Iranian Member of Parliament Behrouz Bonyadi criticized Tehran’s allies Russia and Syria in unusually harsh terms during a speech on Wednesday, essentially agreeing with the Iranian protest movement that the nation has spent too many resources in propping up Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
He also warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot be trusted.
“Bashar Assad, with full impudence, has cozied up to Putin. Russia will not be a trustworthy friend for us,” warned Bonyadi, as related by Radio Farda.
“Why we should constantly live in fear of war, sanctions, and bad news?” he asked of Iran’s interventionist foreign policy, noting that the money spent on adventures like Syria was more urgently needed at home.
In an especially interesting passage, Bonyadi challenged his regime’s paranoia and held it accountable for Iran’s international isolation, which is downright heretical when compared to Tehran’s official line that America illegally withdrew from the nuclear deal for no good reason and is criminally punishing Iran with unfair sanctions.
“Which international conspiracy has destroyed our rivers, wetlands, lakes and underground water reserves? Which foreigner has deprived our people of clean air? Why harmony and accommodation with the international community is so hard for us?” he asked.
Bonyadi directly addressed Iran’s crackdown on the protest movement and castigated the regime for labeling all dissidents as traitors.
The current wave of protests has grown into one of the stiffest challenges yet faced by the Khomeneist government. In addition to complaining about the lousy economy, the demonstrators specifically criticize government policy with slogans such as “Let go of Syria and think about us.”
Bonyadi is a reformist who has previously called for more accountability from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and pressed the government to spend more on the poor. The strength of his criticism on Thursday could be a hopeful sign that the regime is in real trouble and is having a tough time blaming its failures on outside forces.
Some observers caution against excessive optimism, suggesting the regime has not yet taken the kind of measures that would indicate desperation (and almost certainly cut the career of critics like Bonyadi painfully short).
Others say they detect a hint of the revolutionary fervor of 1979, only this time directed against Ayatollah Khomeini’s successors. One hint of danger for the regime is that Iran’s economy has become too weak to absorb the blow of widespread labor strikes, and it has no good answer to Bonyadi’s challenge that too much money has been spent on foreign adventures.