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Iran: Lessons Learned

Iran: Lessons Learned
The unrest in Iran has finally been quelled, but the experience at large has shown that while some actors have learned their lessons since the last time around in 2009, others still haven’t.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced that the protests' leaders have been arrested and that the disturbances have stopped across the country following a law-and-order operation and large-scale pro-government demonstrations. Various agitations broke out across Iran at the tail end of last year over the economic situation there and the government's failure to satisfy popular expectations that it would improve immediately following the 2015 nuclear deal, but some of these gatherings soon came to take on a political nature and even descended into anti-state rioting that ultimately killed a couple dozen people.

Iran blamed its external enemies for this incipient Color Revolution instability, while the US and its partners predictably celebrated the strife and lauded it as representing a "struggle for freedom", with Trump taunting his adversaries by tweeting that "the world is watching" in hinting at the prospect of continued or even new sanctions against the country for what Washington might argue is its "suppression of democracy". The climax of the crisis now seems to be over, however, with the government never having lost control of any part of the country and the protesters also never succeeding in generating anywhere near the numbers that they did during 2009's so-called "Green Revolution" when they could also count on an institutionalized political faction for support.

In the aftermath of what just transpired, observers are discussing what lessons were learned by whom and which are still a work in progress. The government was united this time and able to transcend its traditional "reformist"-"principalist" divide between what are commonly referred to outside of Iran as "moderates" and "conservatives", notwithstanding some rhetorical jabs that were thrown. To his credit, the President also reiterated every Iranians' right to peacefully protest and freely criticize any official, and the state visibly held back on unleashing its police forces against the rioters so as not to inadvertently enflame tensions. As for the demonstrators, they failed to prevent their originally economic movement from being exploited by violent political subversives, who either hijacked some of them or seized the initiative to create their own.  In addition, the original protesters weren't successful in differentiating between themselves and the rioters, which might discredit their otherwise legitimate cause.

Ali Ebrahimnia, Human rights activist based in Iran, and Pouya Sharif, Iranian student activist from Germany, commented on the issue.

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