it's a temporary marriage only among the shia encouraged basically by the etiology. basically it's a legal prostitution encouraged by hezbollah and also very popular in iran. this woman basically was telling that his war in syria is forcing them to sell their bodies through this. and it's not a coincidence that one of the first videos that we saw in iran during these protests also is from a woman in iran street saying the same thing. it's not a coincidence because the grievances are the same and the context is the same. thank you. >> thank you, hanin. dare i ask we can try one more time for this. i apologize for the audio issues. we want to hear from him if we can connect him.
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[inaudible conversations] >> do we have the audio, cory, or no? >> do you hear me? >> hello? >> oh, we can hear him a little bit. can we turn him up? >> hello, good afternoon, everyone. . >> just a moment, we're trying to increase your volume. go ahead, say something. >> is this okay now? >> is that all right? can people hear him? >> do you hear me? >> okay. yes. okay, go ahead. >> speak loudly. >> speak as loud as you can. >> okay. good afternoon, everybody. do you hear me now fine? >> speak as loud as you can, thank you. >> okay. recent protests in iran are
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just the expansion of protests started about three months ago in iran-- [inaudible] those who lost their money in private banks and institutions. so, the whole thing is not new, but it's obvious a new scale in recent years and it's different from what's happened because the protests that you have where it is now-- had the cities [inaudible] many of these-- so, i think the whole thing was not that much-- >> i'm sorry, i'm going to cut
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you off, because it's just too quiet. i'm afraid that folks here are just not able to make out what you're saying. so, apologies for that. i'm going to instead move to the question and answer period. so i apologize again to folks for the technical audio issues there. and i said, when i moved to q & a to discuss as i said the implications of policy going forward. i'm going to give folks in the audience to ask their questions, but i want to start one question which i think will increasingly be on people's minds as these protests develop or subside depending on what's happening in the next coming days. if they don't subside, of course, i think that has profound implications for iran and the region. assuming these protests are either suppressed or simply fizzle out on their own. i'm curious to what each of our speakers will think will be the long-term implication for iran at region. one thing, for example after
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the 2009 green movement. even after people had been cleared out of the streets you had the coalition forces and pragmatic traditional forces with i put quite a pressure on the hardline elements of the regime, which led to-- i won't say-- lead to the election of rouhani. any long-term implications what it it will be. >> and the big question is what happens when khomeini dies, and it's going to happen sooner or later. and whoever takes over will have an opportunity for a reset and the question is what will that reset look like. and i think what the protests have done is shaken the conviction on the part of the leadership that they have the hearts and minds of ordinary iranians and for all the noise that you hear in the big
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cities, especially north tehran, when you get right down to it, the hearts and minds of ordinary iranians are with them. they can't be sure of that any longer and they can't be sure of just how much the ideology really matters to those people and since the regime is built on ideology. so the ideology is going wobbly at the knees, that's a problem. there have already been a lot of iranian commentators the last years that iran feels more and more like brezhnev soviet union. and they're mouthing the ideology, but that's not what they're about. of course, iran's successes abroad, which have indeed led to quite a burst of national pride in iran, and somebody who left the regime kind of reinvent itself, as iranian nationalists, as much as islamic revolutionary, but if
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it turns out that ordinary iranians, while they may be proud of iran's accomplishments abroad, they don't want to pay for it. and they really rather see the money used elsewhere. that's going to be a big problem for the regime, big problem for the regime. >> if i could just dovetail with patrick's comments. many people, including myself had thought that as a result of the activities of the irgc against isil, the irgc gained a new kind of degree of respect in iranian society and kind after rock star and what is interesting to see the degree to which the hostility of many of the protesters are not just directed against the clerics, but against the irgc, which is a kind of a clerical military system which is kind of are, you know, deeply embedded in
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the economy. a lot of people assumed if there were to be a post clerical regime or even if the clerical regime would continue after khomeini's death, that the irgc's role would be stronger than a follow-on regime and that might still be the case, but you know, a few months ago where people would accept that or a run for president, it's not clear that that's going to be something that would lead to a more stable country after khomeini's deaths. ...
