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January 2018

Iran Sends More to the Gallows by Denis MacEoin

Iran’s judicial authorities “continued to impose and carry out cruel, inhuman or degrading punishments that amounted to torture, including floggings, blindings and amputations. These were sometimes carried out in public.” At least one woman, Fariba Khaleghi, remains under a sentence of death by stoning. — Amnesty International.

What is worse, the vast majority of those put to death in Iran have not committed crimes that would be punished with that severity (or at all) almost anywhere else in the world, least of all in Europe, Israel, or 23 states (and the District of Columbia) in the USA.

Even before their trials, individuals accused of anti-state convictions are mistreated, tortured, kept in solitary confinement for months on end, and denied access to their families and lawyers. “‘Confessions’ extracted under torture were used as evidence at trial. Judges often failed to deliver reasoned judgments and the judiciary did not make court judgments publicly available.” — Amnesty International.

As for the mullahs, they brook no criticism from any quarter and intend to keep Iran and its people under their iron grip forever, even if that means putting to death every dissident voice.

At the end of December 2017, something almost without precedent happened in cities across Iran. It started in the largest shrine city of Mashhad, then moved to Kermanshah, which had not long before suffered a major earthquake in which some 600 people died and where survivors had been neglected by the state. After that, large-scale protests moved to Sari and Rasht in the north, the clerical city of Qom, then Hamadan, and by the December 29, Tehran itself. In the following days, people were on the streets across the country. Starting on the third day, protesters were challenged by massive turnouts of pro-regime marchers. Anti-government protests, which these were, had not been seen in this quantity since the brutally-crushed risings after the 2009 presidential elections. By January 2, at least 20 protesters had been killed and more than 450 arrested. It was reported on the same day that Iran’s Chief Justice, Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, claimed that protesters might be considered “enemies of God”, and executed.

On his website, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,

“accused unnamed foreign enemies of meddling in Iran’s affairs, using money, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatuses ‘to create problems for the Islamic system’. The clerical elite is congenitally incapable of admitting that native Iranians, chafing under their harsh rule, might have genuine reasons for civil unrest.”

President Hassan Rouhani, a fake “reformist”, identified these foreign enemies as “the US, the regime occupying al-Quds [i.e. Israel] and their cronies”.

Nothing deterred, US President Trump tweeted on January 1 that:

“Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!”

Is Hezbollah Eating the Iranian People’s Bread? by Yves Mamou

Ironically, Iran’s receiving more than $100 billion in frozen assets succeeded in breaking the solidarity between the Iranian people and the Ayatollahs’ regime better than the sanctions did.

Without Iranian money, Hezbollah would not exist. At least, not exist as an Iranian foreign legion, militarily engaged against Israel and in other Middle East regional conflicts. Without Iranian subsidies, Hezbollah would be just a narco-mafia.

Hezbollah has developed deep connections to Mexican and Colombian drug cartels, directly to facilitate the distribution of drugs throughout the Middle East and the US.

In the holy city of Qom in Iran, on December 30, 2017, anti-regime demonstrators shouted “Death to Hezbollah”, “Aren’t you ashamed Khamenei? Get out of Syria and take care of us”, and “Not Gaza, or Lebanon”.

In an Islamic country, whose official slogan is “Death to America” and “Death to Israel”, to see Iranian people shouting “Death to Hezbollah” is totally surreal.

By wishing “Death to Hezbollah”, Iranians demonstrators were not only protesting a “rise of the price of eggs” as the Ayatollahs’ propaganda machine tried to claim. The demonstrators were demanding that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spend Iranian money for Iranian people — and only for Iranian people.

Ironically, Iran’s receiving more than $100 billion in frozen assets for the hapless “nuclear deal” succeeded in breaking the solidarity between Iranian people and the Ayatollahs’ regime better than the sanctions did. During the tough time of sanctions, the Iranian people stood by their leaders. The people only broke with their leaders when they saw that the “liberated” money was benefiting everyone but them.

Is Hezbollah eating the Iranian people’s bread? The answer is yes, absolutely. Hezbollah is an Iranian foreign legion, a tool of an imperialist Shia war being conducted in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and against Israel. This Arab Shia army was created in Lebanon by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1982, right after Israeli defense forces expelled the PLO from Lebanon. The aim of this Arab Shia legion was to demonstrate to Sunni Muslim Arabs in the Middle East that Shia Iran was a better fighter against the “Zionist entity” than any Sunni regime.

