Protests simmer among Iran's powerful merchants
Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Tehran's powerful merchants don't need street protests to make their anger known — the sound of shops being locked up and metal grates clanging shut during a wave of anti-tax strikes this week was enough to unsettle Iranian authorities.

The closures — with Tehran's expansive bazaar as the epicenter — present another dilemma for Iranian leaders still trying to weigh the fallout from wider U.N. and American sanctions.

A sustained fight with the influential merchant class would pull Iran's rulers onto a path littered with warning signs from the past.

The bazaar has been the tipping point in popular unrest for more than a century, including the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when merchants pulled their support from the Western-backed monarchy, paving the way for its ouster and the installment of rule by Islamic clerics.

Until now, the big merchant networks have remained generally on the sidelines in the upheavals since last year's disputed presidential election, which sparked massive street rallies calling for reform and greater democracy.

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