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any sign of weakness, the regime, quds force, any sign of weakness it will push people to reconsider. and i'm thinking mostly lebanon today, a lot of the political forces in lebanon today, so far they're not there but at one point if this goes on they might reconsider the recent compromise of hezbollah regarding the political system, things have changed. the compromises that killed more coalition. this sense of surrounding to the status quo might change and revive forces that feel like it's time to actually take a stand where no one is taking a stand. >> that would be good news for the point of view of u.s. policymakers. with that but the open floor to
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questions from our audience. if those of you watching from your snowbound homes have questions, do feel free to tweak those at us. yes, sir. wait for the mic one moment. [inaudible] >> let me remind everyone we are on the record and also being broadcast live so go ahead. >> can anyone offer an evaluation of the size and significance of the pro-government rallies that a been taking place? >> what's impressive about the rallies is how long it took the government to organize them. usually this is regime after a witch in cases in mobilization of people on a regular basis. multiple times for you. a highly hold apparatus bringing people out. they can usually turn out hundreds of thousands of people on the turn of a dime. and yet here we are a week into the protests, a week it's taken
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them to get people out there? i mean, that's not very good. furthermore, it should be pretty easy because, in fact, in the big cities it's not with the protests, most protests were taking place. so i'm impressed by how slow the government has been. the usual efforts to bus in thousands of people. it suggests to me that usual places they go to round up people to bus than in, the free lunch and all that sort of stuff, they were kind of scared that people might not show up. and that it wasn't as easy to run people up as it had been in the past. now, i'm assuming the government is going to pull out all the stops for the usual kind of big demonstrations that they have and that we'll see some really impressive ones, but the fact that it took them a week to even
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get going. and today's demonstrations, pro-government demonstrations, or protests, they were not the kind of massive sizes we've seen in the past. >> all right. i think we have a question in the second row. >> mike, you would mention that you don't believe the jcpa today should be allowed to basically break that deal in order to impose sanctions against what would be a good policy. i guess i wanted to ask the panel about that. given the economic problems that are clearly a major part of what's causing these demonstrations, people who were opposed to the jcpa argued that the economic problems would be worse if the jcpa had opened up investment and so on. i like to ask a a question abot that more broadly. the second part of that is europeans and russians. they have been reacting to this
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in different ways, and some the statements that are being made and so on. could you describe what you see the europeans and russian government doing with regard to what's happening now in iran? >> who would like to field of those questions? >> the iranians to wonderful job stopping people from investing in the own country. the biggest barriers to investment inside iran has been the opposition that we've seen from people inside of iran to the deals. many of the deals were signed with foreign companies were actually going to be propositions and not just ways to fill the own nest. that was threatening the traditional way in which the well-connected made the man and a rain. they didn't like it. so there been a lot of complaints, why are you signing a deal when we could do that? they couldn't. i would say the biggest problem of discouraging foreign
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investment is, in fact, been the uncertain environment, the poor business conditions and the interval infighting and such and iran. it makes it so difficult. after all, we're talking about a government which came to power five years ago said that within months it was going to be opening negotiations with foreign oil companies for investment inside iran. it didn't happen. in fact, it's still not happening. and so that's really what slows things down. and i think that a lot of european companies that were so enthusiastic about going into iran, including companies the sign these deals to get headlines about multimillion dollar deals, nothing happens. are realizing that, you know, iran is a midsize market where you could make some money, but it's not going to be a bravado
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and this will not be the savior for the iranian economy either. my biggest reason for saying i don't want to see the jcpa no sanctions, the pre-jcpa sanctions were imposed is i don't want to change the topic. i want to keep the topic on the protests in iran. i don't want to make the whole focus beyond the jcpoa. i want to keep the protests in iran, the problems inside iran as the centerpiece of international attention. >> any european and russian reaction? >> alchemical thoughts. what we've seen so far is i can, predictable from the russians, what the russians of said is basically support the iranian regimes languages of these protests are somehow foreign inspired or even the work of foreign agent. this is frankly the similar explanation russia would give her any protest within russia itself so it's not surprising.
