Speaking on Tuesday, the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered his impression of the protests that have taken place across Iran over the past week, with people protesting against rising food prices and unemployment.
“As for the recent days’ developments [in the country], enemies have been united to create problems for the Islamic system by using various means… including money, weapons, politics and security apparatus,” Ayatollah Khamenei, as cited by state news agency IRNA.
Without singling out any nation, the Supreme Leader said “the enemies have always been looking forward to finding a chance to deliver a blow to the Iranian nation.”
He did not go into specifics and refrained from offering a detailed assessment of the protests, only adding: “I have a lot more to say about these developments but will share them with our dear people at an appropriate time.”
Other Iranian officials also suggested that anti-government rallies, some of which took aim at Ayatollah Khamenei or turned violent, may have been provoked from outside. Speaking to parliament on Monday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said Saudi involvement had played a role in sparking the protests: “They [the Saudis] have blatantly said that we will create problems in Tehran.”
He also vowed that his government will redouble efforts to improve the country’s economic situation, while decreasing unemployment, air pollution and inflation, FARS news agency reported.
On Tuesday, Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, accused Saudi Arabia of fanning popular unrest through social media. According to the security chief, “around 27 percent of the hashtags which have been made belong to the Saudis … the hashtags about the situation in Iran have been launched from the US, Britain and Saudi Arabia.”
“Certainly, the Saudis will receive a proper response from Iran and they will not understand the origin of this response. The ruling Saudi family is well aware of the danger of our response,” Shamkhani said, as cited by FARS.
Amid the growing protests across the country, some world leaders have voiced their support for the anti-government movement. In his first series of tweets in 2018, US President Donald Trump maintained the Iranians, having “little food, big inflation and no human rights,” are acting “against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime.”
In a previous tweet, Trump claimed Iran “is failing at every level despite the terrible [2015 nuclear] deal made with them by the Obama Administration.” He added: “The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food and for freedom.”
Earlier, Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz told Israeli Army Radio he hopes the protesters in Iran will prevail “I can only wish success to the Iranian people in the struggle for freedom and democracy,” he said on Monday, as cited by Reuters. “If the people succeed in achieving freedom and democracy, many of the threats on Israel and the entire region today will disappear,” the intelligence official added.
The overall death toll in Iran has reached 20 after six days of unrest, according to state TV. Some 450 people have been arrested in the last three days, security deputy governor of Tehran Ali Asghar Nasserbakht told ILNA news agency, adding that about 100 of those had been arrested on Monday.