What caused protests to flare up in Iran?

Thousands of people have flooded the streets of Iran's second-largest city to show support for the nation's leadership following a week of protests that sparked unrest throughout the country. The anti-government demonstrations, which began in the city of Mashhad on 28 December, were reportedly due to widespread dissatisfaction with Iran's economic policy, including the high price of basic consumer goods like eggs.

Some Iranians blame reformist President Hassan Rouhani for Iran's woes, saying he's failed to deliver the jobs and foreign investment promised by the 2015 nuclear deal, which relaxed international sanctions. Rouhani's critics have also lambasted his 2018 budget proposal, which calls for additional austerity measures. The president, meanwhile, has pointed the finger toward state-funded religious institutions, alleging that the substantial entitlements they receive have severely hurt Iran's economy.

Iranian authorities have accused foreign powers of fomenting the protests, which resulted in hundreds of arrests and the deaths of at least 22 people. Reporting in Tehran, Al Jazeera's Zein Basravi said the subsequent pro-government rallies were intended to show Iran's rivals - both inside and outside the country - that there is considerable support for its political establishment.

So, what is the significance of these protests? How has Iran's government responded to the concerns raised by the people? And what might happen if US President Donald Trump decides on 11 January that he will no longer waive the sanctions contributing to Iran's stagnant economy?

The Stream hosts a panel of Iranian commentators to answer these questions and more.

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Source: Al Jazeera English, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yga3kJGRW6c
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