The Middle East Channel

Iranian riot police clash with protesters over currency crisis

Iranian riot police clashed with protesters in the capital city of Tehran over the sharp decline in the country's currency. The value of the rial against the U.S. dollar has fallen by over 40 percent this week, hitting an all time low. According to eyewitness accounts and amateur video, hundreds of people marched toward Iran's central bank chanting anti-government slogans and calling for President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to step down. Some shopkeepers closed their shops in the Grand Bazaar in protest. Money dealers, traders, and merchants dominated the crowd, angry with what they see as financial mismanagement by the government and reflecting the impact of severe western economic sanctions over Iran's nuclear development program. Riot police fired tear gas to disperse the crowd, some of whom were setting fire to tires and garbage cans. Many people, including two Europeans, were reportedly arrested. The protests came a day after Ahmadinejad said at a news conference that the crisis was caused by ruthless money speculators, the United States, and other enemies of Iran. Protests are rare in the tightly controlled environment of Iran, particularly after opposition demonstrations were crushed after the disputed re-election of Ahmadinejad in 2009.

Syria

Turkish strikes on military targets in Syria have continued for a second day in retaliation for a border attack by government forces which hit the Turkish town of Akcakale, killing five people. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called an emergency parliament session seeking approval for extensive war powers to "take a precaution to act in a timely and quick manner against additional risks and threats facing our country." The bill presented by Erdogan was dated September 20, which indicates the government had been planning to ask for authority to deploy troops into Syria prior to Wednesday's attack. Akcakle has been hit by Syrian fire on several occasions, but Wednesday marked the first time that Turkey has retaliated with an artillery strike. NATO said it stands by Turkey and "demands the immediate cessation of such aggressive acts against an ally." But NATO senior officials insisted that Turkey did not want a war with its neighbor. The United States said it supports "our Turkish ally and are continuing to consult closely on a path forward." The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to meet at the request of Turkey. Syrian officials are investigating the incident and according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Syrian authorities said it "was a tragic accident and that it will not happen again." Meanwhile, in Damascus an explosion and subsequent clashes between opposition fighters and government forces killed an estimated 25 members of Syria's Republican Guard.

Headlines  

Arguments and Analysis

Iran Loses the Economic Battle' (John Allen Gay, The National Interest)

"While negotiations on Iran's nuclear program are at a standstill, news this week indicates that Iran is clearly losing the economic battle. As in other cases, currency problems in Iran may contribute to an unpredictable and destabilizing political outcome.

Iran's currency fell by more than 18 percent against the dollar on Monday and another 8 percent on Tuesday, marking a new low in Iran's continuing economic crisis. The figures are grim: a sheaf of rials worth ten thousand dollars a year ago would be worth about $3,75 Monday and $3,500 Tuesday; on Wednesday, there were protests in the bazaar."

Assad's Barbaric Endgame' (Anne Applebaum, Slate)

"We are not entirely powerless. Some areas of Syria, abandoned by the Assad regime, are now controlled by local coordination committees. We should be there to help them-and not just with emergency aid. Some months ago, I argued that Syrians should start thinking about transitional justice: how, exactly, former regime allies would be treated if the rebels win; and how victims would be compensated. But it's also possible to start thinking, now, about the economics of postwar Syria, a country whose budgets will be drained and whose infrastructure is in ruins. By focusing on concrete problems, the opposition, the rebels and the coordination committees may find that they can unify around the solutions.

It sounds absurd to plan for the post-Assad future while Assad is devastating his cities and murdering his citizens. But if no one is proposing a better future, he may win."

--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

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