Many Iranian authorities have claimed that the recent protests in Iran are a result of foreign instigation, pointing fingers at the USA, Israel, Saudi Arabia & the MEK. There have been a series of provocations that have led Iranian authorities to believe a joint initiative is being carried by these different groups.
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran claimed that Saudi Arabia has had a major role in the recent unrest in a number of recent interviews. Talking to the IRNA news outlet, Shamkhani claimed that the Saudis have created a special organization that solely aims to destabilize Iran with the help of Israeli & Western governments. He pointed out the prominent role the Saudis have played in Twitter, citing that about a third of Twitter’s Iran protest related hashtags are created in Saudi Arabia.
Shamkhani’s remarks come amid independent claims that show much of Twitter’s Iran related protest posts& hashtags take place in Saudi Arabia. This specific image is from TrendsMapshowing where the Persian version of the hashtag #IranProtest ((#تظاهرات_سراسری originate from. About a third of such tweets come from Saudi Arabia.
An internet research group named “Pouyeshgar” claimed the hashtags below as the most popular Iran Protest related hashtags in Twitter. The Arabic hashtags, which are numerous, are highlighted in yellow.
But beyond Shamkhani’s recent remarks about Saudi Arabia& specifically his emphasis on Twitter, a series of events during the last recent years show a probable new coordination between various groups, with Riyadh being a new fundamental player.
On July 9th 2016, Turkey Faisal spoke and declared support for regime change at a grand gathering organized by the MEK, a dissident group accused of mass terrorism by Iran’s government. This event marked a new chapter of cooperation & alliance between the group & Saudi Arabia on many different aspects that would aim to advance regime change agenda in Iran. Since then it is believed that much coordination & joint work has been done by the Saudis & MEK to form unrest within minority groups in Iran.
Mohammad Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince also signaled last year that he intends to adapt an overtly aggressive approach towards Iran, saying that Saudi Arabia intends to “Take the war to Iran”, instead of facing Iran in “Saudi Arabia”.
In the USA, the appointment of Michael D’Andrea last summer as responsible of the CIA’s Iran operations shows a similar trend. Michael D’Andrea, known as the “Dark Prince” in the intelligence community seems to be known for an operational & aggressive approach, signaling a trend that fits more with the new aggressive approach shown by Riyadh’s young prince.
The unified aggressive approach unifying these different camps was very sensible during the recent protests in Iran. Trump& Netanyahu’s open endorsements for regime change in viral tweets & videos was completely in line with this new assertive approach for direct conflict. The recent Iran protests may be one of the first chapters of a new age of a more aggressive face off. The outcome of these protests can have a very important effect on the decisions of these players in how they should execute such an approach.
Sayed Mustafa Mousavi is Tehran-based a Human Rights and political activist who has been participating in many international events concerning human rights. His expertise include cultural and communication studies. He is renowned for his analysis in concerning recent events in the Middle East and been a participant in academic events in various countries including Iran and Russia.