Iran Project

Iran Crisis Update, November 26

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei publicly rejected the possibility of compromise or reform to placate the ongoing protests on November 26. Khamenei reiterated his hard line on the protests and his accusation that foreign actors incited the unrest. He ended his speech with a Quranic verse that social media users interpreted as further affirmation that he will not make concessions. Khamenei made these remarks in a meeting with Basij members and lauded their role in protest suppression.

Iran Crisis Update, November 21

The Iranian regime has adopted what increasingly resembles a counter-insurgency approach rather than a counter-protest one to manage the ongoing unrest. Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC)-affiliated Tasnim News Agency reported that IRGC Ground Forces are clearing some cities in West Azerbaijan Province, including Boukan, Mahabad, Oshnaviyeh, Piranshahr, and other unnamed locations, of anti-regime elements on November 21. These IRGC military units are likely using extreme force and indiscriminately killing civilians to quell protests. Security forces are conducting a brutal crackdown in Javanroud, Kermanshah Province as well. Security forces have isolated Javanroud, blocking major roads into the city, and shot live ammunition and nerve gas at protesters. The closure of these major roads will impede most travel into and out of Javanroud given the rugged terrain surrounding the city. The IRGC Ground Forces 4th Ansar ol Rasoul Operational Brigade is headquartered in Javanroud and could support the regime crackdown there and in nearby locations. This increasing regime brutality accords with CTP’s previous assessment that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has likely greenlit the security forces to intensify their crackdown.

Iran Crisis Update, November 20

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei likely issued an unpublished directive to violently suppress anti-regime protests within the past few days. The Supreme Leader discussed protests in a speech in Esfahan City, Esfahan Province on November 19. Khamenei’s speech did not contain significant rhetorical inflections or escalations in the way he discussed quelling unrest compared to prior speeches made in the past several weeks. Several senior regime officials called for a decisive crackdown on demonstrations on November 20, however, as regime violence against protesters in northwestern Iran escalated, suggesting that Khamenei likely greenlit the increased use of force against protesters. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi stressed that responsible entities should take urgent and decisive action against “rioters” and blamed Western actors for unrest, mirroring Khamenei’s November 19 rhetoric, on November 20. IRGC Ground Forces Saheb ol Zaman Provincial Unit Commander in Esfahan Province Mojtaba Fada similarly promised a firm response to unrest “at the slightest hint from the [supreme] leader,” likely referencing Khamenei’s November 19 speech. The unit published a statement announcing the arrest of a ”terrorist team” that had killed security personnel in Esfahan Province and possessed firearms and hand-made bombs on the same day. Artesh Executive Deputy Mohammad Mahmoudi additionally stated that the Artesh was at the peak of its operational readiness and was prepared to carry out all its assigned missions on November 20. IRGC Aerospace Force Commander Ali Haji Zadeh also discussed the importance of following the Supreme Leader’s directives in a meeting on November 20.

Iran Crisis Update, November 14

Protest activity and strikes will likely increase from November 15 to 17. Protest coordinators and organizers have reiterated their calls for protests and countrywide strikes on these days and also urged citizens to not pay their utility bills. Social media accounts published videos on November 14 claiming to depict protesters traveling from Tabriz, East Azerbaijan to Tehran to demonstrate and “conquer” Tehran. Other protesters have used similar rhetoric in recent days, calling for citizens to conquer a main Tehran highway during the upcoming protests, as CTP previously reported.

Iran Crisis Update, November 11

Overall protest turnout throughout Iran has diminished in recent days but surged in Sistan and Baluchistan Province on November 11. Protests have occurred almost every Friday in Sistan and Baluchistan Province since the brutal regime crackdown in Zahedan on September 30. The Friday protest activity on November 11 was the most geographically widespread yet, occurring in at least six cities in Sistan and Baluchistan Province. The previous Friday, November 4, saw protest activity in five cities in the province.

Iran Crisis Update, November 10

The ongoing protests are creating fractures within the Iranian hardliner camp. Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and his inner circle have clashed politically with other hardliners who have taken harsher stances against the protests, according to Iranian media. Ghalibaf and his inner circle have blamed these hardliners—specifically Saeed Jalili and others in the Stability Front party—for stoking unrest among disaffected Iranian youth. Jalili was the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council from 2007 to 2013. One parliamentarian reportedly close to Ghalibaf wrote an op-ed accusing parliamentarians close to Jalili of having inflexible and uncompromising views and calling media affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) “harsh and violent” on October 25. Ghalibaf endorsed economic and sociopolitical reform in a parliamentary address on November 5, describing changes made within the parameters of the Islamic Republic as “legitimate and necessary.” Ghalibaf likely seeks to use such promises of reform to placate protesters. Ghalibaf will not likely support meaningful political reform, however.

Iran Crisis Update, November 7

Some elements of the Iranian regime have suggested political reform to assuage protesters’ frustrations, although such reform is highly unlikely. Hassan Khomeini—the reformist grandson of Ruhollah Khomeini—called for a “majority-based democracy” in Iran on November 7. Khomeini also implicitly criticized the Guardian Council—the state body constitutionally responsible for approving and vetting electoral candidates—for disqualifying prominent moderates and reformists from running in recent elections.

Iran Crisis Update, November 6

The regime continued linking the ongoing protests with terrorism on November 6 as part of an information operation to delegitimize protesters and their grievances. Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf accused the US and Israel of stoking the protests to create a new ISIS in Iran. A group of 227 parliamentarians signed a letter similarly blaming the US for the unrest and comparing protesters to ISIS militants, calling for harsh and rapid prosecutions. Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Telegram channels previously characterized protesters as ”domestic ISIS” on November 3, as CTP previously reported.

Iran Crisis Update, November 5

Prominent Sunni cleric Moulana Abdol Hamid may begin regularly instigating protests throughout Sistan and Baluchistan Province rather than in just Zahedan. Protests occurred in at least five cities in Sistan and Baluchistan Province on November 4, including Zahedan, where Abdol Hamid has instigated protests during his Friday sermons in recent weeks. Abdol Hamid called for a referendum on the Islamic Republic during his Friday Prayer sermon on November 4. Abdol Hamid’s criticism of the regime may be resonating with a larger portion of the Sunni Baloch community, indirectly stoking additional demonstrations against the political establishment.

Iran Crisis Update, November 3

Violent clashes erupted between security forces and protesters in Karaj, Alborz Province on November 3. Mourners and protesters gathered around Karaj, which is just outside Tehran City, to commemorate the 40th day since the regime killed Hadis Najafi. Security forces blocked roads leading to the cemetery where Najafi is buried and fired live ammunition and tear gas at protesters. Protesters attacked security forces stations and vehicles. Protesters stabbed and killed a Basij member and injured five Law Enforcement Command (LEC) officers. Protesters also severely injured a cleric.