Israel assesses Iran protests could come to threaten regime — report
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Israel assesses Iran protests could come to threaten regime — report

In memo, Foreign Ministry said to tell PM and diplomats worldwide that Tehran was caught off-guard by unrest; Iranians have breached 'fear barrier' created by 2009 crackdown

Iranian students protest at the University of Tehran during a demonstration driven by anger over economic problems, in the capital Tehran on December 30, 2017. (AFP/ STR)
Iranian students protest at the University of Tehran during a demonstration driven by anger over economic problems, in the capital Tehran on December 30, 2017. (AFP/ STR)

A classified memo assessing the unfolding Iran protests distributed by the Foreign Ministry reportedly determines that the demonstrations have weakened the regime in Tehran and may threaten its stability if they continue.

The document, which was drawn up by the ministry’s intelligence wing and shared with the Prime Minister’s Office, the security cabinet, and Israeli embassies around the world, says the regime was caught off-guard by the protests, and, in response, is trying to use means such as arrests and blocking social media to quell the demonstrations, Channel 10 reported Monday.

While the protests initially focused on economic issues, they have since turned to Iran’s support for Syria, Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, the document says, the report said.

“The escalation of the protest’s messaging attests to our understanding of a certain breach of the Iranian citizens’ fear barrier,” the document reportedly states. Since the government’s brutal crackdown on similar protests in 2009, Iranians had been careful to not allow their discontent to extend beyond social media. However, the recent demonstrations have shown that “barrier” to have been eroded, the Foreign Ministry analysts conclude.

University students attend a protest inside Tehran University, while a smoke grenade is thrown by anti-riot Iranian police, in Tehran, Iran, December 30, 2017. (AP Photo)

While the protests do not currently pose a threat to the regime, the Foreign Ministry states that they do sap its legitimacy, and could undermine it in the long term. “At the moment, the protests do not constitute a threat to the survival of the regime, but they do weaken it and undermine its legitimacy, and they are likely to threaten its stability in the long term,” the document reportedly states.

The document also says that Iran’s relatively moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps are on the same page regarding efforts to end the protests, and that the IRGC and Basij militia are exercising restraint and focusing on deterrence, Channel 10 reported.

“Despite the fact that Rouhani’s image has been somewhat damaged, parts of the public still believe in him or at the very least see him as a lesser of all evils,” the document was quoted as saying.

In Iran, fresh protests broke out as night fell on Monday with reports of a policeman shot dead, as the authorities moved to crack down on days of unrest across the country.

There was a heavy police presence in Tehran as small groups of protesters ran through the city center shouting anti-regime slogans, local agencies reported.

The latest demonstrations came despite Rouhani’s vow that the nation would deal with “rioters and lawbreakers.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, December 31, 2017. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Dismissing the notion of any Israeli connection to the ongoing protests in Iran, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the “heroic” demonstrators protesting against the “cruel regime” in a video Monday.

Rouhani had said earlier in the day that the protests were being pushed by Saudi Arabia, which was trying to destabilize the country along with the US and Israel.

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