Iran police says it has disbanded a "monarchist propaganda network" with over 150 members and arrested 14 leaders of the group in Qom, the country's religious capital.
Qom is one of the most religious and conservative Iranian cities, a bastion of hardliners and the cradle of Iran's theocracy.
However, Qom was among more than one hundred Iranian cities and towns that joined widespread protests in last month which left hundreds of people dead.
Iranian security forces have arrested more than 20 individuals they claimed to have been connected with pro-monarchy groups in the past one month.
On December 26, the chief of Qom Province Police announced that the law enforcement had arrested three individuals who ran a Telegram channel called "Return of the Prince". Telegram is the most widely used social messaging application in Iran and also an effective tool for promoting political causes.
The police chief claimed that the detainees had infiltrated a government organization in Qom.
On December 14 the Revolutionary Guards in Isfahan Province said they had arrested four members of an "active monarchist network" who had assembled to discuss "a second wave of riots".
During the November unrest protesters chanted slogans in favor of the Pahlavi Dynasty and its founder Reza Shah Pahlavi as well as anti-clergy slogans. In several cities protesters attacked Shiite seminaries and offices of Friday prayer Imams and in Khuzestan the seminary of the province's capital Ahwaz was set on fire.
According to the Iranian Police website Brigadier General Abdolreza Aghajani, Chief of Qom Province Police said the network disbanded in Qom advocated regime overthrow and were directly funded by opposition groups based abroad.
"In connection with Phoenix Project and under the direct protection of the enemies of the Islamic Republic they were trying to incite unrest all over the country," he claimed and said the network which consisted of five active branches each with 30 members had attempted to disrupt public and commercial transport, incite labor strikes and infiltrate in trade unions.
The founders of Phoenix Project of Iran (PPI) was launched by the exiled Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi on February 22, 2019, the anniversary of a coup that put an end to the rule of Qajar dynasty and brought his grandfather, Reza Shah to power.
The founders of the project say Phoenix is not a political organization. The mission statement of the organization says it aims to "build bridges with Iranians inside Iran and across the globe" and "empower Iranians by offering them tools and knowledge to measure and assess the performance of policies".
Soon anti-government protests broke out in November, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in his first reaction pointed the finger at "Iran's enemies", and said the family of the last Iranian monarch, Shah Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi and the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO) had incited "thugs" and "hooligans" to riot in Iranian cities and towns.
The former Queen of Iran, Farah Pahlavi, and the exiled Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, refuted the accusation but Prince Reza Pahlavi called on Iranians to prepare for the "inevitable downfall of the Islamic Republic" and "leadership in transitional period".
In November soon after the protests were suppressed, a Revolutionary Guards commander admitted that the Pahlavi dynasty is now popular at least with a large section of the Iranian society.
Ramezan Sharif, the Spokesman of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), alleged that "the enemy" was trying to "purify the plunderer Pahlavi regime in the minds of our youth". Sharif claimed that the Islamic Republic has not succeeded in informing the 40 million Iranians who had not been born at the time of the 1979 Revolution about the "evilness of the former regime."
Sharif's statements were unprecedented in the past forty years. Islamic Republic authorities had never so candidly spoken of the popularity of the Pahlavi Dynasty before.