The December 2017, nationwide protests that surprised and rattled Iran’s clerical dictatorship never quite subsided. Demonstrations occurred in January 2018, then again in April.

Since mid-May, publicly expressed anger in Iran’s would-be global revolutionary state has intensified to the point that regime internal security units have fired on demonstrators.

There is no accurate death toll — Iran is a dictatorship. So is China and for comparative purposes, recall we still do not know how many people were killed in Tiananmen Square in June 1989.

But fresh blood has spilled in Iran.

Social media and wire services reported scattered violence occurred during June as demonstrators protested Iran’s economic deterioration. Social media that evaded regime firewalls also connected the demonstrations to the truly gritty issue: regime corruption.

Last week, Iranian domestic political violence escalated. Regime sycophants — called officials in some press reports — acknowledged an unidentified gunman in the city of Abadan began shooting during a demonstration on June 30. One person was wounded, according to the sycophants. Iranian and Israeli sources both reported on July 1 that protestors in Abadan began fighting with security forces and street “skirmishes” continued into the night. Protests disturbed the nearby city of Khorramshahr. Both cities are located in the oil-producing Khuzestan province near the Iraqi border. Both have substantial ethnic Arab populations.

Abadan’s demonstrators objected to water scarcity issues and water pollution problems — at least regime propagandists working for the state-run IRNA media service promoted that as the official explanation.

Credit the propagandists with revealing a partial truth. No one can deny a severe drought affects over 90 percent of Iran; weather channels around the globe verify it. Another fact: in June several hundred people in water-short Khuzestan became sick when they drank polluted water.

That kind of gut-yucking incident is difficult to hide in an Iranian region bordering on Iraq. Plus acknowledging the matter gives the dictatorship the opportunity to go through the motions of outrage and assure the ill their ayatollahs will not conscience bad water.

The motions of outrage give the ayatollahs and the propagandists temporary cover. For another news cycle or two they can avoid the gritty and decisive issues: economic deterioration and regime corruption.

Genuine outrage on those issues runs deep among Iranians. Video shot last week in Tehran and posted on social media captured demonstrators in Tehran chanting “Death to Rouhani.” Hassan Rouhani is Iran’s president, a man former U.S. president Barack Obama regarded as a trustworthy political progressive of some sort. The demonstrators’ chant clearly mocks the “death to America” chant Tehran dictatorship stalwarts mouth.

According to one source I found — just one, no video — demonstrators in Tehran also called for the death of Ayatollah Khamenei. Perhaps more solid evidence exists. However, publicly mocking Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei is a big deal. Khamenei is Iran’s current Supreme Leader, and he has been in office since 1989 first Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Get your Ks straight — Khomeini versus Khamenei. The former is deceased. In 2018, the latter, Ayatollah Khamenei, is the real life and death power in Iran.

Since roughly 1995, this has been Iran’s deep question: when will the Iranian people be willing to spill their own blood to confront the clerical dictatorship.

That’s a very tough call. In my own view, Barack Obama blew a major opportunity to extend freedom when he failed to quickly respond to Iranian demands for reform in June 2009. Those demonstrations spawned the Green Movement.

In 2010, the dictatorship brutally repressed that movement.

I guarantee the dictatorship is worried that 2018 may answer the question. Iran’s economic deterioration argues for it.

In April, Radio Free Europe reported Iran was experiencing a “nation-wide dollar-buying panic … spurred by the plunging value of the Iranian rial.” Since January the rial has lost around half its value against the dollar.

Iran’s economic situation will get worse. America has warned state and commercial purchasers of Iranian it will impose financial sanctions if they fail to cut trade ties with Iran by November.

The regime Khomeini founded in 1979 intends to celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2018. It appears the Trump Administration intends to help the Iranian people make the ayatollahs’ Year 40 very difficult.

Austin Bay is a syndicated columnist and author.

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