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russian of course is one of iran's major extra allies outside the region. so again this is perhaps what we would expect. it's a reason why i don't think we'll see any effective u.n. security council action because russia would veto such action. it might be useful for the united states to put rush in the position of having to veto any such action but i think we know what russia would do. europeans are more complicated i think because the united states i believe really would like to see some sort of joint statements, joint center middle east expressed between the united states and your that put some international pressure on the iranian regime. but it hasn't happened so far and we've we seem quite mild statements from europeans which don't really blame anyone for what's happening, and calling all sides to refrain from violence as though those in equivalency from the iranian security forces and when it at this largely peaceful protest on the other. why do we see that? there are probably a few reasons and i should say those reactions
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are milder than the european reactions in 2009 after the rigged election. one of my colleagues is writing a piece about this, erika, who is sitting behind us here. i think there's a number of possible reasons. the first is of course the jcpoa itself in the new economic cooperation which patrick was just talking about between europe and iran. i think the europeans bristle at the idea this is what determines their policy actions towards iran and if we had a european up. they would say no, that's not fair. the second factor think is the europeans have tremendous amount invested in the relationships with rouhani and the reef. i think the european information probably is not to take the side of the street protesters but to try to work in dialogue with them and perhaps hope that this episode will strengthen those that they consider analyzed inside iran. third, i think is probably fatigue with instability in the
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least in general. obviously since 2009 on thousand nine on seven in middle east and europe has borne the brunt of the flow of refugees that's come out of the middle east as well as some terrorism that is just come out and i doubt they have an appetite for any more such instability and ensure they are worried about that instability. and finally, there's some concern about the united states. when these decisions looming about sanctions waivers. there's been series questions but if the american commitment to nuclear deal, it's an already start with a gap between the united states and european position on a rant which is different than 2009. i'm sure the europeans are eyeing those decisions next week warily and are probably trying to be careful not to do anything or say anything which could embolden the united states to move away from the sanctions waivers, away from the jcpoa. personally i think they should be an occasion for the u.s. and europe to join our voices together and put joint pressure on the regime on it and we may all agree. we may not fully agree on the
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regional behavior by think we'll be able to agree on human rights in iran pixel font that's not been the case. more questions? yes, mark ginsberg. >> an excellent panel. just as a derivative point, i was in the white house and state department during the 1979 decisions about how to deal with the iranian revolution, so it's high sitting to sit and watch a speedy you are far too young for that, mark. >> i was a mere kid then. the obama administration officials, such as phil gordon and susan rice, are urging everybody in the editorial op-ed writing, be quiet, don't do anything, don't say anything to rock the boat. patrick was right and i agree with him about the issue on sanctions. but where do you all come out as a policy for the united states with the obama administration in
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its infinite efforts to get the jcpoa past, put the regime, take the regime change off the table? it seems the trump administration would like to put regime change back on the table. where do you all come out on that issue? >> let me just ask hanin if you have any thoughts on this question of, is u.s. support for sizes but in the sort of circumstance? of course you are coming from the region yourself. i would just note, mark, the administration has been careful so far is explicitly that they are not seeking to move the policy of regime change. they been asked several times and i think they've been pretty explicit on that point, so just as a clarification, but give any thoughts on that? >> u.s. silence not a good idea. something knowing how iran functions in the region, specifically iran moves in a vacuum always. it's of those vacuums in syria
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and iraq, , everywhere were ever there is like unsettling events, they go and fill the vacuums. it was very easy to know, like the absence of any american policy in syria led to a strong iran and still it's happening because nothing is being done. iran doesn't want to do any confrontation with u.s. and this is obvious. a couple of confrontations in syria, is obvious iran was trying to avoid confrontations with the u.s. silence by the u.s. at this point will throw the demonstrators under the bus. i don't think this is a good idea. a lot of things can be done. it doesn't have to be dire support, but many, many things can be done in order to make sure that support is provided for these demonstrators, for people in the region as a whole to look at iran as a threat also needs to know the u.s. is on their side.
