In this photo released by official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
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Iran warned of a tough crackdown on Sunday against demonstrators posing one of the boldest challenges to its clerical leaders since nationwide unrest shook the Islamist theocracy in 2009 .Political protests are rare in Iran, where security services are pervasive.The demonstrations, initially focused on economic hardships and alleged corruption, turned into political rallies. Anger was soon directed at the clerical leadership in power since the 1979 revolution, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate authority in Iran's cumbersome system of dual clerical and republican rule.Iran's National Security Council held urgent meetings and so far has decided to block social media and messaging apps to restrict the flow of information and calls for demonstrations.Has Iran had similar uprisings? In the last decade, Iran has experienced small-scale demonstrations against economic hardship or local environmental crises, and one nationwide political uprising in 2009 against alleged election fraud.Iran's Supreme Leader managed to control the 2009 uprising, which coincided with Arab revolts in the region, after putting the opposition leaders under house arrest, but the new wave of demonstrations in Iran does not seem orchestrated.Iranian President Hassan Rouhani championed a nuclear deal with world powers in 2015 to curb Iran's nuclear programme in return for the lifting of most international sanctions.
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