December 11, 2022

Iran Crisis Update, December 11

December 11, 6:00 pm ET

The Iran Crisis Updates are produced by the Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute with support from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). To receive Iran Crisis Updates via email, please subscribe here.

Some Iranian political and religious figures are debating the use of the death penalty against arrested protesters. Various reformist leaders, Qom seminary officials, and prominent Sunni cleric Moulana Abdol Hamid, among others, have separately criticized death sentences for arrested protesters in recent days.[i] These officials were responding to the Judiciary executing a protester on December 8 for the first time since the Mahsa Amini protests began.[ii] The Judiciary has sentenced at least 10 other arrested protesters to death thus far. No senior official involved in issuing and implementing the death sentences has voiced opposition to them, however, indicating that the regime will likely continue the executions.

These criticisms over the death penalty represent yet another issue dividing parts of the political and religious establishments over the protest crackdown. Iranian leaders have also debated continuing the morality patrol and how much force to use against protesters in recent months, as CTP previously reported.[iii]

The ineffectiveness of the regime protest crackdown has likely allowed and encouraged some in the political and religious establishments to criticize and debate more openly. The regime’s use of brutality and extreme force has thus far failed to end the protests as they continue in their thirteenth consecutive week. Many protesters, especially the Iranian youth, have repeatedly expressed their readiness to die fighting the regime, reflecting its failure to deter demonstrations, as CTP previously reported.[iv] The political and religious establishments would not have likely debated over these issues related to the crackdown—at least not as openly as they have—had the regime successfully quelled the unrest within the first few days.

Some protest coordinators and organizations called for protests on December 12. The Karaj Neighborhood Youth called for silent demonstrations in solidarity with arrested protesters on death row.[v] The Countrywide Youth similarly called for protests to commemorate the two-year anniversary since the Islamic Republic killed anti-regime activist Ruhollah Zam.[vi] The IRGC Intelligence Organization lured Zam to Baghdad in October 2019, where it kidnapped him and transported him to Iran.[vii] The regime later executed Zam on December 12, 2020.[viii] CTP has not previously observed protest coordinators and organizations invoking the memory of Zam to plan protests.

Key Takeaways

  • Some Iranian political and religious leaders are debating the regime’s use of the death penalty against arrested protesters.
  • The ineffectiveness of the regime protest crackdown has likely allowed and encouraged some Iranian officials to criticize and debate more openly.
  • Some protest coordinators and organizations called for protests on December 12.
  • At least six protests occurred in six cities across six provinces.
  • The IRGC claimed to have thwarted a plot to assassinate Mashhad Friday Prayer Leader Ahmad Alam ol Hoda.
  • The United Neighborhood Youth released a 43-point political manifesto.
  • Protest coordinators and organizations continued trying to divide state security services in support of the protesters.
  • The Iranian rial dropped to a new all-time low against the US dollar.

Anti-Regime Protests

At least six protests occurred in six cities across six provinces on December 11. CTP assesses with moderate to high confidence that protests occurred in the following locations:

Karaj, Alborz Province[ix]

Size: Undetermined

Notes: Chants against the regime execution of protesters

Kermanshah City, Kermanshah Province[x]

Size: Small

Protester Activity: Lit fire in street

Babol, Mazandaran Province[xi]

Size: Small

Demographic: Noushirvani University students

Notes: Chants against the regime execution of protesters

Tehran City, Tehran Province[xii]

Size: Small

Protest Activity: Allameh University students

Notes: Chants against the regime execution of protesters

CTP assesses with low confidence that protests occurred in the following locations:

Esfahan City, Esfahan Province[xiii]

Size: Small

Demographic: Esfahan University students

Notes: Chants against the regime execution of protesters

Sanandaj, Kurdistan Province[xiv]

Size: Small

Demographic: Energy workers

The IRGC claimed to have thwarted a plot to assassinate Mashhad Friday Prayer Leader Ahmad Alam ol Hoda on December 9.[xv] The IRGC attributed the plot to a group called Jaish al Zalm and claimed to have arrested some of its members.