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>> look, iran's narrative is that we support friends, the united states doesn't think that's a strong noted use, very effectively. so if the united states government is not supporting people who are protesting in iran, iran would use that once again to feed this narrative. united . united states doesn't actually come to anybody's help, even if, when you think they might win wh iran does quickly took not a good idea. on this when i am with hillary clinton. she described in 2014 the actions in 2000 as a big mistake. i'm with her. on the question of regime change, look, the supreme leader spent 20 years warning that the united states objective is to use cultural invasion in order to undermine the islamic republic. this is a man who's made it clear he's much more worried about hollywood venues about
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washington. and his idea of u.s. efforts to promote regime change is argo. i mean, michelle obama is up there giving -- >> you're talking about a movie, not the ancient greek. >> but when michelle obama is giving this award to this movie, right, that feeds the image that the united states government is coordinating with hollywood to undermine the islamic republic. many of us know the director of the woodrow wilson center program in the middle east who was arrested in iran when she was visiting her ailing grandmother. faced with, faceting date in which both gnome chomsky and george bush issued appeals for her release, the regime put on a program on television which explain why they were holding her. and they had an animation of
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george soros weekly meetings with george bush in the white house plan how they're going to undermine the islamic republic. now, , not all of us knew that e was seeing mr. bush on a weekly basis. and we certainly didn't realize what they were planning together was over the islamic republic but that's what to put on television. they really believe this stuff, people. so you think that our refrain from saying the word regime change will change his mind when that's what he spot for 20 years and speaks about all the time? , on, give me a break. >> if i could just add just two points. first, i guess i would come with regard to our public diplomacy, i would argue for a very calibrated and, approach to her use of language, that i think,
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first of all, if we are to full throated and our support for the people, first of all, ultimately, if the protests fizzle and given full throating support you only highlight your impetus and the regime is able to crow your success. i think it's important for us to come out on behalf of the protesters and the right to protest and the right for the human rights to not be infringed by the regime. but just be careful how you do it. because also, i'm not sure this plays a big factor in the current context, but if you are to full throated, you might also alter some peoples -- in terms of whether they want to be seen as -- but there is conspiratorial approach even an iran to looking at the velvets in their own country. it's not exclusively a worldview that is that of the regime. it's also other people.
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it might affect the capitalist some people might be willing to join the opposition but if it looks like this is an american project, they might be less willing. i don't know. sitting in washington it's hard to know so i would just argue for speaking up but not too loudly. consistently but not too loudly. on regime change i would argue for a focus on more on destabilization and regime change is something which we're not going to really have, unlikely to have a big impact. we can in certain context, and i would argue, i would argue we shouldn't do this now but we should hold out the threat that in the context of our geopolitical competition, iran in the region, if they start attacking american soldiers or american interests directly, then we will bring the conflict home. and if there is a conducive
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context to that now, , more so than in the past, and that gives us the delete to impose quests on it and force them to the resources and to eternal security, more resources than have in recent years. so that's the way i can do look at this more in terms of the broader geopolitical competition because i just don't know where the, nga a regime change from washington. we can help around edges at most but we can make things much tougher for the at home if they do things against us in the region. >> alan mccroskey, center for american progress. actually i have two questions. if it's okay. one is, notice in some of the early demonstrations, i wanted somebody want to comment whether there is a meaningful minority
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dimension to this, that it's affecting the course of the protests or creates opportunities along the lines that might isis that which is talking about. second of all, -- michael eisenstadt which is talking about. sometime this week there was an article saying one of the early triggers of the protests was a leak a few months ago of a budget that revealed spending on islamic institutions and on, you know, clerics that it never previously been revealed. and i just wonder is anyone familiar with that document? the article didn't go into a lot of detail on it. has hasn't been explored by exps on the side of the ocean? >> let me start with your second question.
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that leak do exactly the articles in the american newspaper whatsoever. and that speech is much blunter than usual -- [inaudible] >> no, no. i quoted -- no, i quoted what he had sit at the bank uses but he had a lot of things to say in your and one of the things he did do was let out a much more realistic number for a lot of things which was much more trans parent -- transfer. this is what i want to spend what you want to spend. that was it. given the authority to spend what you want to spend. this years budget speech is extremely blunt in this year's budget is much more honest that in previous years. i'm likely to say that's in order to provoke demonstrations? i don't think so. that fits with all technocratic
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approach to the rouhani, which once of more transparency and wants, you know, flash things out more. that was their aim. but to provoke demonstrations, give me a break, right? revolution regard has traditionally maintained they spin with if you like it and is not up to the president to decide. he is saying no, that's not true. you have to get an allocation and all that sort of stuff. that would be my comment on that one. on the minorities, we put out a piece, what was it, a year when it without and what it says is half of the rate is made up of nonpersons. and so if you're going to have the provinces demonstrating, you'll have a fair number of non-persians didn't see. although although by the way interestingly increasingly define minorities in the cities it one of the things he was going to speak about if he spoke
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a year was asked that he his completing for us about whether these demonstrations started, if there are over a million sunnis living there. subject a great deal of discrimination. they are very unhappy and the fact of the met is that isis is doing quite a successful job at recruiting. iran is getting to have serious isis problem on its hands. because of what it treats its sunnis. all right? so there are a lot of ethnic minority problems in iran and in the heartland starts density, the fact that comes out and do a fair number of demands about the policies of minorities. ethnic nationalism has also been on the rise. this azerbaijani nationalism which, i mean, big thing of the
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azerbaijani nationalist is on december 22 you get hundreds and hundreds of thousands of marching four hours of a mountaintop which if you think about there, it's typically so, how to get hundreds of thousands to march up a mountain of snow? god only knows. >> can ask you just as follow-up, this issue of the budget, this issue of how much iran spends on a sort of foreign adventures has been notice a lot in the western media as something that seemed to be and maybe some these protesters i wonder, how is that reverberated at all in lebanon which is the destination for some of that money? is this an issue of suddenly iran spinning in lebanon has become a political issue? has that reverberated or its utmost unremarked? >> giving the recent protests? so far lebanon, company but has been very, very careful looking at this because they don't want to make conclusions like some were excited and so are afraid.
