Anti-government protests in Iran flared on more fronts Tuesday with clashes that left at least nine people dead, state media reported, as leaders in Tehran struggled to respond to the most serious internal crisis in nearly a decade.
Six days of demonstrations — which have left at least 20 people dead — showed no signs of easing as the anger from the streets found new targets. What began as frustration over Iran’s sluggish economy has broadened to include open defiance of Iran’s Islamic leadership itself.
There was no apparent evidence of cracks in Iran’s ruling network of clerics and security networks, including the powerful Revolutionary Guard whose influence extends deep into Iran’s economy and policymaking. For the moment, at least, the lack of any key defections at the top suggested Iran’s regime was relatively secure.
But Iran’s establishment was clearly caught off guard by the speed and ferocity of the protests — the largest outpouring of opposition to the state since the disputed 2009 presidential elections.
Many young Iranians are frustrated by limits on reformers, including President Hassan Rouhani, to push for greater social freedoms and political openness in a country where the ruling clerics still hold all the cards. Working-class Iranians and others, meanwhile, are increasingly unhappy with a stagnant economy despite the lifting of international sanctions under the nuclear accord with world powers.
In a replay of the rhetoric from 2009, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, posted comments Tuesday asserting the current protests were encouraged by the country’s “enemies” — often used as shorthand for the United States, its allies and anti-government Iranian exiles.
“In recent days, enemies of Iran used different tools including cash, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatus to create troubles for the Islamic Republic,” said the statement from Khamenei on his official website.
Read full article by Erin Cunningham on The Washington Post, January 2, 2018.