Egypt: State-Run Media vs. President el-Sisi by A. Z. Mohamed

Egypt’s state-run press persists in the practice of condemning the United States and Israel — an attitude that contradicts President el-Sisi’s positions and vision for reforming Islam.

This is one of the conflicts that still beleaguer Egyptian society — or perhaps signs of a growing power struggle.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi responded to U.S. President Donald Trump’s official recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital with cautious pessimism. He warned his ally in the White House not to take measures that would undermine prospects for peace in the Middle East. The delicate balancing act he has been performing, to avoid jeopardizing his relationship with Washington, and at the same time not antagonize the Palestinians and much of the Egyptian public, was probably to be expected.

Not expected was the depth of extremist anti-American and anti-Israel sentiment spread by Egypt’s state-run media. Two particularly jarring examples illustrate this disturbing trend.

The first was from television host Ahmed Moussa, on the Sada Elbalad network, who proceeded to denounce the United States as the world’s bully, an international thug that supposedly both manages terrorism and manipulates it to justify its policies. He claimed that it was Egypt that led the world against Trump’s Jerusalem declaration, and that the U.S. was trying to control Egypt by lodging false accusations of human rights violations and discrimination against Christians. He actually said this in spite of “what have now become regular assaults by Islamic militants on the country’s Coptic community.”

The second, and even more disturbing, example was a broadcast by Al Nahar TV’s Gaber Al-Armouti. First, Al-Armouti celebrated a prayer delivered during the Friday sermon at Cairo’s Al-Azhar Grand Mosque, by its imam, Mohammed Zaki: “May Allah doom Trump with defeat.” Then he said he wished that the imam had cursed Israel, its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and all of its people. He subsequently praised the female teenage Palestinian provocateur, Ahed Tamimi, who slapped an Israeli soldier and called him a “moron and son of moron.” When her father, during a phone interview with Al-Armouti, said that his daughter’s attorney is Israeli and trustworthy, the host ignored the comment, and repeatedly yelled, “Zionist occupation,” and “Zionist enemy,” referring to Israelis as kelab (the derogatory Arabic word for “dog.”)

The Great Experiment We’ve gone from hard left, under Obama, to hard right, under Trump. Judge the ideologies by their results. By Victor Davis Hanson

Most new administrations do not really completely overturn their predecessors’ policies to enact often-promised ideologically driven change.

The 18-year span of Harry Truman to Dwight Eisenhower to John F. Kennedy was mostly a continuum from center-left to center-right, back to center-left. Kennedy was probably as hawkish and as much of a tax cutter as was Eisenhower.

The seven years of Jerry Ford to Jimmy Carter were a similar transition — or even the twelve years of George H. W. Bush to Bill Clinton. The deck chairs changed, but the ship sailed in mostly the same manner to mostly the same direction.

Even the supposed great divide of 1981 did not mean that Jimmy Carter had been as left-wing as Ronald Reagan was right-wing. Carter’s fight against inflation and renewed defense build-up was continued in part by Reagan. George W. Bush was not as markedly right-wing as Barack Obama was clearly left-wing. In sum, there have rarely been back-to-back complete reversals in presidential agendas.

From Hard Progressive to Hard Conservative Ideology
Whatever Donald J. Trump’s political past and vociferous present, his first year of governance is most certainly as hard conservative as Barack Obama’s eight years were hard progressive. We are watching a rare experiment in political governance play out, as we go, in back-to-back fashion, from one pole to its opposite.

From January 2009 to January 2016 (especially when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress until January 2011), Barack Obama implemented the most progressive agenda since Franklin Roosevelt, to whom his supporters logically compared their new president.

Obama was a genuine man of the Left, determined to move his party with him and “fundamentally transform” the country. His own skepticism about America’s past, its current values, and its future trajectories resonated on the world stage. Third-way Clintonism all but disappeared. The Democratic party was reborn in Obama’s leftist image. Even candidate Hillary Clinton all but renounced her husband’s now caricatured centrism.

Among Obama’s signature foreign policies were “lead from behind” in Libya; quietude during the Iranian anti-theocratic protests; strategic patience with North Korea; the multifaceted and often clandestine efforts to swing the Iran deal; the Russian “reset”; realignment away from Israel, Egypt, and the Gulf monarchies; and rapprochement with Cuba, Venezuela, and the South American Communist and socialist states.

