This isn't the 2009 riots. That was just the usual suspects i.e. college kids mouthing off, nothing was ever going to come from that one, Whether Obama was right to leave them in the wind is debatable but it isn't hard to make an argument for not supporting an uprising that you know is going to crushed.
Bottom line, the 2009 riots had all the significance of a box of kittens mewing. The regime could barely be bothered to slap it down.
This time it's different. This time it's the Mullahs' base that is rioting.
When the Shah was overthrown, the Mullahs got out in front of a rebellion that the Soviets had sponsored, took over the whole thing and then did what the Shah should have done and shot all the Commuinists.
Khomeini then tried his hand at seventh century socialism and established a payout system for the people of Iran. It actually was a major improvement for the desperately poor of Iran. The Ayatollah himself lived a pretty spartan lifestyle. The core of the regime's support was always nature's nationalists; the impoverished right. And the regime kept them fed but poor. It was a balancing act. Occasionally they would try and distract them with anti-America rallies which worked at first. Rioters in the Shah's day were routinely hit by tear gas canisters that read, made in USA.
So what happened?
Fracking. When the price of oil crashed the poor weren't getting paid as much anymore. For that matter Iran doesn't really produce anything other than oil these days. The entire economy is completely dependent on oil.
Then came Obama's mega payout to Iran and the Ayatollahs made a very big, "we just stuck it to the Great Satan again," show of it. And then they turned around and gave it to Hezzbollah. The Iranian poor were expecting a shit load of money. Iranians hate Arabs, I mean they truly loath, detest and despise Arabs. So imagine their unpleasant surprise when the Ayatollahs sent what they viewed as their money to "Those Camel Fuckers.*."
It wasn't just the poor that wasn't getting paid, no one on a government salary has been paid for months.
The rioting started in the city of Mashad which is like the Omaha of Iran. A kind of overblown redneck truck stop and train station. And a solid base of support for the regime. Rioting in Berkeley is one thing, rioting in Omaha is another. This is like an anti-Tump rally being held at the Talladega Superspeedway. It just doesn't happen there.
The Revolutionary Guard has been called out, which means the local cops won't do anything anymore. So yes this is serious. When your base is burning the Islamic seminary at Qom, which they did, it's time to buy that nice Swiss chalet you have had your eye on because it's almost over.
*"Camel Fuckers" is about a polite a translation from Farsi as there is.