Iran’s regime proclaimed on Sunday that it has broken protests which have surged across the country since December 28, declaring that “the main plotters of recent scattered riots…have been identified and arrested”.

Gen. Saeed Montazer al-Mahdi (pictured), a high-ranking official in Iran’s police, said on Sunday that a few “deceived elements” and “rioters” had breached security and damaged private and public property, but “the people and protesters who had rightful demands were separated in the minimum time possible from the organizers and those directing and the violators were identified and arrested”.

Al-Mahdi revised the official death toll to 20, including a police officer. He said detainees included those who steered a fire engine into a crowd in Doroud in western Iran, killing a father and son, and “those who disrespected Iran’s national flag”.

More than 1,800 people have been detained at some point during the demonstration, but al-Mahdi said only the “main culprits and saboteurs” were now held.

The regime, which initially did not acknowledge the demonstrations, has been anxious to portray them as solely over economic issues. That framing ignores political and social demands, including criticism of the Supreme Leader to the point of tearing down his posters and chanting “Death to the Dictator”. Protests have also challenged Iran’s interventions throughout the Middle East, including in the Syrian civil war, in Lebanon alongside Hezbollah, and in Gaza.

For several days, Iranian officials, including the commanders of the Revolutionary Guards, have declared the end of protests. However, there was footage of demonstrations in at least nine cities on Saturday despite the regime’s restrictions on communications.

EU Requests Meeting with Zarif Over Protests

The European Union has requested a discussion with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif over the protests and the regime’s response.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on TV on Sunday, “Together with the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini, we agreed to invite the Iranian foreign minister, if possible next week.”

The EU has raised human rights concerns over the regime’s actions, including detention and disruptions of communications, while calling on all sides to refrain from violence.

However, with the exception of Britain, European countries in the UN Security Council were cautious last Friday about expressing condemnation through a US-drafted resolution.