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Cablegate: No Foreseeable Relief for Iranian Domestic Woes

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHAK #0299/01 0551505
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 241505Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY ANKARA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2237
INFO RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 7042
RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS ANKARA 000299

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958:N/A
TAGS: CVIS PREL PINS PGOV PHUM SOCI SCUL TU IR
SUBJECT: No Foreseeable Relief For Iranian Domestic Woes

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: CONOFFs surveyed Iranian Immigrant Visa (IV) and
Non-Immigrant Visa (NIV) applicants regarding the political,
economic, and social conditions since the February 11 Revolution Day
demonstrations. Applicants expressed mixed views about the
effectiveness of the Iranian opposition movement. Some remain
hopeful, but emphasize opposition success will take years, not
months. Others said the movement is finished. Most Iranians voiced
their continued anger over the outcome of last June's elections, but
noted that many aspects of everyday life in Iran continue without
government interference. A few applicants complained about
increased government pressures since the unrest began to comply with
strict Islamic social norms. A few applicants expressed optimism
that Iran's economy is set to recover, giving no weight to
opposition activities. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Most applicants thought the February 11 protests were much
smaller than earlier protests. A Tehrani civil engineer said that
he and his wife refrained from going out that day due to fear of
getting injured or killed. He added the government's effective
repression of the opposition indicates that any hopes for change may
take years, not months. Most applicants did not go out in public
during the February 11 protests and based on what they learned;
believe that the impact of the opposition movement is greatly
reduced. One Jewish IV applicant, who lives in a busy area of
Tehran near the Ministry of Agriculture, said the Green Movement was
finished. She has not seen any sign of the opposition since
February 11. She added that she has never faced harassment nor
heard of increased harassment towards the Jewish population due to
the unrest.


3. (SBU) A Tehrani housewife reported that on February 11
protesters were dispersed among many streets in Tehran, but had come
out in large numbers. She said that it was a combination of
security forces preventing them from congregating in one area and
effective media restrictions which made the protest appear weaker
than it was. She noted soldiers in Tehran prevent groups of more
than four persons from gathering. She added that tear-gas and
electrified batons are also among security force's deterrents. She
accounted how, although not involved in a protest three months ago,
she attempted to help a young girl beaten brutally by security
forces and was herself badly beaten. She emphasized that Tehran is
now under a state of military rule. She said pressure by security
forces to conform to Islamic social norms has been on the rise since
the unrest began last June. Another Iranian said that Iran has
always been under military dictatorship. An AMCIT accompanying her
daughter on her IV interview said she was not harassed when she
traveled to Iran this month, but had heard that the government is
now using threats against people's bank assets to deter
participation in the opposition.

4. (SBU) Overall the government of Iran (GOI) has been effective in
reducing the expectations for success of the Green Movement. Since
the February 11 protest, excitement for opposition success among
applicants is significantly lower. At best some hoped that in two
to three years the opposition might be successful. One applicant
noted that the Islamic Revolution took many years to come to
fruition. A dentist from Tehran said that the economic situation is
poor country-wide. She added that outside of Tehran, in cities such
as Isfahan, which are more religious and secure, the opposition is
more muted. She stated that people who have no business with the
opposition are generally left alone, but those who show sympathy
towards the opposition are heavily harassed. A Tehrani youth,
accompanying his grandmother to her IV interview, remarked that the
majority of Tehrani's spirits have been crushed. He added that no
one in Tehran smiles in public anymore. In contrast, a Kermanshahi
businessman's main concern was not the political unrest, but the
amount of dust coming over the border from Iraq. He said that the
dust is so bad that residents have to wear masks and sometimes have
to close schools. He added that Iranians are still upset about the
elections and the economy could be better, but in Kermanshah the
only sign of the opposition is the graffiti which supporters
spray-paint on walls under cover of night.

5. (SBU) Economic pressures remain a major concern mainly for
Iran's youth. An elderly woman living in Karaj, a suburb of Tehran,
said that people like her, who are well-established, continue to
live comfortably or at least survive, but that the youth of Iran
continue to struggle with Iran's ailing economy. An Isfahan
University of Medical Sciences employee stated that although the
world-wide recession has hurt everyone, it's the unprivileged youth
of Iran who are suffering the most. He emphasized that established
wealthy and middle-class Iranians are able to live comfortably
despite the economic problems. He added that in Isfahan the Green
Movement appears to have stopped, but added no one can predict the
future.

6. (SBU) A few applicants, such as an older businessman from Rasht,
reported no unrest in Northern Iran and had high hopes for Iran's
economic future. Another couple from Gorgan, the capital Golestan
Province, said there has been no political unrest there. A Bank
Saderat Branch owner, whose brother was an Iran-Iraq War casualty,
said the opposition movement was marginal. He admitted the current
economic situation in Iran is poor with unemployment around 25%, but
emphasized his belief that in a couple years the economy would boom.
He attributed his hopes to heavy investments in massive building
projects, including housing for Iran's growing population. He added
that Europe, China, and Russia continue to do business with Iran
despite the threat of sanctions. He added he hoped for improved
relations with the U.S. as both countries would benefit
economically. He was optimistic about the government's pending
multistage subsidy reforms. He explained that the government wants
to limit the amount of subsidies given depending on how much of each
good a person uses. He said, for example, the government would
subsidize 80% of the cost of a specific quantity of gas per
consumer, but anything over that would be purchased at full price.
He noted the main challenge is finding a realistic way to implement
this, but was confident that once implemented, the system would be
more equitable and improve the economy.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Applicant aspirations for regime change or even
systematic reform have faded significantly since the February 11
protests. With the next demonstrations planned for
"Chaharshanbe-Suri", a pre-Iranian New Year cultural festival, it is
unclear how much impact the Green Movement still has, and whether it
can continue to pursue successfully its past tactics of trying to
pressure the regime through large public marches and protests. Most
of our Iranian interlocutors believe not. As time passes, it
appears that the GOI has grown increasingly more effective at
countering the Green Movement's tactics and efforts, and confident
that it now has the upper hand. On the other hand, accounts from
visa applicants suggest that the regime is continuing to fail to
find solutions to economic problems facing the unprivileged youth, a
failure that will impact its long-term ability to control this
population group. END COMMENT.

JEFFREY

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