The Iran Protests: Implications for the Islamic Republic and Beyond

January 5, 2018
9:00 am -

Event Description

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies hosted a breakfast conversation on The Iran Protests: Implications for the Islamic Republic and Beyond, taking place this Friday, January 5, 2018, from 9:00 to 10:30am.  The discussion featured Iran experts Reuel Marc Gerecht, senior fellow at FDD and a former Iran specialist at the CIA; Mariam Memarsadeghi, co-founder and co-director of Tavaana and an advocate for human rights and democracy, particularly in Islamic contexts; Ray Takeyh, Hasib J. Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Behnam Ben Taleblu, senior Iran analyst at FDD.

The most significant protests in Iran since 2009 have endured for nearly a week, spreading to more and more cities, large and small, with each passing day.

Ray Takeyh and FDD’s Mark Dubowitz argue in a WSJ op-ed that as “the events on the streets unfold, their most immediate casualty will be the presidency of Hassan Rouhani … who pledged to revive the economy, and used the nuclear agreement to lift debilitating sanctions and stimulate commerce.”

Takeyh and Dubowitz add: “Instead of channeling that wealth into productive uses, Ayatollah Khamenei, the clerical establishment and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, consumed much of it on foreign adventurism and corruption.” Takeyh discussed this theme.

The conversation also addressed Tehran’s response to the protests, international support – or lack thereof – for the protesters, and implications for the Khamenei regime’s destabilizing activities beyond its borders as well as its hegemonic ambitions.  Panelists also will discuss the challenge of monitoring Iran from abroad, the role of social media, and the assumptions about Iran held by foreign policy elites in Washington and Europe.


The Iran Protests: Implications for the Islamic Republic and Beyond
A conversation with Reuel Marc Gerecht, Mariam Memarsadeghi, Ray Takeyh, and Behnam Ben Taleblu,
moderated by Clifford D. May

Friday, January 5, 2018
9:00am – 10:30am

Reuel Marc Gerecht is a senior fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.  He focuses on Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorism, and intelligence. Mr. Gerecht is the author of The Wave: Man, God, and the Ballot Box in the Middle East (Hoover Institution Press, 2011), Know Thine Enemy: A Spy’s Journey into Revolutionary Iran (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1997) and The Islamic Paradox: Shiite Clerics, Sunni Fundamentalists, and the Coming of Arab Democracy (AEI Press, 2004). He is a contributing editor for The Weekly Standard and has been a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, as well as a frequent contributor to The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and other publications. He was previously a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the director of the Middle East Initiative at the Project for the New American Century. Earlier, he served as a Middle Eastern specialist at the CIA’s Directorate of Operations.

Clifford D. May is the Founder and President of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. In August 2016, Mr. May was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). He has had a long and distinguished career in international relations, journalism, communications and politics. A veteran foreign correspondent and editor (at The New York Times and other publications), he has covered stories around the world, including from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Turkey, Sudan, Ethiopia, China, Northern Ireland, Nigeria, Mexico and Russia.

Mariam Memarsadeghi is co-founder and co-director of Tavaana: E-Learning Institute for Iranian Civil Society. Launched in 2010, the virtual institute offers secure democracy and human rights educational opportunities, from graduate level seminars to animated PSAs, short tutorials, case studies of democratic transitions, panel discussions, translated ebooks, comedy skits and more. Now a household brand, Tavaana regularly reaches over 15 million Iranians via live e-classrooms, correspondence learning, satellite TV, robust social media networks and a mobile app.  TavaanaTech provides the Iranian people with digital literacy training, digital safety alerts and tech solutions for access to a free, safe internet. Ms. Memarsadeghi is an outspoken advocate for the principles of liberalism, women’s rights, democracy (and democratic) education and internet freedom, particularly in Islamic contexts.  Her writings have appeared in The Washington PostThe Wall Street Journal and other publications.  She is a frequent speaker at think tanks and has appeared on the PBS NewsHour, NPR and other English, Persian and Arabic language news programs.  Ms. Memarsadeghiis a 2017 Presidential Leadership Scholar and has been recognized by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the German Marshall Fund as a TransAtlantic Young Leader for her work promoting democracy and human rights globally.

Ray Takeyh is Hasib J. Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). His areas of specialization are Iran, political reform in the Middle East, and Islamist movements and parties. Prior to joining CFR, Mr. Takeyh was senior advisor on Iran at the Department of State. He was previously a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Mr. Takeyh is the coauthor of The Pragmatic Superpower: Winning the Cold War in the Middle East and is the author of three previous books, Guardians of the Revolution: Iran and the World in the Age of the AyatollahsHidden Iran: Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, and The Origins of the Eisenhower Doctrine: The US, Britain and Nasser’s Egypt, 1953–1957. He has also written more than 250 articles and opinion pieces in many news outlets including Foreign Affairs, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies where he focuses on Iranian security and political issues. Mr. Taleblu previously served as a Non-Resident Iran Research Fellow and Iran Research Analyst at FDD, and prior to that worked on non-proliferation issues at an arms control think-tank in Washington. Leveraging his subject-matter expertise and native Farsi skills, Mr. Taleblu has closely tracked a wide range of Iran-related topics including: nuclear non-proliferation, ballistic missiles, sanctions, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the foreign and security policy of the Islamic Republic, and internal Iranian politics. Frequently called upon to brief journalists, congressional staff, and other Washington-audiences, Mr. Taleblu has testified before the U.S. Congress and Canadian Parliament. His analysis has been quoted in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, AFP, AP, and CNN, and he has appeared as a guest on BBC, C-SPAN, Fox News, Defense News, Al Arabiya, Al Hurra, Sky News Arabia, as well as several syndicated radio stations. He has also contributed or co-authored articles for Foreign Affairs, The Hill, War on the Rocks, The National Interest, and U.S. News & World Report.