While the world watches Russia and Ukraine — this writer watches other dangers.
Not that Russia is unimportant. What Russia says, does, doesn’t say and doesn’t do, is very important. But many other things are happening globally.
They must be monitored carefully so that surprises, as they always do, don’t catch us off guard.
In the realm of foreign affairs, surprises are synonymous with catastrophe. And that’s why I’m watching Iran — and not merely nuclear Iran.
During these last few weeks Iran has seen protests by Iranian youth standing up and shouting, showing their discontent with their future and their potential jobs. Iranian youth does not believe that, if they remain in Iran, their future will be rosy.
As political movements go that is to be expected.
Youth has, historically, been the backbone of political movements for change. That is why university campuses are such hotbeds for ideas and revolution.
This is indeed the case globally, not just in the United States or Iran.
The civil rights movement, the antiwar movement (getting the United States out of Vietnam) were the heart and soul of American campuses in the 1960s and early 1970s.
The women’s movement of the same era, the peace and love movement, were all about youth.
The sexual revolution, also at the same point in time, in history, was about youth.
Many of these movements had music accompanying their causes and it was the music that drew more youth. Peter, Paul and Mary, Arlo Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin — to name a few, were campus icons.
Most of these movements pitted youth against the establishment.
It was about change.
Change, youth argued, for the better.
Such movements challenged convention.
That’s why long hair, bell bottoms and the Beatles were part of the revolution.
The conventional world, the adult world, the establishment, had short hair and straight legged pants. The music, Woodstock, "Hair," the play and movie, explain it all.
The reasons are obvious.
Motivated youth care.
Motivated youth take stock and looks to their future.
When we apply this model to Iran, youthful rebellion is to be expected.
The precedent for them has been set.
It was the youth of Iran who kidnapped Americans and held them hostage in Teheran.
It was the universities that were the breeding ground of support for the Ayatollah and the youth who orchestrated the ousting of the Shah in 1979.
But wait — there’s a new twist in the arena of Iranian dissatisfaction and protests. Retirees and pensioners are coming out to protest. And they have organized on their own, they are not add ons to youth rallies.
Two ends of the spectrum united in dissatisfaction.
This is not the norm, not in Iran and not anywhere.
Adults do not join rallies, they do not run out and protest unless — unless things are very bad. Adults do not rally about the future.
When senior citizens organize rallies, they shout about the here and now, not about the future.
Reports from Iran, mostly twitter feeds and videos picked up by Iranian expatriate media, show workers attending rallies in major cities, protesting food shortages and low salaries, even salaries that have not been paid. Thousands of seniors in Teheran, Isfahan, Rasht came out. Their message was: "Enough of Injustice, Food on our table has gone up like smoke in the air."
The message of the pensioners is profound.
Through protests, people are calling for change.
Twitter messages are being posted of the protests. That’s how we know that the Mian ab Sugar cane workers were on strike for over a week. And that thousands of people regularly protest in front of the Majlis, the Iranian parliament.
And that’s where healthcare workers chose to protest their working conditions.
Judiciary workers protested there as well — they shouted at Parliamentary Speaker Mohmmad Baqer Ghalibaf, chanting "Liar, Liar" and "Ghalibaf, Disgrace."
And . . . "If our problem is not resolved, we will shut down the justice system!".
The Iranian judicial system is breaking down. Many in it are resigning.
There is very little Iran can do to stop any of these protests.
The protests grow and are spreading nationally — across populations — because dissatisfaction is growing.
And yet, Iranian leadership remains consumed by their narrow vision and limited objectives.
The obvious lesson to be learned from these protests and the economic turmoil ripping the country apart is that the priorities of Iranian leadership clearly diverge from those of their citizens’ daily needs.
Thus a huge internal, combustible conflict is almost inevitable.
Iranian leadership is treating their citizens as residents without rights.
Neither the needs nor the wishes of the people are relevant.
The leadership sets priorities based on their own desires, issues, and priorities.
There has always been an over arching mantra of "Islam first" in Iran, but within that, there was a sense of governance and responsibility to the people.
Now, that is no more.
Iranian leadership believes first and foremost that the Shiite Islamic nature of the country is primary. Next, they believe that becoming a bullwork to attack the United States and the West will garner widespread global support for their causes and will lift sanctions.
Iranian leadership expends huge amounts of money and energy supporting terror and activities outside of Iran in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and elsewhere to pursue their agenda through proxies.
All that money and energy could be re-directed inward. It should be.
But ideology shades their perspectives, their vision, and their priorities.
Not today, but in the end, the protestors will win — and I’ll be watching; we'll all be watching — riveted.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern," a weekly TV program, and "My Chopp," a daily radio spot. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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