Iran's army chief declared on Thursday that police had quelled anti-government unrest that has killed 21 people but that his troops were ready to intervene if needed, as authorities staged more pro-government rallies.
The protests, which seem spontaneous and without a unifying leader, erupted a week ago in Iran's second city of Mashhad over economic hardships - mostly high youth unemployment, high living costs and alleged corruption.
"Although this blind sedition was so small that a portion of the police force was able to nip it in the bud ... you can rest assured that your comrades in the Islamic Republic's army would be ready to confront the dupes of the Great Satan (United States)," Major General Abdolrahim Mousavi was quoted in official media as saying.
Iran's vastness as well as restrictions on independent media make it hard to determine the breadth and depth of the unrest.
The semi-official labor news agency ILNA said the government on Thursday lifted restrictions on Instagram, one of the social media tools used to mobilize protesters. But access to a more widely used messaging app, Telegram, remained blocked, suggesting authorities remained uneasy about protest threats.