Thousands of Iranians have rallied in recent days to protest mounting unemployment and a dramatic drop in the currency, blaming the regime—not the United States—for months of economic turmoil, a Politico reporter said Wednesday.
In several videos posted to social media over the past week, crowds of dissidents are heard chanting, "Death to the dictator" as the United States prepared to reinstate sanctions on the country following President Donald Trump’s exit from the international nuclear deal in May.
"You have all these different pressures and people are getting upset and for the most part, from what we can tell, they’re blaming the regime and they’re not really blaming the U.S.," Politico foreign affairs correspondent Nahal Toosi said on the Bill Press Show.
Anti-government demonstrations have spread across the country in recent months, from Iran’s heartland to dozens of cities, including the capital of Tehran, as citizens grow increasingly disillusioned by the weak economy, strict Islamic laws, and chronic drought.
The Iranian rial fell to a record low late last month, dropping in value by half since April, leading to sharp price increases and fast-rising inflation. Fueling calls for regime change, Iranian security forces have killed several demonstrators, including at least two protesters who suffered fatal gun wounds over the weekend.
President Hassan Rouhani made his first public comments on the protests Monday, acknowledging some concerns while downplaying the scale of demonstrations, the Wall Street Journal reported.
"Look how many calls are out there in cyberspace to come out for riots or protests," he said in a televised interview. "Only a small number come. This shows people’s patience and awareness. I do not have any national-security concern."
The first wave of U.S. sanctions targeting Iran’s automotive sector as well as gold, steel, and other metals went into effect Tuesday. The Trump administration will ratchet up pressure on Tehran’s economy in early November when U.S. sanctions on Iranian oil are due to snapback.