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Iran Spokesman Acknowledges US Officials' View On Protests

A billboard with a big picture of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, set on fire in the recent protests in Iran. November 16, 2019
A billboard with a big picture of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, set on fire in the recent protests in Iran. November 16, 2019

The chief U.S. diplomat on Iran Brian Hook said during a conversation at the Council on Foreign Relations on December 12 that Iranians did not back the regime in the face of U.S. maximum pressure policy.

Asked if Iranians were more upset about the regime’s mishandling of affairs, or are they more upset about America's economic pressure on Tehran, Hook said there were "protests in over a hundred cities. And there was not a single protest that we have seen against the United States, against the president, or against American sanctions. And this is very significant."

Hook continued: "There were all sorts of pundits that were predicting that when we put our sanctions into place that everybody would rally around the flag. It is the exact opposite that has happened."

"There was one video I saw of an Iranian woman climbing a pole that had a 'death to America' banner on it, and she pulled it down. Instead of seeing images of the American president burned, you saw videos of the supreme leader’s images being burned," Hook maintained.

Three days after Hook's remarks, the Iranian administration's spokesperson Ali Rabiei wrote a commentary in the administration-owned daily newspaper, Iran, acknowledging Brian Hook's evidence-based observation.

Referring to the U.S. Iran diplomat's statement, Rabiei wrote on Saturday December 14: "Today, I believe we have made a mistake. We should have transparently explained U.S. sanctions to the people."

"Even those linked to the United States observe that the people did not chant slogans against the sanctions. Instead they chanted slogans against our political system," said Rabiei, adding that "U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the State Department's Chief Representative for Iran Brian Hook have also said that."

Rabiei added, this was one of the results of "poor news dissemination" by the Iranian government. "We should have answered questions about why we are being sanctioned, and what the sanctions are" in the first place. "Otherwise, the Iranian government would be blamed for all the implications of the sanctions."

He acknowledged that the Iranian government's policy about sanctions so far has been one of "denial," and that was a "mistake."

Rabiei said America will be acquitted if we do not tell the truth about the sanctions to the Iranian people.

He wrote: "We should hand over the task of resistance against the sanctions to the people. We should not tell the people that we would bypass the sanctions for them and on their behalf and without their help."

Rabiei made the statement about handing over the burden of sanctions to the people, while so far numerous reports have indicated that serious economic problems caused by the sanctions have been shouldered by most vulnerable parts of the Iranian society.

Rabiei in his commentary made a vague reference that the government should confront those who try to isolate Iran in the international monetary system. He was referring to Iranian hardliners who have been obstructing ratification of bills that would guarantee Iran's assimilation into the world economy by assuring the world that Iran will not fund terrorism and trans-border crimes by money laundering.

Earlier last week, Brian Hook, the U.S. Special Representative for Iran told reporters that Washington should continue the sanctions on Iran, adding that the world should not subsidize Tehran's bad behavior.