A picture shows a portrait of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani with shoe prints on it during a demonstration in Iran. AFP / Lionel BONAVENTURE
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Iranian authorities are concerned that nationwide unrest will undermine the religious establishment and want to stamp out the protests quickly, government officials say.While several senior officials said there was concern that prolonged unrest would damage the legitimacy and influence of the country's religious leaders, few insiders see the unrest as an existential threat to that leadership, which has ruled since the 1979 revolution and is now controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate authority in Iran's system of dual religious and republican rule.Much of the protesters' anger has focused on what Rouhani and his government have failed to deliver: an economic boom promised as the payoff for the 2015 deal that curbed Iran's nuclear program in return for world powers lifting sanctions.Khamenei spoke publicly for the first time about the crisis Tuesday, accusing Iran's enemies of stirring unrest but saying no more.Rouhani has blamed his predecessor and the United States, Iran's long-time adversary, for the economy's shortcomings.A fourth official in Tehran said the nationwide protests had united Iran's leadership.
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