Will Iran protests put leadership at risk?

  • A protester confronts an Iranian police officer Saturday while demonstrators gather in front of Amir Kabir University in Tehran, Iran. Oline videos purported to show that Iranian security forces fired both live ammunition and tear gas to disperse demonstrators protesting against the Islamic Republic's initial denial that it shot down a Ukrainian jetliner.

    A protester confronts an Iranian police officer Saturday while demonstrators gather in front of Amir Kabir University in Tehran, Iran. Oline videos purported to show that Iranian security forces fired both live ammunition and tear gas to disperse demonstrators protesting against the Islamic Republic's initial denial that it shot down a Ukrainian jetliner. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 1/13/2020 9:59 AM

Iran has swiftly cracked down on protests that sprouted over its coverup of the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet. Within Iran, people feel angry at their rulers, who lied for days about what really happened.

Coming on the back of disquiet at home over Iran's perilous economic state, the news has eaten away at the national unity that briefly surfaced after the U.S. killed a senior Iranian general in an airstrike.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There have been clashes between protesters and riot police, with chants denigrating Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and calls to rid the country of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

But that does not mean the leadership is in immediate peril -- it's already faced months of protests. While the plane crash points to weaknesses in its much-vaunted military elite, the rulers control many of the key institutions in Iranian society.

Parliamentary elections due next month will be telling. The influential Guardian Council has already vetted candidates, with a view to shifting power away from moderates in the administration. That may help conservative parties secure control of the legislature, signaling a harder line ahead of a presidential vote next year.

That suggests a country turning ever further in on itself, with little tolerance for dissent. If the protests continue, talk is likely to shift again to whether we're witnessing the start of a "Persian Spring."

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