Unrest in Iran
Over a week ago thousands of Iranian protesters began taking to the streets. As expressed by many of those taking part in the demonstrations, the unrest initially started due to the rising price of food and continuity of corruption and decreasing living standards.
At first the protests were peaceful, yet they quickly took a more violent bent. Attacks on government buildings, as well as police vehicles being set aflame have been reported. Additionally, two protesters were pronounced dead in Droud after sustaining fatal gunshot wounds. Since then the death toll has risen to over twenty and around 500 arrests have been made as protests have spread to approximately fifty cities.
The demonstrations, which originated in Mashhad last Thursday, is said to be the biggest anti-regime episode since that of 2009. Which, ended with the Iranian government's iron fist intervention. In the city of Abhar - located in northern Iran - dissenters set fire to banners and posters of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Continually, in the central town of Arak, the local headquarters of the pro-government Basij militia was set on fire.
The Basij militia is a pro-government force instituted in 1979 by the Ayatollah during the Iran-Iraq War and is invoked during times of domestic crisis and civil unrest.
The Supreme Leader opined that the unrest was organized by enemies of the regime including the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Although there is no evidence of such intervention at this time, both President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu have expressed their support for the protesters and bemoaned the current Iranian regime.
In a storm of tweets, Trump commented that “the U.S. is watching,” he has “such respect for the people of Iran,” and that they will see “great support” from the U.S. at the appropriate time. Meanwhile Benjamin Netanyahu posted on Twitter a video denying his country’s involvement in the demonstrations while also criticizing the current authoritarian government.
Russia on the other hand, has fired back criticism to the U.S. government over their efforts to address the protests by convening the U.N. security council. Russia’s envoy to the council, Vassily Nebenzia, stated that involving the council in an “internal affair” damaged the U.S.’s image. Ambassador Nikki Haley dissented from such criticisms saying that the protests were a “powerful exhibition of brave people.”
As of now, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Maj Gen Mohammad Ali Jafari stated that the “sedition” within the country has been defeated. Since then, thousands of ‘pro-government’ supporters have also taken to the streets to show their loyalty to the regime as state TV has reported. However, the U.S. continues to maintain its strong support for Iran’s political dissidents both from the White House and within the U.N.