Strength of Iran protests uncertain after a week of unrest

Protesters gather in Tehran as unrest spreads across Iran

In Berlin, around 100 regime opponents gathered near the Iranian embassy to demand the immediate release of people arrested during three days of protests.

US officials said Iran appeared to be using local police, the Basij militia and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to crack down on protests, much as it did in 2009 to crush the last major bout of unrest.

The U.S. government believes that hard-liners initiated the demonstrations as a means to pressure President Hassan Rouhani, a relatively moderate cleric within Iran's political system. The protest movement's leaders remain under house arrest years later.

The 2009 protests were also largely centered in Tehran, unlike this current round of protests which is stronger in provincial areas.

Iranian officials have said online accounts in the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia are fomenting protests, which Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed on the country's "enemies". Authorities also reacted with force to the current wave of demonstrations - at least 21 people had been killed and hundreds arrested as The World Weekly went to press- but so far have refrained from the type of mass crackdown seen nearly a decade ago. That appeared to be a reference to US President Donald Trump who tweeted in support of anti-government rallies.

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Some protesters may also have objected, as Trump claimed in one of his tweets, to the fact that their wealth "is being stolen and squandered on terrorism". Mohammed Reza Shah, who ruled the country until 1979, was a staunch ally of the West who relied on foreign support to shore up his reign. Foreign powers long vied for control over Iran's natural resources.

The mass protest was sparked by economic woes but swiftly expanded to target a system that many have said is corrupt and incapable of reform.

Unemployment remains high at more than 12 percent, and inflation has resurged to 10 percent.

By expressing solidarity with them, President Trump is helping to embolden a heroic people against a dictatorship which is aligned not only against its own people but also the United States.

In Mashhad, some chanted, "Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran", a reference to what protesters say is the regime's focus on exporting the revolution, rather than responding to domestic needs.

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Fortunately, in recent days, demonstrations have erupted across Iran, in opposition to widespread repression and economic problems. "With the demonstrations lacking clear leadership or a coherently articulated positive programme, the tide ultimately will turn back in the regime's favour, helped by a range of concessions and targeted crackdowns", Ghoncheh Tazmini, an associate member of the Centre for Iranian Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, told TWW.Dr. Vaez also saw an opportunity for President Rouhani, who could "leverage public discontent to push the political establishment toward structural changes so fervently desired by the population".

The strength of protests shaking Iran was unclear on Thursday after a week of unrest that killed at least 21 people, with fewer reports of demonstrations as government supporters again took to the streets in several cities and towns.

"President Rouhani has nothing to lose by taking a bold step".

"That requires information, but there is a lot of information out there, so we intend to start assembling that and see what we can do", the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

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