Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on Saturday said the Iranian government does not see the ongoing protests in Iran as an “imminent threat to the regime.”
In an interview with NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif., Haines said Iranian leaders may not see the protests as a threat now but could face more unrest because of high inflation and economic uncertainty.
“We’re not seeing the regime perceive this as an imminent threat to their stability and effect,” she said. “On the other hand … they are really having challenges and even nationwide seeing sporadic close-downs of businesses, [which] from our perspective, that’s one of those things that will lead to a greater risk of unrest and instability over time.”
Protests erupted in Iran in mid-September after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died while in police custody. She was arrested for improperly wearing a hijab.
The sweeping protest movement has continued unabated, although Iran has cracked down violently, leading to the death of 450 protesters and the arrest of 18,000 people, according to human rights group estimates.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has accused the U.S. of fueling the protests in the country.
The protests gained renewed attention at the World Cup in Qatar, when the Iranian soccer team refused to sing the country’s national anthem to stand in solidarity with protesters.
Haines on Saturday said the government is “continuing to crack down” violently on the protesters but is struggling with some inside resistance on how to respond effectively.
“We see some kind of controversies even within them about exactly how to respond within the government” to the unrest, Haines said.