For the past four days Iran has seen the most widespread protests since the 1979 Revolution. While it is still smaller in size than the 2009 Green movement, it has spread far beyond the mainly urban areas of the big cities to which that movement was mainly confined. This is a sea-change and it has shaken the regime to its foundations.

On 12 November, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake occurred on the Iran-Iraq border, affecting an area stretching from the Kermanshah Province in northwestern Iran, to Halabja in Iraqi Kurdistan. The whole of the political establishment made statements in support of the victims and the Kurdish areas, with dozens of national papers publishing their front pages in Kurdish. This is supposedly to show their solidarity with the Kurdish masses. Yet the events on the ground paint a clearer picture of the real attitude of the Iranian ruling class.

Iranians are going to the polls today in presidential elections. President Hassan Rouhani has been leading the polls followed by the main principlist unity candidate, Ebrahim Raisi. Yet the result is not the most important aspect here—the elections have brought forward the enormous contradictions in Iranian society.

Yesterday, the long-awaited nuclear deal between Iran and six major world powers was signed. After 18 days of straight negotiations the parties announced a 100-page agreement which is to set in motion the scaling back of the Iranian nuclear agreement and the lifting of harsh sanctions on Iran. This brings to an end more than three decades of harsh economic sanctions imposed on Iran by US imperialism and marks a complete defeat of the US strategy of intimidation, blackmail and coercion of Iran.

On Thursday, April 2, Iran and the world’s most powerful nations signed a preliminary outline agreement about Iran's nuclear programme. It also dealt with the various sanctions imposed on Iran by the US, UN and the European Union. This marks the beginning of the end of a 12 year standoff between the US and Iran. But what lies behind the negotiations and what does the deal mean?

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