Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday accused the United States and its allies of fomenting the recent economic protests that many Iranians are blaming on their own government’s foreign policies.
Khamenei later tweeted that the US has formed a coalition with other “disgraceful states” in the region as it is unable to defeat Iran on its own.
The Iranian leader didn’t name any specific nations in this so-called coalition, but alleged it was imposing economic pressure on Iran to “separate the nation from the system.”
“If the US was able to overpower the Islamic system, it would not have needed to form a coalition with notorious countries of the region to create chaos, unrest, and insecurity in Iran,” he said.
“Six previous US presidents made efforts against Iran but failed at their vicious goals,” the Iranian leader tweeted. “Today, after losing hope in other methods, the enemy’s plot is to create a rift between establishment and nation; that’s foolish: they don’t understand that establishment entirely represents nation.”
Earlier in the day Khamenei tweeted a picture from an officers training ceremony in Iran with an image of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and the caption “
#Palestine will definitely be freed.”
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) June 30, 2018
Iran is once again under economic sanctions and has faced mounting economic woes since US President Donald Trump in May pulled Washington out of the 2015 deal with world powers that imposed controls on Tehran’s nuclear program, in exchange for a lifting of sanctions.
But the slogans chanted by the crowds in the recent economic protests, which have leaked out to the world via social media, show that many Iranians blame their own government’s foreign policies for the downturn.
The protests have seen unusual scenes of demonstrators chanting against continued Iranian spending of billions of dollars on regional proxy wars and support for terrorist groups, which many say has meant less investment in the struggling economy at home.
In recent years, Iran has provided financial aid to Palestinian terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, and Shiite militias in Iraq. Since the start of the Syrian civil war in 2011, Tehran has poured a reported $6 billion into propping up president Bashar Assad’s government.
This week’s protests in Tehran and around the country — including economically hard-hit cities like Kermanshah in western Iran — included shouts of “Death to Palestine,” “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon,” and “Leave Syria and think of us.” Chants of “We don’t want the ayatollahs” and “Death to the dictator” were also heard at some rallies.
The protests signaled growing domestic unease in the wake of Trump’s decision to withdraw America from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and restore sanctions on the country.
In the last six months, Iran’s currency has lost almost 50 percent of its value, with the US dollar now buying around 85,000 rials on the open market.
Iranians have been hit by rising prices, and record levels of unemployment have left a third of under-30s out of work.
President Hassan Rouhani — who signed the nuclear deal with the previous US administration — was re-elected in May 2017 on the promise of boosting the economy and implementing social reforms. He faces increased political scrutiny from ultra-conservatives, who have denounced his willingness to talk to the West, and have accused him of hurting the economy.
Earlier this week, Rouhani sought to calm the growing discontent by assuring Iranians they would be able to withstand the new US sanctions. He blamed the spontaneous demonstrations that erupted across the country earlier that week on “foreign media propaganda,” and accused the US of waging “an economic war” against Tehran.
At the end of last year, similar economic protests roiled Iran and spread to some 75 cities and towns, becoming the largest demonstrations in the country since its 2009 disputed presidential election. The protests in late December and early January saw at least 25 people killed and nearly 5,000 arrested.
Last week, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries cartel led by Saudi Arabia and non-cartel members agreed to pump 1 million barrels more crude oil per day, a move that should help contain the recent rise in global energy prices. However, summer months in the U.S. usually lead to increased demand for oil, pushing up the price of gasoline in a midterm election year. A gallon of regular gasoline sold on average in the U.S. for $2.85, up from $2.23 a gallon last year, according to AAA.