Supreme leader blames Iran’s ‘enemies’ for unrest

Supreme leader blames Iran’s ‘enemies’ for unrest

Amid wave of protests in which 21 killed, Ayatollah Khamenei says foreign powers using cash, weapons and covert services to attack the country from within

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Iran’s “enemies” were orchestrating a plot to infiltrate and target the regime, as he broke his silence Tuesday on the days of unrest rocking the country.

“In the events of recent days, the enemies have united and are using all their means, money, weapons, policies and security services to create problems for the Islamic regime,” Khamenei said in a statement shown on state television.

“The enemy is always looking for an opportunity and any crevice to infiltrate and strike the Iranian nation,” he added.

At least 21 people have died across the country in five days of unrest, which began as protests over the economy before quickly turning against the Islamic regime as a whole.

“What can stop the enemy from acting is the spirit of courage, sacrifice and faith of the people,” Khamenei said, speaking to a gathering of war widows and their families.

On his Twitter feed, the ayatollah later added, “The dignity, security, and progress of the Iranian nation is owed to the self-sacrifice of the martyrs. What prevents enemies from exerting their atrocities is the spirit of courage, sacrifice, and faith within the nation.

“The Iranian nation will forever owe the dear martyrs, who left behind their homes and families, to stand against the wicked enemies backed by westerners, easterners, as well as reactionaries of the region,” he said.

Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani, in a meeting in Tehran, Iran, January 17, 2017. (Ebrahim Noroozi/AP)

Also Tuesday, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, said he had evidence that Saudi Arabia was working to foment unrest in Iran and warned that there will be a fitting response.

Shamkhani claimed the Saudis was paying people to stir unrest on Iranian streets through social media, the semi-official Fars news agency reported, citing an interview the official gave to the Arabic-language al-Mayadeen news channel.

He said investigations have found that a considerable portion of the hashtags used on social media to identify posts as anti-Iranian establishment were created by Saudis.

“Based on studies, around 27% of the hashtags which have been made belong to the Saudis. Of course, they don’t belong to the Saudi people, but the Saudi government, meaning the government of Mohammed bin Salman, launches these hash tags, and those who do this are the Israeli and Westerners,” Shamkhani said, referring to the Saudi crown prince and heir to the throne. “The hashtags about the situation in Iran have been launched from the US, Britain and Saudi Arabia.”

On Monday Iran blocked access to social media applications Instagram and Telegram, saying the protesters were using the platforms to organize demonstrations.

Sworn enemies Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia have seen increased tensions between them in recent months as they compete over regional influence.

Shamkhani suggested the Saudis were trying to use unrest in Iran as a smokescreen to cover what he said were losses it sustained in Yemen, the report said. Saudi Arabia has conducted an air campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the country. Thousands have been killed in the Saudi bombings, including many civilians.

“They have set up an organization and hired people outside Saudi Arabia to manage it because the Saudis don’t have such a power,” he continued. “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.

“The Monafeqin are also tools and infantry units of this organization,” Shamkhani added, a reference to the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, known as the Mojahedin-e Khalq, an exiled Iranian political-militant organization that calls for replacing the regime.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, December 31, 2017. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

Fars reported that on Monday Iranian President Hassan Rouhani similarly accused foreign powers, especially Saudi Arabia, of being the instigators of the unrest.

Rouhani told chairpersons of Iranian parliamentary commissions at a meeting in Tehran that the country’s enemies were annoyed at Iranian success such as the 2015 nuclear deal, its improve foreign relations, and victories against terror groups.

“These have angered our enemy. Our unity was a bullet in their eyes and our progress and success in the world of politics and against the US and the Zionist regime was not bearable to them. Our success in the region was not bearable to them,” he said.

Speaking of the Saudis, he said, “They have blatantly said that we will create problems in Tehran.”

Rouhani was apparently recalling comments by Prince Salman, who said in May 2017, “We are a primary target for the Iranian regime. We won’t wait for the battle to be in Saudi Arabia. Instead, we’ll work so that the battle is for them in Iran.”

The Iranian president said the government will work to reduce unemployment and other socioeconomic issues.

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