The head of Israel’s spy agency said Tuesday that the current protests in Iran were unlikely to topple the regime and warned that massive Iranian-backed forces were “galloping into the Middle East without hindrance” to spread the Islamic Republic’s vision of Islam.
“We have eyes and ears and more, even in Iran,” Mossad chief Yossi Cohen told a Finance Ministry convention in Jerusalem.
“Iranian citizens went out to demonstrate because of the economic situation and the expectation that President Hassan Rouhani would improve the economy,” he said. “That’s what brought them out on the streets. There’s no need for great expectations, even though I would be very happy to see a social revolution in Iran. Maybe it will happen in the future.”
Cohen went on to say that Iran’s arming of Shiite organizations, both inside and outside of the republic, with precision weapons was “a growing concern for the well-being of the entire Middle East,” and that worry was mounting among Sunni leaders, as it was in Israel.
Iran’s economy was growing, he said, and internal financial figures showed that more cash was being spent on security, intelligence and Iranian expansion “into the Middle East and beyond.”
Iran’s penetration into the region was creating a virtual “air and land corridor, which is pouring fighters into the area to put into practice [the Iranian regime’s] vision.”
Cohen added that huge forces stood in the way of any who tried to defy the Iranian regime.
“We experienced it in the Green Revolution, which died out in 2009, and we’re seeing it now,” he said.
On Tuesday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, tweeted that “those who seek to overthrow the Islamic Republic of Iran from abroad” had “failed, and you will fail in the future, too.”
His comments followed an announcement Sunday by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that the nation and its security forces had 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 on an exiled opposition group known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq, and supporters of the monarchy that was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
An Iranian reformist lawmaker said Tuesday that some 3,700 people had been arrested in the days of protests and unrest — a far higher number than authorities previously released.
At least 21 people were killed in the unrest surrounding the protests.
The official news website of the Iranian parliament, icana.ir, quoted Mahmoud Sadeghi of Tehran as saying that various security and intelligence forces detained the protesters, making it difficult to know the exact number of detainees. He did not elaborate, nor did he say where he got the figure.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli has said about 42,000 people at most took part in the week of protests.
Sadeghi’s figure for those arrested would mean more than ten percent of those who demonstrated were arrested.
Iranian authorities have said that the protests are waning. In recent days, government supporters have held several mass rallies across the country to protest the unrest.
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 Iranian government allegations that they fomented them.
The protests were the largest seen in Iran since the disputed 2009 presidential election, and some demonstrators called for the overthrow of the government.