New footage depicts Iran crackdown

What happened: New footage has emerged online showing how Iranian security forces supressed protests that have shaken the country since 15 November.

  • Videos released by Associated Press show more than 100 protesters in Shiraz scattering as gunfire erupts from a police station in the city. In Kerman, members of the Basij, the volunteer force of Iran’s Paramilitary Guard, were seen on motorbikes chasing protesters away. And in Kermanshah, men dressed in plainclothes and armed with batons were seen dragging a man away.
  • The videos emerged after the Iranian government restored the internet after a 7 day shutdown. According to NetBlocks, internet access had been restored to 85 per cent of the country on Sunday, but mobile connectivity remained around 25 per cent.
  • Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, a deputy commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), on Sunday urged the country’s judiciary to mete out harsh sentences to those involved in the deadly demonstrations. “We caught all the mercenaries who openly confessed they were doing mercenary work for America and, God willing, the judicial system of the country will give them maximum punishments,” he told the Mizan news site.
  • Fadavi also accused “rioters” of firing at people with light firearms. “We filmed these crimes, identified them and they will be caught,” he said.
  • Iranian authorities haven’t released an official number of arrests, but state media is reporting that 180 “ringleaders” and “rioters” connected with the dissident group MeK and Kurdish militias have been arrested.

Context: Nationwide protests were sparked by a fuel-price rise on 15 November as the Iranian government tries to limit the economic damage caused by US sanctions.

  • Amnesty International says at least 106 people have been killed in the protests. The Centre for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based advocacy group, said a tally based on official figures and credible reports suggested a minimum of 2,755 people have been arrested with the actual number likely to be closer to 4,000. Iranian authorities dispute such claims but have yet to offer their own official figures.
  • The Iranian protests flared up amid broader regional unrest. In Iraq and Lebanon, both countries where Iran has significant influence over the government, protesters have sought to overthrow the political elites.
  • Yesterday Iraq saw one of its bloodiest days in its current protests as 13 people were reportedly killed across the oil-rich south of the country. Iraqi security forces opened fire on protesters in the Gulf port city of Basra on Sunday and in the city of Nasiriya on Saturday. At least 342 people have died since demonstrations began on 1 October.
  • Tehran views the protests, as well as those at home, as fundamental threats to the Islamic Republic and its wider regional interests.

Looking ahead: Iran will likely respond to the protests by hardening its military footprint in the region. The past 8 years, during which Iranian forces helped Syrian President Bashar al-Assad withstand a popular uprising, have also given the IRGC experience it could use at home. Iran might also look to conduct a similar attack like the one on the Saudi Arabian oil facilities in August in order to distract from its domestic problems. General McKenzie, the head of US Central Command for the Middle East, said over the weekend that “Iran is planning more attacks”.

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