All reflected his own larger visions of European Union and American progressivism as models for transnational world governance. A global council of Davos-like elites would best adjudicate climate-change crises, the excesses of capitalism, dangerous nationalism, the parochial and outdated restrictions on migration and immigration, and the lingering but still pernicious legacies of Western imperialism and colonialism.

“Crises” such as the spreading ISIS caliphate, a nuclear North Korea with intercontinental missiles, an expanding Iranian-Shite-Hezbollah–Middle East crescent, a new greater East Asia prosperity sphere led by China that builds bases in the Spratly Islands, and a failed reset with Russia would more or less work themselves out on their own, given that all these dangers ultimately had their geneses in Western pathologies. Be better Western leaders, Obama intoned, and the Other would react accordingly and thus positively.

Will Nuclear North Korea Survive 2018? Given several rapidly developing geopolitical factors, North Korea may look much different by the end of the new year. By Victor Davis Hanson

For good or evil, we may see radical changes in North Korea in 2018.

The beefed-up United Nations sanctions by midyear could lead to widespread North Korean hunger, as well as the virtual end of the country’s industry and transportation.

In the past, the West had called off such existential sanctions and rushed in cash and humanitarian aid on news of growing starvation. Would it now if the bleak alternative was a lunatic’s nuclear missile possibly striking San Diego or Seattle?

To survive an unending trade embargo — and perhaps to avoid a coup — Kim Jong Un would likely either have to recalibrate his nuclear program or consider using it.

China has always been unwilling to give up pit bull North Korea as its client. The Kim dynasty has proved especially useful over the past 30 years for aggravating and distracting the Chinese communist government’s archenemy, Japan, and its chief rival, the United States.

Yet China is now worried that the Donald Trump administration is as unfathomable as the prior Obama administration’s strategic patience doctrine was predictable.

Beijing’s sponsorship of the rogue nuclear regime in North Korea could increasingly become bad business, given global anxieties over the many possible trajectories of North Korea nuclear missiles.

What are some likely scenarios for 2018?

1) The status quo. China may loudly proclaim that it is following U.N. commercial sanctions while it secretly offers just enough sanction-busting aid to keep Kim Jong Un afloat. It might use its leverage to force Kim to cool his nuclear rhetoric — even as it stealthily supplies embargoed fuel and food.

China would then hope that an amnesiac world would move on and accept a gentler-sounding (but still nuclear and thus useful) North Korea.

The status quo — North Korean missiles pointed at America’s West Coast — is clearly untenable. Yet never underestimate China’s faith in the therapeutic forces of Western appeasement to accept the unacceptable.

2) A Chinese solution. China would cut some sort of deal to remove North Korean missiles — or even the Kim regime itself through a coup or uprising — in exchange for controlling the future of North Korea. That would likely mean not allowing a democratic, free, Westernized, and unified Korean peninsula on its borders.

Other than disassociating itself from the future status of North Korea, the U.S. should ensure that it does not give any concessions to China to remove the nukes. Such an indulgence would only reward North Korea nuclear roguery and ensure that the cycle of the last three decades would be endlessly repeated.

3) Forced removal. Barring acceptance of the status quo or a Chinese solution, the U.S. would be forced to accept widespread malnutrition of the North Korean populace and a constant ratcheting up of pressures to eliminate Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons.

Bassem Youssef and the Self-Imposed Limitations of the Nice Muslim Review of “Tickling Giants” and “Revolution for Dummies.” Danusha V. Goska

Tickling Giants is a 111-minute, 2017 documentary that tells the story of “Egypt’s Jon Stewart.” Tickling Giants is produced, written and directed by Sara Taksler. She’s a relative unknown who does a technically excellent job, earning her 100% fresh rating at RottenTomatoes.

Bassem Youssef is a cardiothoracic surgeon with movie-star looks and charisma. In 2011, when he was 37, he began broadcasting satirical commentary on the Arab Spring. He produced videos in the laundry room of his apartment and posted them on YouTube. He hoped for a few thousand hits. He reached millions of viewers.

