Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian supreme leader, blamed “enemies” of Iran on Tuesday for protests that have left more than 20 people dead, in his first comments since the unrest started last week.
US President Donald expressed support for the anti-government activists while criticising the approach taken by his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Protesters in Iran hit the streets for a fifth day on Monday, criticizing the economy and lack of political freedoms from the Islamic leadership in Tehran. While President Hassan Rouhani called for calm, Iran security forces have arrested people and are vowing further crackdowns.
At least 20 people have died and 450 people arrested in clashes between police and protesters.
The Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini accused the country’s enemies of seeking “to create problems for the Islamic system”.
Khamenei, who has been a target of the protesters, did not specify which individuals or countries he was referring to, saying he would “speak to the dear people when the time is right.”
“In recent events, enemies of Iran have allied & used the various means they possess, including money, weapons, politics & intelligence services, to trouble the Islamic Republic,” said a post in English on Khamenei’s Twitter account. “The enemy is always looking for an opportunity & any crevice to infiltrate & strike the Iranian nation.”
“The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime,” Trump tweeted two hours after Khamenei’s tweet. He had just returned to the White House from an end-of-the-year vacation at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.
Objecting to the nuclear agreement that the Obama administration struck with Iran in 2015, Trump went on to say that “all of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their ‘pockets.’ The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The US is watching!”
Amid similar protests on Iranian streets that were crushed by the Islamic regime in 2009, Obama did back demonstrators’ demands for a more open society, and condemned violence perpetrated by the government. But he did so in a more low-key way, concerned that the Iran regime would accuse the United States of meddling in the country’s affairs and mount an anti-American campaign to rally its supporters.
“I want to start off by being very clear that it is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be, that we respect Iranian sovereignty,” Obama told reporters in 2009, adding that “sometimes the United States can be a handy political football.”
Bahram Qasemi, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, described Trump’s comments as insulting, useless and counterproductive, the state news media reported.
“It is better for him to try to address the internal issues, like the murder of scores killed on a daily basis in the United States during armed clashes and shootings, as well as millions of the homeless and hungry people in the country,” Qasemi said, according to the state-run news agency IRNA.
The protests are the largest in Iran since 2009, during the so-called Green Movement, which took place after the election of the hard-line leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and transitioned into a wider protest against the country’s leadership.
The latest demonstrations, which largely seemed to come out of nowhere and have surprised the authorities with their size and intensity, appear to be rooted in anger toward President Hassan Rouhani, who is regarded as a moderate, and his inability to bring change to an economy that has long suffered under the weight of sanctions.
As the protests have continued, however, they have taken on a political bent directed at the establishment, with demonstrators calling for the death of Rouhani and Khamenei.
Rouhani has tried to acknowledge the protesters’ complaints, asking them to avoid violence while saying they had a right to be heard, but others in the government have called for a firmer response.
THE BANGKOK POST
3 Jan 2018 at 01:39
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