The Iranian protests have taken international observers by surprise. The public demonstrations, if analyzed, should be expected. The unequal economic gains post the ease of international sanctions in 2015 have led the country to this point. What puzzles Iran observers is who catalyzed the public demonstrations. Another question is who is the leader of such widespread protests. It is to be remembered that public protests are rare events in the Shiite Muslim country.
Unrest over economic causes
The first of many more demonstrations to come concentrated on economic grievances. The causes increased within a short period of time, which included the shout of slogans attacking the Khamenei regime. There had been deaths too, and hundreds of arrests. The administration, until now, has used only local police to contain the agitators. The Basij paramilitary continues to be unused. The latter is known for the brutal suppression of the protests which took place in 2009.
The protests may not result in the falling down of the government, but seriously undermines Khamenei's grip over the country. Whatever happens, the multiple domestic challenges brings into question the regional paranoia of other countries when it comes to Iran's Middle East policies. The country has expanded its regional influence during the last few years. This was achieved through its military assistance to support Iraq in its fight against ISIS and also to the Assad-led Syrian Government in the latter's civil war. For Iran, its external adventures have been costly, with the country fighting for dominance in the region with western powers. International companies were wary of investing in Iran. The gains from such activities were negligible.
Iran's standing and regional hegemony
Iran's domestic population is immune to their country's regional dominance aspirations. They simply desire a better economy. It is to be kept in mind that the Khamenei regime, for all its faults, continues to be susceptible to democracy. One thing is sure though. If Iran cannot dominate West Asian politics, no other country can. Since all other countries mistrust one another, there is a rare chance of a few countries ganging up and controlling the region. The Middle East will continue to be a mess. It will remain unstable and volatile for a long time to come.
Both the European Union and China cannot fill the shoes left behind by the United States. The EU faces multiple challenges like Brexit and the ascent of illiberalism inside Eastern Europe. China is now stuck with problems of its own like corruption and environmental degradation.