Will Iran Protests Put Leadership at Risk?

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Iran has swiftly cracked down on protests that sprouted over its coverup of the shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet. Within Iran, people feel angry at their rulers, who lied for days about what really happened.

Coming on the back of disquiet at home over Iran’s perilous economic state, the news has eaten away at the national unity that briefly surfaced after the U.S. killed a senior Iranian general in an airstrike.

There have been clashes between protesters and riot police, with chants denigrating Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and calls to rid the country of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

But that does not mean the leadership is in immediate peril — it’s already faced months of protests. While the plane crash points to weaknesses in its much-vaunted military elite, the rulers control many of the key institutions in Iranian society.

Parliamentary elections due next month will be telling. The influential Guardian Council has already vetted candidates, with a view to shifting power away from moderates in the administration. That may help conservative parties secure control of the legislature, signaling a harder line ahead of a presidential vote next year.

That suggests a country turning ever further in on itself, with little tolerance for dissent. If the protests continue, talk is likely to shift again to whether we’re witnessing the start of a “Persian Spring.”

Global Headlines

Loosening grip | Xi Jinping’s goal of bringing Taiwan under his control moved further out of his grasp as the island re-elected a president who’s vowed to defend its sovereignty, drawing accusations of cheating and voter intimidation from Beijing. Tsai Ing-wen won a landslide victory over China-friendly opposition challenger Han Kuo-yu to clinch a second term in elections Saturday.

Impeachment leverage lost | Three years of political and legal drama, investigations and standoffs will reach a more intensive stage this week if, as anticipated, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi transmits the two articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump to the Senate. Once she does so, the leverage will be with the president and Republicans. Look for Pelosi to name the House managers who’ll serve as the prosecutors in the Senate’s trial.

Peace moves | Intense Russian and Turkish pressure to halt the nine-month war in oil-rich Libya is expected to result in the signing of a truce today between Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj and eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar in Moscow. Turkey and Russia, which back rival sides in the North African nation, exerted their leverage to end the conflict, starting with a fragile cease-fire that took hold on Saturday night.

Union watershed | The French government’s decision to drop its push for a higher retirement age may prove enough to secure the rest of its pension reform and turn the tide on strikes that have hampered transport networks for more than a month. The shift could also dent the influence of unions that have led much of the opposition to French governments for decades.

Wooing women | Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, who has seen her national lead dwindle on the eve of the Iowa caucuses, is turning back to voters she once appeared to have secured: women. It’s an attempt to restore the formula that had Warren neck-and-neck with front-runner Joe Biden just three months ago, Gregory Korte and Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou report.

The government is “concerned” about a report that Russia may be attempting to undermine Biden’s presidential campaign, Trump National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said yesterday.

What to Watch

The U.S. and China are set Wednesday to sign the first phase of a trade agreement that includes Chinese commitments to respect American intellectual property and not manipulate its currency, as well as a U.S. expectation for $200 billion in new purchases. Democratic presidential candidates debate tomorrow in Des Moines, Iowa. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he’s chosen a date for a general election to be held soon but won’t reveal it yet. Xi will travel to Myanmar on Friday for the first state visit to the country by a Chinese president in 19 years. President Vladimir Putin gives his annual state-of-the-nation speech to Russia’s Federal Assembly on Wednesday, as he deals with tensions with the U.S. over nuclear weapons and tries to boost stagnant economic growth at home.

Congratulations to reader Werner Koch, who came up with the correct answer to Friday’s quiz question, naming Glasgow Caledonian University as the western university where Iranian President Hassan Rouhani studied. Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at balancepower@bloomberg.net.And finally … An erupting volcano south of the Philippine capital that’s triggered some 75 earthquakes and spewed “ballistic fragments” has sparked a mass evacuation and suspended trade in the nation’s financial markets. Manila’s airport has closed, affecting regional travel. Officials warned this morning a “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.” The Philippines sits on the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” subjecting it to earthquakes and volcanoes.

 

–With assistance from Ben Sills and Anthony Halpin.

To contact the author of this story: Rosalind Mathieson in London at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kathleen Hunter at khunter9@bloomberg.net, Karl Maier

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