Iranian authorities used arrests, deadly force, and a prolonged internet blackout to contain nationwide protests that pose the most serious test in years for Iran’s leaders, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said demonstrations over higher fuel prices had been suppressed, but the government’s sweeping internet shutdown made it difficult to assess the state of protests that Amnesty International said left more than 100 people dead in five days.
Tehran’s response came as the Islamic Republic faces new problems around the region, where demonstrators in Iraq and Lebanon are trying to dilute Iranian influence, and Israel is stepping up airstrikes targeting Iranian forces in Syria.
The Trump administration, which has imposed punishing economic sanctions that have undermined Iran’s economy in an effort to blunt Tehran’s regional influence, has backed the demonstrations and denounced the deadly government response.
“The world is watching,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said it had detained key protest leaders, and blood banks called for more donors as the number of injuries during the protests put a strain on the medical system, Iranian news agencies reported.
Some protesters who took part in demonstrations on Wednesday said they were traumatized by what happened in the streets, the Journal adds.
Ali Vaez, an Iranian specialist at the International Crisis Group, said the protests appeared to be petering out in the face of a decisive security crackdown. “It was hard to imagine a leaderless movement, lacking unity of purpose, [surviving] the regime’s united and violent crackdown,” he said. “But the vigor and speed with which the leadership has resorted to violent crackdown this time is indicative of the siege mentality in Tehran amid what they perceive as a multifront war against them by the U.S. and its allies to weaken Iran economically, destabilize it internally, and undermine it regionally.”