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to the extent -- and unity yesterday to not comment on this. but in this issue of budgets, mr. budgett has been a big issue in lebanon for a very long time. this is not recent. the main community have been affected mostly by this budget cuts and budget changes, has below in lebanon built itself on three pillars. why is there is a system which is today no longer a priority, number two, social services which are today drastically cut, and three is is the own thing t is remaining is the shadow identity which is connected to the collective memory of the hsia. that something remaining linking people. everything else is an issue. this has started in 2012 when hezbollah publicly announced its involvement in syria and started
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making these budget cuts. >> great. i think we have a question in the back over here. >> i'm from the hudson institute. patrick talked about the question of the pro-government rallies, pointed out that this took quite a while and in that sense it's a kind of departure from the usual playbook. i was wondering from michael's remarks whether the were traditional departures from the usual playbook? for example, as far as i'm aware they haven't deployed with the did in 2009. it's been the police force and most recently three units of the irgc, three separate provinces. so my question is, do you feel there is considerable either uncertainty, division,
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potentially damaging divisions within the leadership that confronting this particular crisis? >> i will just talk about the division labor and the security forces. let me just say it's really hard to kind of get a handle on, as i said, because of the poor quality of a lot of the videos that a been coming out, exactly who was doing what. the impression i get based on statements on iranian officials and also what you can see in some of the videos is law enforcement forces are the first line, the law enforcement forces, the police are the first line, backed up by the beseeched her i've been seeing although maybe it's just a coming out hezbollah type of vigilantes like we've seen in the past in large numbers. that might be in part because this may begin a process of kind of professionalization of the
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security forces, who knows. i don't quite know. we've had some statements by a number of officials saying that they been helping the law enforcement forces which again reinforces my impression that the elliott is the need, then there was a statement by think the irg command of saying forces of been deployed to three central provinces. let me see also, again, it's really hard to get your arms around this. my impression was that in the past iran has about a lot of resources to creating internal security capabilities in big cities. so in iran you have come in tehran you have the base operations and/or headquarters. they have are exercises, they n videos and these are guys, irgc and on motorcycles and is mainly
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trump security. if you're planning come by and large of those assets are in the tehran every and other large cities may have nationwide protest in midsized and small cities and towns, they need time to redeploy these guys. i don't think they were really set up to deal with a small town or rural protest movement. it was mainly the infrastructure was in the big cities and especially in tehran. that's one thing i think we'll see investment in the coming years. when i talk about the version of resources from regional defense and power projection to intro security, that's what i think they will have to focus on, they have this infrastructure those built in the big cities because of 99 and 2009, now that has to come also in small towns and medium-sized to small cities. >> we had a question over here.
