The Wall Street Journal: Wave of protests in Iran poses mounting challenge to government

Iran’s biggest wave of street protests in almost a decade is presenting a mounting challenge to the country’s leadership, as demonstrations mushroomed Sunday despite threats of a government crackdown, pushing the president to appeal for calm.

The unrest began Thursday as a rebuke to the economic management of moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who many Iranians blame for failing to control inflation and fix high unemployment. But protests have widened and have featured chants targeting Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who sits atop the country’s unique form of Islamic government.

Unverified video shared on social media showed unrest Sunday in dozens of cities, from the capital Tehran to Sandanaj and Kermanshah in the west, Isfahan in central Iran and Chabahar in the southeast. There were protests in Mashhad, where demonstrations first broke out Thursday, and in Shiraz in the south.

Rouhani attempted to extend an olive branch Sunday in his first comments since the unrest, even as he admonished protesters to work hand-in-hand with the government to address corruption and economic problems. “People are completely free to express their criticism and even protest,” he said. “But at the same time we should take into consideration that criticism and protest must be in a way that ends with the improvement of people’s and country’s conditions.”

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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