Of interest are the simultaneous popular uprisings in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon. It’s a phenomenon requiring research that goes beyond these uprisings’ socioeconomic drivers and motives, and calls for an in-depth look into what could be considered uprisings or revolutions in the face of “armed and political Islam”—this time, in its Shiite version.
If this simultaneity entices the researcher to uncover “parallels” in the revolutions unfolding across the three countries, then there exist other phenomena that reinforce the desire to assess these events in terms of their causes, motives, goals, slogans, and—crucially—how authorities in the three countries dealt with these events politically, in the media, and, most importantly, on the ground.
We’ll begin comparative analysis by the size of the events.
In Iran, the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist faces its biggest internal threat since its Islamic Revolution’s victory 40 years ago. In Iraq, it is the biggest uprising, and the most noteworthy event since the war against ISIS; there are arguments that it’s the largest unrest in Iraq since the fall of President Saddam Hussein in 2003. In Lebanon, it is the most important development since the Lebanese Civil War; some views hold that it’s the biggest since Lebanese independence. And it is the biggest internal struggle facing the Axis of Resistance since its formation, after the war began in Syria both from within and from outside.
The three uprisings and the 2011 Syrian Revolution, began with demand slogans which revealed the deep failures and deficits that have characterized these countries’ governmental policies, compounded with different degrees of international sanctions (especially American).
These are calls for freedom and dignity—and bread. These are revolutions with the widest cross-sectarian mass participation—across classes and age groups—on record.
In this way, they didn’t differ from the requests, motives, and slogans of the Arab Spring and its uprisings. These are calls for freedom and dignity—and bread. These are revolutions with the widest cross-sectarian mass participation—across classes and age groups—on record.
However, they are different from the uprisings which marked the Arab Spring in how quickly they formed into regional and international conflicts in and out of these countries. External factors quickly became at play here.
Here, too, it’s difficult to distinguish “internal” from “external,” as each external factor has its own nuances within each society’s sociopolitical fabric. This is precisely why the issues become more complicated and the transformation more costly—especially with the existence of a deep and dominant ideological discourse.
In the three countries with the uprisings, and prior to them in Syria, “conspiracy theories,” “black ops rooms,” a “fifth column,” or “nefarious foreign agendas” attempt without early warning to explain events and to interpret what opposes the will of the “ruling class.” It’s as if this class and its spokesperson are out to say: Is it sensible or logical for people to revolt against a leadership that is at the vanguard of the fight against imperialism (the bigger evil) and Zionism (the smaller one), and their reactionary Arab agents?
This is beyond the power of the ruling class to imagine.
“These are the sins of the United States and Israel, and we are a resistant country. How could you think of such a comparison?”
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad once responded sarcastically and with despair to a “warning” from Khaled Mashal on the consequences of the Arab Spring migrating to Damascus stating: “These are the sins of the United States and Israel, and we are a resistant country. How could you think of such a comparison?” But it’s as if history repeats itself—in Tehran and especially in Beirut.
Also noteworthy is the adoption by the “official authorities” and “de facto authorities” in the three countries of the same strategy and tactics in addressing the popular movements that took to the streets, cities, towns, and squares, as if we’re dealing with a joint operations room issuing the same orders.
The irony is that those who make accusations against “black ops rooms” which initiate popular movements pride themselves on having “joint operations rooms” for their own factions. But its job this time is to combat the action on the street, and not to combat American-Zionist reactionary hostilities and plots.
We find ruling classes in the three countries that acknowledge some “just” demands, and they are mostly demands related to taxes, rent, unemployment, inflation, and more, while refusing unjust claims expressing desires for freedom, democracy, pluralism, the fight against corruption, and upholding human rights.
Then a distinction is made between honorable protesters, who have the most noble intentions, and demonstrators who are really “rioters,” whose strings are pulled by the fingers of hidden forces in wicked operation rooms.
In Iraq, Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s government did not stop repeating that it understood protesters’ demands and called them to differentiate themselves from the “stray group.” The leaders of Lebanon’s Shiite Duo have resorted to the same tactic. The same record blared in Iran; until it seemed that raising gasoline prices was only intended to provide a new resource for Iran’s poor, which by the estimates of that same government’s country, constitutes 80 percent of its population.
Even the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad did not hesitate to state, from a distance, that the mask of demonstrations in Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran may seem beautiful, but obscures an ugly face. He recalled chapters from what happened in Syria, which he apparently considered as “the best practice” in dealing with protest movements and peaceful demonstrations, despite all the devastation and destruction that has befallen people, plant, and stone throughout Syria. And ignoring, simultaneously, that behind his own beautiful mask of “resistance” lurk hideous policies and practices as well.
Then the counter-tactic shifts to warning against the consequences of “increasing demands” and calls on people to return to their homes and remain calm.
Then the counter-tactic shifts to warning against the consequences of “increasing demands” and calls on people to return to their homes and remain calm, to ignore the opportunity against “the enemies of the nation homeland, resistance, religion, and sect.”
Here, in particular, a mixture of tactics and methods is being adopted which is a stir of doctrinal and sectarian struggles. Warnings of “the tyranny of the majority” touch a sectarian nerve and may even inflict violence against peaceful demonstrators with a cry like “Shiite! Shiite!” echoed down the streets of Beirut, Baalbek, and Tyre, that struck demonstrators who were mostly Shiite anyway—among the most terrible of ironies.
The “traitors” and “agents” who waged a “world war” against Iran deserved the cruelty, bullets, and prisons for what they allowed themselves to do. Incidentally, the term “world war” was previously used in the same context to describe the Syrian crisis.
Adil Abdul-Mahdi’s government still thinks it can crank up cruelty and brutality against demonstrators in Basra, Tahrir, and Najaf in order to restore the state’s “prestige” and enhance its deterrent image despite the hundreds killed and injured.
In Lebanon, the Shiite Duo did not hesitate to call upon the collective memory of the Lebanese Civil War and its demarcation lines to deter protesters. This included standard “brinkmanship,” waving around the “blackshirts,” and drawing upon the memory of May 7, 2008.
The truth is that a keen observer of the usual Axis of Resistance strategies and tactics in dealing with uprisings and revolutions will be fully aware that their leaders have learned nothing from the eight-year, ongoing Syrian conflict. Rather, they view it as an “inspiration” that must be imitated, with variation, in the three countries, and always under a heavy barrage of “gibberish” on resistance, combating conspiracies and those who plot them.
They’ll be making a mistake if they don’t realize that shooting their own people is tantamount to shooting themselves.
These parties neglect, in their “resistance” to foreign agendas – which undoubtedly exist, as do regional and international parties that want to settle old and new accounts and spark “revolution” – that they are themselves enabling the conspiracies and conspirators from realizing their goals and ambitions. They’ll be making a mistake if they don’t realize that shooting their own people is tantamount to shooting themselves, and not just the heads and chests of isolated protesters in Baghdad and Tehran alone.
During the past decade, the parties to the Axis of Resistance have succeeded in many of their latest wars and battles, and they were able to defeat local and regional opponents. However, in their fight against their own demonstrating people, they are recording a net loss, and are pouring wheat into their enemies’ mills.