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>> hello, russian embassy. it was interesting to witness this very thoughtful discussion. i just have a few small minor remarks with regard to russia and its stance i on what's goig on in iran. we never said it was inspired from outside. what he said was to avoid military ration for some speculation what's going on, and it goes with the principle of interference. we viewed as an integral matter, and so the government and during people decide. they are doing things. they of course are finding remedies, solutions to it. secondly, why it is so except for it is the international law that our neighbor, with regard to a kind of relations we have with iran. it's our neighbor. it's been a long time i
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neighbor. neighbor. it's a friendly country for us, and we have a lot of different kind of relationship with an bilaterally. so we believe that the best way for the security for the peace in the region and for the intro security and the rent and other countries that they'd here to this. thank you. >> by the way, one of our colleagues had a piece that was distributed in which he said in fact, the russian reaction to this development was much more restrained in the comments to the protest. she thought that was quite an interesting response. okay. more questions? one more in the back. >> thanks. well, i was wondering what
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patrick's response was to my earlier question. but i do want to ask about the internal order. but also a question for patrick, the picture you describe is really, it looks quite, the economic situation. do you think it will, in fact, collapse, and if so what happens then? >> can't i just add to that question one thing, patrick, which is the economic situation has not been great in 2017 but it was a lot worse before. many of these you set up into for a long time come like suspending foreign priorities, lots of unemployment and inflation and so forth. so to supplement the question ii might ask what makes today different. >> look, the macroeconomic situation is pretty good and the government has quite a lot of margin to, in fact, resolve the countries problems. i mean, in spite of ahmadinejad
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best efforts to do everything that wasn't nailed down and lots of things that were nailed down, as far as we can tell they government debt is still smaller relative to gdp than your states. deficit is smaller. the banking systems in that shape but boy, nothing compared to the situation of the country like iceland or cyprus. it is frankly kind of like ordinary, more like greece or italy and spain. and where lots of experience how to deal with these things. there are lots of people who can provide advice from international monetary fund, other institutions about what to do. but it's impressive they spent two years dithering about what our modest changes in central banks authority and they have talk about setting up a bad bank that has all the bad loans and recapitalizing the banking system and other things you have to do we have a real serious banking problem. nothing like the scale of the
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banking crisis that we saw in cyprus and in iceland, two countries that have dealt very effectively with that banking crisis. it's the inability of the 40s to take tough decisions that it's the fundamental problem. and, in fact, it would be quite possible to resolve the economic problems. similarly, even though there's been quite reasonable economic growth and one could imagine a set of economic policies which directed that growth more towards ordinary people. what we've seen is that is the iranian government is in the kinds of things which is taking the easy route out find ways to cut spending and raise taxes that in some hitting the poor. there is no down. that's not necessary. frankly, it would be quite possible to come up with a different set of policies that
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address an awful lot of the concerns of ordinary people. i deposit insurance system for the banks? excuse me, i mean, they're very few countries in the world who don't have a deposit insurance system for banks. that's not revolutionary. it would be quite possible to implement that. instead of having almost people in the streets in tehran because they lost their entire life savings, those three to 4 million people that rouhani referred to in a speech, completely ruined, you could address that problem. it wouldn't be that hard. i have to say that i'm impressed with the economic incompetence of successive iranian government in not dealing with these things. things. there's clearly a deadlock in decision-making, a partisan deadlock in decision-making in tehran which is much worse than the partisan gridlock and decision-making here in washington. >> all right. that brings us to the end of our time so let me first thank our panelists. i want to also --
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[applause] >> thank you. what also think thank our stafd the room who assisted with events and think all of you for coming. have a good day. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> today, the said on communication leadership and policy takes a look at how cities can combat violent extremism michael, stated by the policy advisor for countering terrorist recruitment. that's live at noon eastern on c-span. also this afternoon we will hear from former federal reserve chair ben bernanke and former treasury secretary larry summers about inflation and monetary policy. that is life from the brookings institution at 1 p.m. eastern on c-span3. you can also watch online at or listen on the free c-span radio app.
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>> the deadline for cspan's studentcam 2018 video documentary competition is right around the corner. it's january 18. we are asking students to choose a privation of the u.s. constitution and create a video illustrating why it's important to you. students across the country are in the final stretch and sharing their experience through twitter. these students participated in a studentcam film festival. this group wrapped up an interview on climate change. and the student learning a lot and having fun while editing. our competition is open to all middle school and high school students grades six through 12. $100,000 will be awarded in cash prizes, and the grand prize of $5000 will go to the student or team with the best overall entry. for more information go to our website, >> next, and look at the
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benefits and challenges of diplomacy in the digital age and out president trump's use twitter is used by the public. this is part of the conference that focus on relations between the u.s., japan and south korea. it's just over an hour and a half. >> again, good morning and welcome to the fifth annual united states-japan-korea trilateral symposium organized by international student conference is and generously sponsored by sasakawa peace foundation usa and the korea foundation. we thank you all for joining us on this cold and blustery day as it impacted hopefully other parts of these kos more than us but we know it wasn't the easiest commute this morning. for those of you that are following us and can append its intraday on social media would like to point out we have created a hashtag for today's conference and that is isctrilat. those notol


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