Youssef graduated to TV. An estimated forty million viewers watched his show – the largest ratings in Egyptian TV history. Jon Stewart had around two million viewers per show. Tickling Giants’ account of Youssef’s career is captivating and inspirational, occasionally funny and often quite sad. It was shot mostly in Cairo. Unless I blinked and missed it, you never see a pyramid, but, rather, street scenes, traffic, the Nile, and protests in Tahrir Square. Tickling Giants depicts appreciative Egyptian audiences gathering in outdoor cafes to laugh at Youssef’s show on big-screen TVs.

Youssef satirized Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hosni Mubarak, Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian army and Egypt’s current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Youssef faced tighter and tighter restrictions on what he could say. He and his staff faced greater and greater personal threats. Thugs, possibly paid by the government, chanted “Death to Youssef” outside his studio. An imam discussed whether it would be permissible to kill Youssef. The imam counseled, “Not yet.” Youssef’s collaborator, Tarek, had to abandon Egypt. Tarek’s father and brother were arrested and held for months without any reason. Youssef himself eventually was forced out of Egypt. Tickling Giants ends with Youssef in exile, giving talks in support of free speech at prestigious awards ceremonies in Western nations. He now lives in the US with his wife and children.

Youssef’s show had a large staff of creative, young, dynamos. The scenes of these idealists gazing out the window of their offices at the thugs calling for their deaths, and the arrival of armed troops to form a cordon in front of their studio, reminded me of life in Poland in 1989. The year that Soviet-imposed Polish communism breathed its last, I participated in demonstrations organized by the Orange Alternative, a group that undermined the authorities through humor. We held a rally celebrating the Red Army. Young Polish rebels gave elaborate, satirical speeches expressing “gratitude” for being “liberated” by the Russians.

As fine as Tickling Giants is, and as much as I could identify with its revolutionary spirit, I kept seeing the empty spaces where the censor’s X-Acto knife had sliced out key elements of the Arab Spring story.

In 2011, the year Youssef’s show launched, journalist Lara Logan was beaten and sexually assaulted by hundreds of men in Tahrir Square. They called her a Jew. She is not Jewish. The assailants used their cellphones to record their assault.

That same year, the otherwise anonymous “Girl in the Blue Bra” was dragged across pavement, beaten with batons, and kicked by Egyptian military. After they stripped off her abaya, one soldier stepped directly on her breasts, clothed only in a blue bra. Her abused image traveled round the world. Hillary Clinton decried “the systematic degradation of Egyptian women.”

Tahrir Square is inextricably linked with taharrush. Men encircle women, sexually assault them, and video-record the assaults. Al Akhbar describes taharrush as a “prominent feature” of life in Egypt, and reports that Egyptian women as well as men tend to blame the victim. President Sisi visited a taharrush victim in the hospital. The Guardian, a liberal newspaper, ran an article entitled, “80 Sexual Assaults in One Day – The Other Story Of Tahrir Square.” During New Year’s celebrations in 2015-16, Muslim men committed mass sexual assaults in Europe. Maajid Nawaz and others pointed to Tahrir Square as the possible petri dish of this contagion.

In Tickling Giants, the protestors are all right-thinking idealists, engaged in a communal effort as wholesome as an Amish barn-raising. Women are prominent as onscreen spokespersons.

Trump Demands Prison for Huma Abedin Like her boss, the top Hillary Clinton aide broke espionage laws. Matthew Vadum

President Trump is demanding former top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin be imprisoned for violating national security protocols and that an investigation be opened into former FBI Director James Comey.

At 7:48 a.m. Tuesday President Trump tweeted:

Crooked Hillary Clinton’s top aid[e], Huma Abedin, has been accused of disregarding basic security protocols. She put Classified Passwords into the hands of foreign agents. Remember sailor[’]s pictures on submarine? Jail! Deep State Justice Dep[ar]t[ment] must finally act? Also on Comey & others[.]

With the connivance of the Obama administration, Abedin and Clinton also purloined call logs, scheduling documents, and files described as “Muslim Engagement” from the Department of State when they left their jobs there. They labeled the government-owned documents “private.” Clinton also took with her a physical file of what has been described as “the log of the Secretary’s gifts with pictures of gifts,” which may contain proof of bribes provided to Clinton.

Although it is unusual for a president to seek prosecution of his defeated enemies, the Clinton crime family is so corrupt and so sinister that failing to act against these reprobates is to commit a grave injustice. The brazen criminality of Hillary Clinton and those around her in the previous election cycle is utterly unprecedented in modern American politics, far surpassing the relatively minor-league shenanigans of President Richard Nixon in seriousness. To ignore Clinton’s unlawful activities would be to discard the rule of law and affirm that powerful elites are not held to the same standards as ordinary Americans.

