The UN Security Council meeting was held on January 5 to discuss the recent protests in Iran. Criticism was high towards the United States, who called the meeting, for interfering in what some member states called an internal matter for Tehran.
Taye-Brook Zerihoun, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Security Council on the situation in Iran. He noted that while the economy was a main catalyst, slogans also expressed disappointment in slow or limited change in social structures and #political freedoms, as well as the privileged position of the clergy and elements of the security and #military institutions.
The UN Secretary General issued a statement, indicating that the UN would engage with the regime to address the legitimate concerns of the Iranian people, while avoiding violence and retribution.
#Protestors are also demanding an end to costly military initiatives throughout the region. Iran is involved in various conflicts in #Syria, #Yemen, #Iraq, and Lebanon. Zerihoun noted that the protests had turned violent, with protestors being beaten and the burning of buildings. More than 50 individuals have died during the protests. Pro-government rallies were also held by regime. Iranian President Rouhani reportedly told a cabinet meeting that the #Iranian people should have room to express their views regarding their government, but that violence would not be tolerated.
#France’s ambassador to the UN, Francois Delattre, said the protests are not a threat to international peace and security. “We must be wary of any attempts to exploit this crisis for personal ends, which would have the diametrically opposed outcome to that which is wished,” said Delattre.
The demonstrations in Iran started over a week ago, and seem to be in response to a continued economic crisis, particularly for young Iranians. Experts estimate that unemployment for young people is 40%. Iranian officials accused the United States of interfering in their internal affairs, including support for the protestors. Various international groups encourage the regime to protect the rights of the protestors to express their views, and that all deaths should be investigated.
“The Iranian regime’s contempt for the rights of its people has been widely documented for many years,” said Nikki Haley, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. She indicated the U.S. stood “unapologetically with those in Iran who seek freedom for themselves, prosperity for their families, and dignity for their nation. We will not be quiet. No dishonest attempt to call the protestors ‘puppets of foreign powers’ will change that.”
The call for the meeting was to let Iran know that the world would be watching its actions in the wake of the protests, according to Haley. For the U.S., the meeting is a sign of support to those protestors.
Russia and Iran, however, saw it as the U.S. trying to drag international security into what is a domestic matter.
“The United States is abusing the platform of the Security Council,” said Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia. “Let Iran deal with its own problems.”
The U.S. was not alone in seeing these protests as a larger international issue. The British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft noted that it was the responsibility of the #Security Council to access whether these protests could become a threat to international security. The Middle East has been a hotbed of unrest in the past few years, and the instability is a source of concern for the international community.
Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo said that it was an example of U.S. bullying. TRT World’s Frank Ucciardo said it would be difficult for the U.S. to achieve anything from the session, as Russia and China aren’t favoring any moves against Iran.
The #National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) President-elect Maryam Rajavi welcomed the protests has a sign of the weakened condition of the #Iranian regime.
“While the overwhelming majority of the people of Iran are suffering from poverty, inflation and unemployment, most of the country’s wealth and revenues is spent on military and security apparatuses and military and regional interventions, or is being looted by the regime leaders or goes into their bank accounts,” said Rajavi. “Therefore, so long as this regime is in power, the economic and livelihood conditions of the people become worse and the only solution to get rid of economic and social problems is to overthrow the clerical regime.”
Rajavi also noted that in the past, the international community had turned a blind eye to the suffering of the Iranian people. She saw the meeting on Friday as the first step turning “the page of the United Nations and Security Council’s history on Iran.” She also sent a message of support to the protestors, encouraging them in a “nationwide quest for freedom.”
Daniel Byman, a senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, noted, “Protests are a fact of life in Iran – few are massive, sustained, or tied to a broader political cause, but all show at least some level of dissatisfaction with the regime.”
While these protests might not mean the end of the regime, it is a clear demonstration of their weaknesses, which can make it hard for them to effectively negotiate on a regional or international level. The economy, despite the lifting of sanctions, has not rebounded. The #Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) maintains a sizeable control over the economy, and budgets favors religious institutions and the military, while #Iranians struggle to find work.
“The Trump administration’s decision to support the protestors is appropriate. The United States should be on, and be seen as being on, those risking their lives to resist an oppressive regime that is an avowed American enemy. Even if the government suppresses the protestors like their 2009 predecessors, the United States should use the occasion to recognize that Iran’s strength abroad rests on shaky foundations,” said Byman.
The international community seems divided on how much attention needs to be paid to these protests, but it is clear that the UN and its members are watching the events in Iran closely.