Iran’s Revolutionary Guard claims victory against anti-government protests
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Iran’s Revolutionary Guard claims victory against anti-government protests

Called out by demonstrators for its massive budget and costly regional interventions, paramilitary force blames unrest on Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia

Iranian worshipers attend the Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran, Iran, January 5, 2018.
 (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Iranian worshipers attend the Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran, Iran, January 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Sunday that the nation and its security forces have ended the wave of unrest linked to anti-government protests that erupted last month.

In a statement on its website, the Guard blamed the unrest on the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as an exiled opposition group known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, and supporters of the monarchy that was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Price hikes sparked protests in a number of cities and towns late last month, and at least 21 people were killed in scattered clashes. The protests, which vented anger at high unemployment and official corruption, were the largest seen in Iran since the disputed 2009 presidential election, and some demonstrators called for the overthrow of the government.

In this Dec. 30, 2017 file photo, taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, university students attend an anti-government protest inside Tehran University, in Tehran, Iran. (AP)

The Revolutionary Guard is a powerful paramilitary force loyal to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Many of the demonstrators protested against the Guard’s massive budget, its costly interventions across the region, and against the supreme leader himself.

Hundreds of people have been detained since the protests began. They include around 90 university students, reformist lawmaker Mahmoud Sadeghi was quoted as saying by the semi-official ISNA news agency.

Iranian lawmakers held a closed session on Sunday in which senior security officials briefed them on the protests and the conditions of the detainees, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

Lawmakers probed Interior Minister Abdolrahmani Rahmani Fazli, Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi and secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, the parliament’s ICANA website reported.

“It was emphasized that foreign elements, and in particular the United States, played a basic role in forming and manipulating the recent unrest,” IRNA quoted lawmaker Jalal Mirzaei as saying.

Iranians display their smartphones using the Telegram messenger application on December 1, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE)

Some voiced concern over the internet controls put in place during the unrest, including a ban on Iran’s most popular messaging app, Telegram, which officials said had been used to incite violence.

“The parliament is not in favour of keeping Telegram filtering in place, but it must pledge that it will not be used as a tool by the enemies of the Iranian people,” Behrouz Nemati, spokesman for the parliament’s presiding board, wrote on Instagram, which was also temporarily blocked during the unrest.

Many Iranians use Telegram as their main source of news and a way of bypassing the highly restrictive state media, with almost a third of Iran’s 80 million people using the app daily.

The United States and Israel have expressed support for the protests, which began on December 28 in Iran’s second largest city, Mashhad, but deny allegations of fomenting them.

In recent days, government supporters have held several mass rallies across the country to protest the unrest.

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