The Iran national soccer team faces retribution in the Islamic Republic after falling short in Tuesday’s showdown against the United States, experts told The Post.
Mike Baker, a former CIA covert operations officer, said the Iranian players are in an “untenable position” to advance to the round of 16 after their much-hyped match against the United States, which beat Iran 1-0.
“Given what we’ve seen of the Iranian regime … it’s proven brutal and there’s no reason to think it’s going to suddenly become rational,” Baker said.
In their opening game against England last week, the Iranian players refused to sing their national anthem in apparent protest at the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was allegedly beaten in police custody in September for improperly wearing a hijab .
And although the Iranian players sang their national anthem on Tuesday, a win against the US would have helped mitigate their earlier transgression, Baker said.
“The regime would have used them for its own ends,” Baker told the Post. “They would have been totally focused on winning, defeating ‘The Great Satan’ or whatever clever phrases they came up with.”
On Monday, CNN reported that the families of the Iran team were threatened with imprisonment and torture if the players did not “behave” before their game against the US. Iranian players were forced to meet with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps after they demonstrated ahead of the game against England, the report added.
Elnaz Rekavi, an Iranian mountaineer, is reportedly under house arrest in her home country for competing abroad in October without a mandatory hijab – in what many saw as a gesture of support for Amini. Rekabi, 33, was reportedly threatened with confiscation of her family’s property unless she made a “forced apology”.
Now, after Tuesday’s defeat, the Iranian team could face fines or even arrests once they get home – in retaliation for their disloyalty and failure to beat the enemy, Baker said.
“Neither of them is good when you’re an Iranian player when you come back,” he added.
The Iranian players faced “tremendous pressure” ahead of the game, including criticism from protesters in Iran who believe they didn’t speak out loud enough against the regime, according to Baker, who is now CEO at global operations Portman Square Group works intelligence company.
Iran has been rocked by angry anti-government protests since Amini’s death. As of Monday, 451 protesters have died in clashes with authorities, including 64 children. according to the non-profit group Human Rights Activists in Iran. Iran’s ruling clerics are solely focused on ending rampant unrest that has erupted in 157 cities across the country since mid-September.
The Iranian players could potentially cross over to other nations, although that’s not likely as leaving relatives behind would be particularly difficult, Baker said.
“It’s hard to put ourselves in that position,” he continued. “You’re putting your family and friends at risk by doing this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some players had thought about it.”
Kenneth R. Timmerman, an author and Iran expert, said the fate of the Iranian players had already been decided before Tuesday’s game “because they have already committed that sin” of not singing the anthem.
“I would be afraid of being arrested,” Timmerman said. “Even if they had won, they would have been arrested, severely beaten and warned, ‘Never do that again.'”
Fatemeh Aman, a fellow at the Middle East Institute, a Washington-based think tank, said she doesn’t think the Iranian team will face any kind of retribution after Tuesday’s loss. That might have been different if a player or two had refused to sing the anthem before the US game, but she believes the team’s unity, all singing together, will protect her.
“You can’t arrest the entire national team at the same time, you can’t,” said Aman.
However, if an individual player is believed to be supporting the demonstrations in Iran, they could have their passport confiscated or face possible fines, Aman said.
“I think the Iranians feel sorry for them,” Aman said of the national team. “You’re in a really, really tough position, a really bad position.”
https://nypost.com/2022/11/29/iranians-face-retribution-after-world-cup-loss-against-usa-experts/ Iranians face retaliation after World Cup defeat by USA: experts