Iranian regime prepares to crush dissent over subsidy cuts

If democratic regime change is to come to Iran, I believe it will only happen when Iran’s struggling poor and working class take to the streets along with the students and the middle-class professionals of the Green movement.

Apparently, as the Iranian regime prepares to cut food and energy subsidies, it believes the same thing.

As Farnaz Fassihi writes at The Wall Street Journal:

Thousands of police officers have been dispatched to 2,000 locations in Tehran armed with riot gear, such as batons and tear gas, setting up temporary bases in major squares and traffic junctures, said Tehran’s police chief, Hassan Sajedi.

On Tuesday night, police rounded up 100 people under the age of 30 as part of what the police called a “security cleansing” project, according to official news agencies.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sajedi said up to 400 more people would be arrested and “paraded” in the coming days to set an example for anyone planning social unrest. He said some would be charged with “moharebeh” or “war against God,” a charge that carries the death penalty and is typically handed to political dissidents.

The cuts are due this month, but many details of the plan remain vague, such as an implementation schedule and goods to be affected. The government says it has withheld details to prevent public panic, but worried consumers in Tehran and other cities have been buying up dried goods such as rice, beans and oil in anticipation of rising prices. Beef prices have risen about 5% in the past week, residents say.

“If this plan is for the good of the people then why are so many police in the streets?” said a mother of three in Tehran.

The government ordered media organizations this week to refrain from analyzing the subsidy cuts or publishing critical comments about the plan, according to media reports.

Businessmen, industrialists, shopkeepers and high-level managers have been warned against speaking out against the cuts. They say they were told by security officials that they stand to lose their business permits and their jobs if they raise prices or incite public protests.

“More and more this economic reform plan is starting to look like a security operation,” said an analyst in Tehran.