Faced with a massive popular uprising, Iran‘s rulers are playing the “Foreign Card.” This is done by placing the blame for the dissent on foreigners. So far, the Iranian rulers have blamed the Western media, the United States and their previous Satan, Great Britain.
The latest attempt to blame foreigners involves the claim that British passports have allegedly been found in the possession of some folks involved in the protests. This is, of course, a rather lame attempt at blame. First, if Britain were to send agents to provoke protests in Iran, they would surely not be carrying around British passports. Second, there are Iranians who live outside of Iran and have citizenship in other countries. As such, these passports might belong to Iranians who live in Britain. If this is the case, the hardly counts as a case of foreign intervention. Third, even if the passports belong no non-Iranian Brits, it hardly follows that they are acting at the behest of the British government. Fourth, the evidence seems to be clear that the protests are homegrown. Foreigners might be glad to contribute what they can to the protests, but there seems to be no evidence that Britain and the United States have had any significant role in what is happening in Iran.
While it is not irrational for the Iranian leaders to suspect US or British involvement (after all, we have done it in the past), they seem to be either largely making up their claims of foreign involvement or simply seeing the protests as being foreign controlled because they are seeing things through the distorting lens of their ideology.
The Iranian rulers do, I think, want the US and UK to get involved in the protests. Naturally, they do not want the United States or Britain to take action that could actually overthrow the regime. But, clear evidence of British or American involvement in the protests would give them a propaganda tool and an excuse to crack down even more. After all, they would claim that they were fighting a foreign foe, the Great Satan. This would also garner them sympathy from states that are less than friendly with America and Britain.
Unable to find hard evidence of such involvement, the rulers are currently trotting out the old claims that America and Britain are involved. I suspect that it is only a matter of time before they start fabricating evidence of involvement. They might even luck out and find a few individuals from the US or UK that they can pass off as government agents sent to destroy Iran.
The rulers do, of course, point to the BBC and American media as being instigators in the protests. This does have some merit-after all, people do get ideas when they are exposed to relatively free outside sources of information. But to claim that the media influences are causing the protests is implausible. While people do attribute a great deal of power to the media, these folks are hardly prime movers in the Iranian situation. If the Iranian leaders want to find the root cause of the peoples’ dissatisfaction, they need only look in the mirror.
This situation does, of course, keep the US and the UK in a bit of a dilemma. On the one horn, if we stay out of the situation, the rulers of Iran can act with impunity against their own people. At least until the protests become too large to contain or substantial portions of the police and military go over to the protesters. On the other horn, if the US and UK get involved, then the Iranian rulers can use that as effective propaganda and also use it to justify escalating the violence against their own people.