Expediency Discernment Council Chairman Sadegh Amoli Larijani optimistically discussed the regime in a meeting with Sharif University students on December 10.[xvi] Larijani stated that the regime has the capacity to correct problems and reform itself to address protester grievances. He also stated that the regime must punish lawbreakers. Larijani is the brother of former Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. The two brothers were prominent political players within the regime for many years but have become increasingly marginalized since 2019.[xvii]

The United Neighborhood Youth released a 43-point political manifesto on December 11.[xviii] The group emphasized equality and personal freedoms and called for the establishment of a democratic, popular government. The group celebrated ethnic, gender, political, and religious diversity. The United Neighborhood Youth—an umbrella organization of around 30 protest organizations—announced its formation on December 4 “to coordinate planning to advance the revolution to victory and also create the necessary infrastructure to manage the country’s affairs during the critical periods of the transition of power.”[xix]

Protest coordinators and organizations continued trying to divide state security services in support of the protesters on December 11. The Tehran Neighborhood Youth called for personnel from the state security services to join the protests on December 11.[xx] The group stated that security officers who join the protests soon will be forgiven. The Iran Charter protest organization similarly stated on October 14 that it would welcome willing members of the regime in the democratic and secular political system it seeks to establish.[xxi]

The Iranian rial dropped to a new all-time low against the US dollar on December 11. The dollar sold for around 370,000 rials among currency traders.[xxii] The dollar sold for around 317,000 rials when protests began on September 16.[xxiii]

The regime held a funeral for Rostam Ghassemi on December 11.[xxiv] Ghassemi was the former roads and urban development minister and an IRGC brigadier general who died of cancer on December 8. Senior political and security officials attended the ceremony, including President Ebrahim Raisi, Vice President for Economic Affairs IRGC Major General Mohsen Rezaei, IRGC Commander Major General Hossein Salami, and former IRGC Commander Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi, among others.[xxv]

 Axis of Resistance and Regional Developments

There was nothing significant to report today.

[i] https://www.radiofarda.com/a/iran-s-former-minister-in-khatami-s-cabinet-condemns-executions-support-protesters/32171758.html; https://www.radiofarda.com/a/iran-mulla-executions/32171562.html; www.abdolhamid dot net/persian/2022/12/09/13109

[ii] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-crisis-update-december-8

[iii] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-crisis-update-october-18; https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-crisis-update-october-2

[iv] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-crisis-update-november-4#_edn9d48fe3e61b6ed574857a164a88e0cc27438ea690d84eda721bb3eb4c58709d55

[v] https://t.me/javanane_ka/306

[vi] https://twitter.com/iran_javanan/status/1602014841312509953

[vii] https://www.criticalthreats.org/briefs/iran-file/iran-file-october-21-2019

[viii] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-55285301

[ix] https://twitter.com/RadioFarda_/status/1602027239092150272; https://twitter.com/iranworkers/status/1602021529142923265

[x] https://twitter.com/RadioFarda_/status/1601977560010788864

[xi] https://twitter.com/bbcpersian/status/1601968306336202752; https://twitter.com/iranworkers/status/1601969103325069320

[xii] https://twitter.com/bbcpersian/status/1601906814391812096; https://twitter.com/RadioFarda_/status/1601935694238302211; https://twitter.com/iranworkers/status/1601845961243910145

[xiii] https://twitter.com/iranworkers/status/1601989089821073408

[xiv] https://twitter.com/iranworkers/status/1601928361588424706/photo/1

[xv] www.irna dot ir/news/84965588

[xvi] https://www.entekhab dot ir/fa/news/706452

[xvii] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/US-must-be-wary-as-irans-parliament-veers-hard-right

[xviii] https://t.me/United_Youth_of_Iran/13

[xix] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-crisis-update-december-4

[xx] https://t.me/teh_javanan/70

[xxi] https://www.criticalthreats.org/analysis/iran-crisis-update-october-18

[xxii] www.bonbast dot com/historical/usd/2022/12

[xxiii] www.bonbast dot com/historical/usd/2022/09

[xxiv] https://www.isna dot ir/news/1401092013077

[xxv] www.president dot ir/fa/141291