The Mullah regime and its military arm, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), are under the illusion that they can suppress the protests that erupted across Iran since Thursday night, according to observers.
Police and IRGC have in the past crushed unrest violently. The new protests could worry authorities more because they seem spontaneous and lack a clear leader, they noted.
Iran’s leaders assume they can count on support from many of the generation that took part as youths in the 1979 revolution because of their ideological commitment and the economic gains they have made under the government, they further stated, adding that they will face a shocking reality.
Unrest is admittedly unpredictable — coming days could take unexpected turns. Signposts of a surprise include; a leader or small group of leaders emerging, a defined manifesto, and much larger protests, Cliff Kupchan, the chairman of the Eurasia Group, a Washington-based political risk consultancy, told The New York Times Monday.
What confirms observers' remarks is that anti-government protesters demonstrated in Iran on Monday in defiance of a warning by authorities of a crackdown, extending for a fourth day one of the most audacious challenges to the clerical leadership since pro-reform unrest in 2009.
Demonstrators initially vented their anger over economic hardships and alleged corruption, but the protests took on a rare political dimension, with a growing number of people calling on Ali Khamenei to step down.
Videos showed people in central Tehran chanting: “Down with the dictator!” in an apparent reference to Khamenei, according to Reuters.
Protesters in Khorramabad in western Iran shouted: “Khamenei, shame on you, leave the country alone!”
Challenging clerical leadership
Amid fear of the growing unrest, the government said on Sunday it would temporarily restrict access to the Telegram messaging app and Instagram, owned by Facebook Inc. There were also reports that mobile access to the internet was being blocked in some areas.
Challenging the clerical leadership in Iran, in the western town of Takestan, demonstrators set ablaze a Shia seminary and the offices of the local Friday prayers leader, state broadcaster IRIB’s website said. Police dispersed protesters, arresting some, ILNA news agency said.
Demonstrators also shouted: “Reza Shah, bless your soul.” Such calls are evidence of a deep level of anger and break a taboo. The king ruled Iran from 1925 to 1941 and his Pahlavi dynasty was overthrown in a revolution in 1979 by Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s first leader.
The unrest in Iran is just “the beginning of a big movement” that could be more widespread than the demonstrations of 2009, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi said in an interview Sunday.
“I think the protests are not going to end soon. It seems to me that we are witnessing the beginning of a big protest movement that can go well beyond the Green wave of 2009. It would not surprise me if it becomes something bigger,” said Ebadi to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
“In Iran, and it is not new, there is a very serious economic crisis. The corruption in the whole country is at appalling levels. The end of certain sanctions related to the nuclear agreement with Europe and the United States in 2015 did not bring real benefits to the population, contrary to what many expected,” the lawyer said.
“Added to this is the fact that Iran has very high military expenditures. People are not willing to see so much money spent on it,” she added.
“Young people are the most disappointed,” Ebadi said, referring to the high unemployment, corruption and “the climate of censorship.”
“The economic situation and the frightening gap between the rich and the poor, between those who enjoy well-being and those who cannot, are at the root of the protest,” the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize-winner said.
Price of proxy war
During demonstrations, protesters also expressed anger over costly interventions in Syria and Iraq, where Iran is engaged in a proxy war for influence against regional rival Saudi Arabia.
“Big protests in Iran,” US President Donald Trump said in a tweet earlier on Sunday. “The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism.”
The mass protests that have erupted across Iran confirm that the Mullah regime will pay a heavy price for using its Shia militias to destabilize Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, analysts told The Baghdad Post.
Khamenei's day of reckoning is approaching. Iranians will not return to their homes until the regime comes to its senses or heads to its grave, they added.