Clinton’s campaign aggressively sought out new frontiers in unethical conduct, funding the Russian dossier compiled by Fusion GPS, a tainted political opposition research paper that Comey’s FBI apparently relied on during its investigation. In the discredited dossier based in part on Kremlin-provided information, it was claimed Trump hired Russian prostitutes to urinate on a hotel bed.

The dossier was just one of many outrageous dirty tricks by Clinton’s campaign. Clinton used the Democratic National Committee to snuff out Bernie Sanders’ bid for her party’s nomination, and personally authorized the illicit efforts of socialist felon Bob Creamer and organizer Scott Foval who fomented violence at Trump campaign rallies, as James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas group revealed in undercover videos.

Trump’s comments came after the Department of State released classified emails located on the laptop computer of Abedin’s now-imprisoned sex offender husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). The document dump came last week in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by good government group Judicial Watch.

The FBI’s announcement that it was probing the emails gave Trump an extra line of attack against Clinton in the final days of the 2016 election campaign. For her part, Clinton herself can’t stop whining about what the FBI did and blaming the agency that exposed her wrongdoings for her humiliating electoral defeat.

Tony Thomas The Original Power Couple Part one

Nicolae Ceaucescu and wife Elena were dispatched with extreme prejudice when the Romania people finally rid themselves of a duo so brazen in their greed and tyranny no writer of fiction would have dared invent them. It’s quite a story, not least the gullibility of leaders in the West.

Britain’s Islam-friendly politicians, led by London’s Muslim Mayor Sadiq Khan, are campaigning to cancel Prime Minister Theresa May’s invitation to President Trump for a State visit in 2018. Britain has not always been so fussy about who gets a State reception. In the wake of a trip to Bucharest I’ve been researching the Communist-era dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaucescu and his wife, Elena (left).

They were invited to Britain by Labor Prime Minister James Callaghan in 1978. Callaghan pimped a reluctant Queen Elizabeth to meet them at Victoria Station, and put them up in Buckingham Palace. Ceaucescu even got a ride with Her Majesty in the State landau. They were accompanied by bodyguard General Ion Pacepa, who defected to the West a month later, and a clatter of Household Regiment cavalry. The Queen later described the visit as “the worst three days of my life”. She was required, among other indignities, to award him the Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, subsequently revoked in 1989.

Ceaucescu came ostensibly “to make firm friends among Western nations”, as the newsreels put it, and to sign a £200-million deal to buy several British Aerospace BAC 1-11 airliners (predecessor to DC9s and B737s) and build scores more in Romania under licence for export to China and the Third World. His actual goal was to open British doors for Romanian secret service men, doubling as technicians, to steal airline, Rolls Royce engine and Harrier jump-jet technology, to be on-sold to Moscow notwithstanding Ceaucescu’s vaunted hostility to Brezhnev.

The airliner deal turned into farce. An entire assembly line was air-freighted to Romania to make six BAC 1-11s a year. At its peak the Romanians had 4400 skilled workers on the job. But the plane was already obsolete and actual production was no more than one a year. The two nearly finished planes were left to rot and rust after Ceaucescu’s overthrow. He also defaulted on the hard currency required and sought to pay in barter. The first shipload of Romanian strawberries was rotten by the time it reached the wharf.

In Bucharest I joined a tour of the Ceaucescus’ Primaverii or “Spring” residential palace, all of us especially slack-jawed at the indoor tropical garden built on top of a swimming pool, with infra-red heating equivalent to power 100 normal apartments. The pool’s rear walls comprise a million-piece mosaic of pretty fishes that took artists two years to complete. This was just one of his five official residences, 39 guest houses, 21 exclusive apartments in embassies, nine planes, three helicopters and three presidential trains. Plus the couple had a hospital reserved for themselves alone.

Tony Thomas The Original Power Couple – Part Two

George Orwell was prescient about 1984. The Romanian regime of Nicolae Ceaucescu and wife Elena produced TV sets with two-way transmitters – you watched the TV and it ‘watched’ you, although even they must have know it was overkill, given the legions of flesh-and-blood informers.

