EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Iranian leaders are struggling, three months after anti-government protests swept the Islamic Republic, to ensure that environmental issues that helped spark a popular uprising in Syria in 2011 leading to a brutal civil war don’t threaten the clergy’s grip on power.
Like Syria, Iran has been suffering a drought that has affected much of the country for more than a decade, with precipitation dropping to its lowest level in half a century. Environmental concerns have figured prominently in protests in recent years, often in regions populated by ethnic minorities like Azeris and Iranian Arabs.
Unrest among ethnic minorities, who account for almost half of Iran’s population, have taken on added significance of late. Iran has reason to fear both Saudi Arabia’s activist crown prince, Muhammad bin Salman, and US President Donald Trump, whose antipathy towards the Islamic Republic has been bolstered by the appointment of hardliner John Bolton as his national security advisor.