Regardless of how the protests in Iran play out, the widespread demonstrations there over the last 10 days are “a reminder that social, economic and political undercurrents are never far from the surface in Iran,” , said on Friday.Tzuriel said that the protests show “that a significant part of the Iranian public rejects the regime’s regional agenda and opposes the export of the Islamic Revolution, the involvement in Syria and the investment of resources in support of Hezbollah in Lebanon, of Hamas and PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad] in Gaza and of the Houthis in Yemen, at the public’s expense.”In addition, he added, the protests also show “that at least part of the public in Iran is willing to take to the streets despite the fear from the regime’s oppressive apparatuses.”Residents contacted by Reuters in various cities said the protests had subsided in recent days, after the government intensified a crackdown by dispatching Revolutionary Guards forces to several provinces.On Saturday, videos on social media showed a heavy police presence in cities, including Khorramabad in southwestern Iran, where on Wednesday evening social media posts showed protesters throwing stones at riot police.Tzuriel said that economic protests in Iran are not rare, and are often used by the public as pretext or “cover” for wider political protests. He noted that the current demonstrations are more geographically spread out, and include not only the middle class, but also people from “lower social strata” who have traditionally identified more with the Islamic Revolution.
Thousands of government supporters staged rallies across the country for a fourth day on Saturday, in a backlash against the protests.More than a week of unrest has left 22 people dead and more than 1,000 arrested, according to Iranian officials, in the biggest anti-government protests since 2009.The situation in Iran was among the issues Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke about on Friday with British Prime Minister Theresa May.Netanyahu was one of the first world leaders, along with US President Donald Trump, to give public, rhetorical support for the protesters when he released a video on Monday. In that video he also slammed the Europeans for staying silent.The prime minister spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday, where the issue was also raised.In addition to speaking with May on Friday, Netanyahu also spoke with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis. Netanyahu discussed Iran and regional developments with those leaders, and thanked them for abstaining in the UN General Assembly vote on Jerusalem last month.Reuters contributed to this report.
Iran protests grow, death toll mounts, January 2, 2018. (REUTERS)