What Iran’s Protests Tell Us About the Middle East—and the World

A student participates in a protest inside Tehran University as a smoke grenade is thrown by anti-riot police, Tehran, Iran, Dec. 30, 2017 (AP photo).
A student participates in a protest inside Tehran University as a smoke grenade is thrown by anti-riot police, Tehran, Iran, Dec. 30, 2017 (AP photo).
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The protests that have sprung up in cities across Iran over the past week have taken many observers by surprise. It was no secret that the underwhelming and unevenly distributed economic gains from the lifting of international sanctions after the 2015 nuclear deal had led to widespread discontent. But there was no catalyzing event to explain the public demonstrations on display this week, which are rare in Iran. For now, the protests raise more questions than they answer, beginning with what the protesters want and who—if anyone—is organizing and leading them. The first spontaneous demonstrations focused on economic grievances. But […]

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