Beginning on the night of December 28, demonstrators took to the streets across Iran to protest rising food and fuel prices, corruption, and other economic hardships in the largest wave of demonstrations in the country since 2009 (Reuters).
In an article for NPR's Parallels blog, Iranian Studies Program Director Abbas Milani writes that only those blind to realities on the ground in Iran are now blindsided by the wrath of the Iranian people.
Professor Milani also analyzed the Iranian government's response to the protests in an interview with Judy Woodruff of PBS NewsHour. The protests, he explained, are occurring in some places that have never been centers for action against the government, small towns, where people cannot hide behind anonymity, where the regime knows everybody. "So it is to me an indication of the level of despair," he said. "Where in places never before the centers of discontent, you are seeing massive demonstrations, either in size or in the ferocity of the slogans."
The protests, he argues, are a tipping point created by 30 years of economic mismanagement, corruption, cronyism, and increased pressure due to sanctions. Meanwhile, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei blames the country's enemies for the protests. "I think it is characteristic of Mr. Khamenei," says Milani. "He has a paranoid view of the world. He doesn’t believe that he has made any mistakes."
Iran faces some truly remarkable economic challenges, Milani notes, from the falling price of oil, to water shortage, to unemployment, to the failure for investments to come into Iran. "None of these can be solved unless Mr. Khamenei and his conservative allies accept responsibility for the catastrophe that they have created hither to, and maybe allow, maybe — it’s not too late yet — maybe allow more prudent policies to emerge."
Professor Milani leads an academic initiative at Stanford called the Iran 2040 Project, which researches many of Iran's economic opportunities and challenges. View the latest research reports and trends in Iran's economy here.