Iran's Revolutionary Guard claims victory against anti-government protests

Ahmadinejad's former deputy Hamid Baghaie was sentenced to 15 years in prison on financial charges

This means introducing constitutions that respect universal standards, halting incidents of arbitrary detention and torture, and introducing free elections - at least at municipal council level, before we can even begin to talk about elected parliaments or governments, a fantasy under governments that hold the destinies of their nations in their iron grip and see any criticism of rulers as an act of treachery punishable by death.

Hammad said that the protests in Iran are "no surprise" and that they had been expected since 2009, stressing that the Iranian government will contain them through new domestic economic policies that would appeal to the masses.

Interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli has said about 42,000 people at most took part in the anti-government protests. Gathering consistent and verifiable information remains hard, but a picture of the discontent is taking shape.

More than 2,000 Iranians were detained by regime authorities in 15 provinces across the country during the protests, according to statements made by several Iranian officials in the past days.

Although some have claimed the initial protests may have been initiated by hardline enemies of Rouhani, who is considered a moderate, their proliferation to dozens of cities including Tehran appeared entirely spontaneous. They originated in the northeastern Iran city of Mashhad, the country's second largest city, with a population of about 3 million, and then spread to smaller cities across the country.

"Without an embassy on the ground we are really behind, especially European but also Asian countries, who are trying very cautiously to reintegrate the Iranian market", he says.

The Iranian government has functioned like a dictatorship since Ayatollah Khomeini became the head of state in 1979. Yet today inflation has crept up to 10 percent prices food such as eggs and poultry have spiked dramatically, according to The Associated Press.

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Since the USA -led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Iran has expanded its presence across the Middle East as a counter to the American bases that dot the Arab Gulf countries surrounding it. "It is specifically the same regime that the Iranian people, clearly, are fed up with as well", he said. "The world should applaud their courage". It would make the issue about us, not the vulnerability and wounded legitimacy of a regime out of touch with its people.

Numerous activists appeared to be young, disenfranchised working-class Iranians, giving the uprising a wholly different tenor to the Green Movement of 2009, which saw millions take to the streets and was driven by the middle classes.

Approaching the 40th anniversary of the revolution, Iran will increasingly consider who will follow the 78-year-old Khamenei, who underwent prostate surgery in 2014.

The US last week convened an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council where ambassador Nikki Haley warned the Islamic Republic that, "the world will be watching what you do".

In a swipe at his hardline rivals, President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday young Iranian protesters were unhappy about far more than just the economy and they would no longer defer to the views and lifestyle of an aging revolutionary elite.

The most urgent task for the Americans, if they are serious about calling for freedom, is to impose a minimal level of democracy on their allies in the region, from bloodthirsty generals to authoritarian kings and emirs.

"It's not nice to see these things going on, as its been since late December, but at the same time, the fundamental calculus that we should have diplomatic relations with Iran doesn't change".

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