As protests in Iran go into their fifth day, the number of deaths has increased to at least 10, according to media reports. However, the circumstances and cause of the deaths remain as of yet unclear.
Some smaller groups of protesters have escalated to violent means and have used armed force to attempt to seize police and military buildings, where they were repelled by state security forces and arrests were made.
The circumstances of the most recent deaths remain unclear and unconfirmed.
President Hassan Rouhani spoke with Iranian lawmakers on Monday, Jan. 1 to say that Iran would be taking seriously a “small and minority group” of protesters that have been “taking advantage” of the protests to push a violent agenda.
Rouhani said that there are other groups of protesters who bring forward “rightful demands,” and yesterday affirmed that the Iranian government respects the right to protest and raise up grievances. The President stressed that national unity is important in order to work together to tackle problems existing within the nation.
However, Rouhani also insinuated that the “small and minority groups” that have co-opted protests are acting in the interests of foreign agents, saying that the “enemies of Iran could not tolerate the country's achievements in the diplomatic arena, particularly in the confrontation with the U.S. and the Israeli regime,” as quoted by Press TV.
A top military official, the Deputy Chief of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces, Massoud Jazayeri, said on Monday that the U.S. and their allies have been planning to incite sedition in Iran, according to Press TV.
After protests appeared, seemingly spontaneously, in various parts of the country, Western politicians including U.S. President Donald Trump, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have heaped praise on the demonstrators.
At the same time, Iranians have also taken to the streets in counter-demonstrations of mass support for the Iranian government, demonstrations that have gone largely unreported.
The protests come as the Iranian government and military rides a wave of successes in the international arena, most notably a successful defeat of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei declared the terrorist organization defeated a little more than a month ago, and said the victory was a “blow against the past and current governments of America and the regimes linked to it in the region who created this group and gave them every kind of support so they could expand their malevolent power in west Asia.”
Iran's successes against terrorist forces, such as the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda, in the region, while allied with Syria, Russia, and Hezbollah, have been met with disdain and condemnation from Western powers, who claim that Iran is “destabilizing” the region.
In a recent move that was seen by many as an intentional attempt to sour relations between the U.S. and Iran, in October the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump refused to certify Iranian compliance with the landmark Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the "nuclear deal." The decision was made in spite of assurance by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran was in full compliance, and widespread condemnation by the international community.
Trump claimed that Iran's supposed "destabilization" of the region had broken the "spirit" of the deal.