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PS21 Event Writeup – ‘What next for Iran’

Given the recent protests in the Islamic Republic and the controversies regarding its nuclear deal, the Islamic Republic finds itself at a crossroads. PS21 gathered in Whitehall to discuss what happens next.

Dina Esfandiary, Fellow at King’s College London, noted the occurrence of riots in Iran was in itself nothing new, however she identified differences from previous unrest: the protests were widespread and the protesters themselves had become bolder with slogans directly attacking the Supreme Leader.

A key difference lies in the government reaction. Unlike during the 2009 post-election protests, the government was willing to at least partially legitimise the demonstrations through acknowledging their demands. This time, the complaints were largely over economic grievances rather than political.

Esfandiary did not see this as an advance towards democratisation but rather as a new tactic of the system: reforms to stay in power, realising that the riot response from 2009 will not be accepted anymore.

Forward looking, Esfandiary sees growing discontent in the Republic, as well as worsening relations with Gulf Arab states (except for Qatar) which will not result in a direct war but will play out through regional rivalries and conflicts.

Dr Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi, Research Fellow at RUSI, presented a more detailed insight into the Iran nuclear deal and the uncertainty surrounding it since October 2017.

Tabrizi referred to a “conversation shift” that had taken place over the past few weeks between the Europeans and the US. European governments are trying to figure out a way to address the concerns raised by the Trump by the deadline of May 12th, when the US might not renew sanctions waivers, but doing so without antagonising Iran is a tall order.

For Iran the connection between the deal and the economic state of the country were crucial, as this was the basis that President Rouhani ran his campaign on. The uncertainty which characterises the future of the deal following Trump’s election thus also affects the economic situation of the country, Tabrizi stated.

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