Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei is speaking out about recent protests that have turned violent, causing alarmed around the world that a major regime change conflict may be heading Iran’s way.
On Tuesday, Khamenei blamed foreign enemies of Iran for the internal uprising, stirring unrest across the Islamic Republic, as state wide crackdowns intensified against anti-government demonstrations that began last week.
Reuters reports that Iranian police have arrested more than 450 protesters in the capital Tehran over the past three days, the deputy provincial governor said. Protesters also attacked police stations elsewhere in Iran late into the night on Monday, news agency and social media reports said.
One member of the security forces was reported killed on Monday, bringing to at least 14 the death toll stemming from the boldest challenge to Iran’s clerical leadership since unrest in 2009.
In his first reaction to the unrest, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said: “In recent days, enemies of Iran used different tools including cash, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatus to create troubles for the Islamic Republic.”
Khamenei said on his website that he would address the nation about the recent events “when the time is right”.
He did not mention any enemies by name but Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, said the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia were behind the recent riots in Iran.
“Saudis will receive Iran’s unexpected response and they know how serious it can be,” Shamkhani was quoted as saying by Tasnim news in an interview with Beirut-based Al Mayadeen TV.
The head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, Musa Ghazanfarabadi, warned protesters that those arrested would face harsh punishment, as semi-official ILNA news agency quoted Ali Asghar Naserbakht, the deputy governor of Tehran province, as saying that 200 people were arrested on Saturday in Tehran, 150 people on Sunday and about 100 people on Monday.
Naserbakht stressed that the situation in the capital city of Tehran was under control, and police have not requested help any help from Revolutionary Guards special forces.
Reuters reports that Deputy Interior Minister Hossein Zolfaghari said 90 percent of the detainees were under 25-years-old, showing frustration among youths from the economic situation and lack of social freedoms.
Mehr news agency quoted a judiciary official as saying that several ringleaders of protests in Karaj, the fourth largest city in Iran, have been arrested.
Ghazanfarabadi said the detainees will be soon put on trial and the ringleaders would face serious charges including “moharebeh” — an Islamic term meaning warring against God — which carries the death penalty.
Iran’s judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani ordered prosecutors on Monday to “punish rioters firmly”.
The demonstrations which broke out last week were initially focused on economic hardships and alleged corruption but turned into political rallies.
Anger was soon directed at the clerical leadership that has been in power since the 1979 revolution, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate authority in Iran’s system of dual clerical and republican rule.
Iran is a major OPEC oil producer and regional power deeply involved in Syria and Iraq as part of a battle for influence with rival Saudi Arabia.
Many Iranians resent the foreign interventions and want their leaders to create jobs at home, where youth unemployment reached 29 percent last year.
Government spokesman Mohammad Baqer Nobakht said in a news conference that protesters and security forces should follow the law…
“People have the rights to protest but there is a difference between demonstration and riot…Even those who are confronting the rioters should act within the framework of law.”
Iranian state television reported on Monday that protesters burned down four mosques in villages in Savadkuh County in northern Iran.