Modern Iran has faced many uprisings, insurgencies and revolutions, from the 1905 Constitutional Revolution to the 1979 revolution to the 2009 Green Uprising. So the mass protests against the Islamic Republic that have taken place over the last few days are not unprecedented. But Iran has not witnessed such a storm since 2009, and possibly 1979. The Iran uprising of 2017 is the biggest challenge Iran’s theocracy has ever faced.
The raw anger, violence against security forces and government offices, and dispersed nature of the revolt make it much different from the 2009 Green Uprising. Much of the protests so far have taken place outside of Tehran, in Iran’s thousands of smaller towns and cities. The ire directed against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been breathtaking. Iranians have expressed anger not only toward Khamenei, but the entire political and religious establishment. The uprising has also revealed a critical chink in the Iranian regime’s armor: Although it may appear powerful in the Middle East, Iranians themselves resent its economic, social, religious and foreign policies. This could provide Washington with a rare opportunity to increase its leverage against Tehran in light of Iran’s purported regional successes.