What caused protests to flare up in Iran?

Iranian students protest at the University of Tehran during a demonstration driven by anger over economic problems in the capital Tehran

Iranian UN Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo accused the United States of "bullying" and "abusing" its power to summon a meeting of the Security Council on a matter he said was "outside the scope of its mandate".

"According to the figures and information obtained by officials at the Ministry of Higher Education, the majority of those arrested were basically not involved in the protests and most were arrested outside the university", Mahmoud Sadeghi, an outspoken member of parliament, told the reformist ILNA news agency.

The protests spread to more than 80 cities and rural towns, staged by thousands of young and working class Iranians angry about official corruption, unemployment and a deepening gap between rich and poor.

1/7/2018 3:45 a.m. - Iran's Revolutionary Guard said Sunday the country's people and security forces had defeated unrest fomented by foreign enemies, as parliament and key security officials met to discuss the boldest challenge to the clerical establishment since 2009.

Iran's foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif addressed a security conference in Tehran on Monday, echoing the Iranian authorities' stance which alleges that foreign countries have stirred up unrest linked to the protests. They have lived those travails themselves. After a week of growing national protests, the Iranian regime sought to change the narrative. Just as lack of US support can condemn political movements to failure, as in Syria in 2011, overeagerness to assume mass mobilizations must share USA values and objectives can cast countries into chaos, as in Egypt in 2011.

In a statement on its website, the force blamed the unrest on the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as an exiled opposition group known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, and supporters of the monarchy that was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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At least 21 people have been killed in the demonstrations, which are the largest to strike Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election. Unfortunately, rhetorical pronouncements are easier and sanctions are cheaper than this sort of concrete assistance, funding for which has been repeatedly slashed. Its objective, according to then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, would be to "reach Iranian people through websites and modern technology... support nongovernmental organizations that can function in Iran, and... improve and increase our educational and cultural outreach to the people of Iran". Ironically, some of the greatest proponents of supporting Iranian democracy now, disparaged the program then.

Iran's army chief has said that while local police forces had mostly quelled the unrest, army troops remain ready to intervene if needed. "Another FP blunder for the Trump administration", he tweeted. It would also reduce spending on Voice of America's Persian News Network by $1 million, on Radio Farda by $300,000, and cut almost 40 percent from the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy, a reduction that the Obama administration also pursued, but Congress rejected.

The rare protests drew vocal support from Trump, who on Wednesday vowed to back demonstrators and called the Iranian "brutal and corrupt".

The gathering, at Lafayette Park, across from the White House, was organized by the Organization of the Iranian American Communities.

If the United States wants to support the Iranian people's aspirations to a better life, it should put its money where its mouth is.

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