The nationwide strike which the anti-government demonstrators scheduled for Tuesday, Day Six of their protest, failed to come off for lack of an identified leader to get it off the ground. No work stoppages occurred in any of the big or small towns across the country and the markets were as busy as usual. DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources note that the protest movement is running out of steam – not least also because of its failure to attract essential support from the most powerful classes of society, the intelligentsia, the middle class, the bazaar merchants and the students. By Tuesday night, therefore, the number of rallies had declined by a third and participation by almost half.
Many of the protesters took fright from the menacing words they heard from supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday. He accused “foreign intelligence agents” of providing the protesters with “cash, arms and intelligence.” This raised the specter of being arrested for treason and collaboration with enemy agents, charges that carry the death sentence. Other regime officials reiterated that anyone caught attacking or setting fire to government buildings would be executed. This is no idle threat in Iran, which tops world ranks for its prolific and swift executions.
The regime also showed gaining confidence in its ability to weather the upheaval by the way it was handled, DEBKAfile reports. No shooting or violent crackdowns. Instead, after three days, the demonstrators were still free to reach their rallying-points in the town centers, but when they arrived, they met thousands of regime loyalists and police reinforcements waiting quietly there and were often outnumbered.
The regime’s blockage of Internet media had mixed results. Although the Trump administration called on Tehran Tuesday to unblock the favorites, Instagram and Telegram, users had by then found the blockages lifted in many places. This was another sign that the regime was less worried about the outcome of the street dissent than in its early days. DEBKAfile’s sources stress that the protest movement is by no means finished. Attempts will continue to keep up the rallies. They face their next test on Friday, Jan. 5. If the anti-government movement fails to bring masses out to the streets after Friday prayers, it will continue to fade for the moment. On Tuesday night, America’s UN ambassador, Nikki Haley said a UN Security Council session would be called to discuss the situation in Iran.