Under the Ceaucsecu dictatorship, Romanians’ in the 1970s-80s were forced into abject poverty – only Albania may have been poorer in the Eastern bloc. People’s desperation for food and warmth was coupled with passivity enforced by the dreaded, mysterious Securitate, or secret police. In this essay, a follow-up to one earlier on the Ceaucescu couple’s personal lifestyle, I’ll describe living conditions and then the Securitate operations. These climaxed in the violent Christmas 1989 revolution, apparently faked-up by the Securitate as cover for installing their own people at the top. To this day, no-one knows what really went on.

The Liberty Center Mall in Bucharest looks like a classy Western shopping mall, with fashion brands, food, a 3D cinema and an ice skating rink. Who would guess it took over the site of one of Ceaucescu’s feeding stations for the city’s populace, dubbed “Hunger Circuses”.

The circus element was a dome on each of the five identical feeding complexes, similar to the city’s actual circus building. The dictator finished two, and three more were under way at the time of the Christmas 1989 revolution or coup, which left him riddled with AK47 bullets. Incredibly, his plan involved preventing Bucharest’s population from kitchen-cooking and family meals, in favor of regimented feeding by the state in giant soup kitchens, officially called “Agro-Alimentary Complexes”.

On Mondays, for example, everyone’s main meal would be, say, goulash; on Tuesday, cabbage rolls; and Wednesday, bean soup. Food shopping other than at the ‘circuses’ would be extinguished. New apartments wouldn’t need kitchens.

It’s unclear whether any Hunger Circus actually got to operate, or how state-sponsored meals could work during food austerity. As one interviewee recorded, perhaps in hypothetical terms, “You go there, you take your three little boxes, you go home, you heat them and eat them. The bad thing is that behind this project there was a terrible idea. Since everything can be found like this, there is no more need for markets for raw products.”

Ceaucescu viewed his subjects like a chicken farmer calculating inputs and outputs. People needed only 3000 calories a day, times the population of 22m. He could reserve the equivalent total of grains, rice, meat, and eggs for the population, leaving the rest for export to earn hard currency to pay off foreign debt. Romania had in 1981 defaulted on these US$11 billion debts after the Iranian oil shock of 1979 and Ceaucescu was determined to never again be dictated to by the IMF. He paid off the last foreign debts a couple of months before he was overthrown. He still spent on the military and his wasteful megaprojects such as the world’s biggest administration building, today 90% mothballed.

Time is Not on the Mullahs’ Side By Brandon J. Weichert

Iran has been racked for almost a week by nationwide protests and rioting over the rule of the mullahs—unrest that shows no sign of abating any time soon. What began as a protest against rising prices and an otherwise torpid economy has quickly turned into a full-blown national movement challenging the very legitimacy of the Islamic Republic itself.

We’ve been down this path before, of course. The short-lived “Green Revolution” of 2009 was the last time a popular uprising threatened the hardline theocratic government. Given the opportunity to back the protesters, President Obama chose to lead from behind and do nothing. Although President Trump has tweeted his support for the demonstrators this time, it remains to be seen what exactly the United States can do and how effective these protests will be in forcing political reform.

One thing is certain: the Islamic Republic’s days are numbered. This is a protest of the young from across the country versus the old elite in Tehran. Whether change happens now or in another decade, the rising generation of Persians largely reject the fundamentalist Shia Islam that has governed their country since the late 1970s.

Today, Iran’s city-dwelling youth are largely Westernized and well-educated. While many may still pray toward Mecca and believe in the Koranic teachings of their elders, they have created a natural separation between the secular world and the religious one (not unlike the sort of separation that exists in most liberal Western democracies today).

It’s true, as Michael Ledeen pointed out, that rural Iran remains more religious and traditional than their urban countrymen. But most of the unrest, in fact, has been in the poorer, rural, and more religious parts of the country. Rioters even burned a seminary in Qom, which is the center of Shia Islam. As one observer noted, “That’s comparable to anti-Catholic riots in Vatican City.”

But it isn’t just a cultural shift that signals the regime’s eventual demise. Fact is, Iran has a fertility crisis. At 1.68 children per 1,000 women (as of 2015), Iran is in the doldrums of an ongoing baby bust. David P. Goldman has argued that Iran’s demographic decline will lead to severe political instability. Iran’s “baby bust” coincides roughly with the life of the current regime—and it shows no sign of abating. In the face of declining economic opportunity and political repression, instability is likely to increase. Once it reaches a critical mass, Iran’s totalitarian theocracy will change.