Iran’s Khamenei says Western powers stoking unrest to create despair

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday linked the ongoing protests in the country and a spate of recent attacks targeting security forces on Western powers.

In a meeting with people from the central Isfahan province, Khamenei said whenever Iran has asserted itself and made “progress”, the “enemy” has scaled up attacks to create “despair” and “hopelessness” among people and officials.

“The enemy is trying to make not only the people and youth, but also the officials lose hope, and unfortunately, the enemy has an internal extension that they are also trying to instill hopelessness and despair by using newspapers and cyberspace,” he said in statements cited by state media.

Khamenei said those “orchestrating the riots behind the scenes” wanted to bring people to the streets and are now “trying to exhaust the officials with villainous acts”, referring to the violence.

Iran has been rocked by sweeping protests in recent months triggered by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of Iran's morality police in mid-September.

Fatal attacks on police officers and paramilitary Basiji forces have become increasingly common in recent weeks, with several incidents of knife assaults and shootings reported across the country.

On Friday, a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officer was killed in Iran's western Kermanshah province by armed protesters with a cold weapon.

A day before, at least six security personnel, including a colonel, were killed by armed assailants in separate incidents in western and central Iran.

Wednesday was particularly marred by violence with at least nine people killed in separate incidents in southwestern Khuzestan and central Isfahan provinces.

The surge in violence this week came amid a three-day protest call given by an anonymous group to mark the third anniversary of the deadly November 2019 unrest sparked by fuel price hikes.

Although the government has not come out with the official death toll in the months-long protests, rights groups have put the toll at around 350, including civilians and security forces.

Khamenei said those involved in the unrest must be dealt with, calling on the judiciary to punish them.

Iran’s judiciary has so far given preliminary death verdicts to five people over the protests, while many others have received jail terms ranging from 5 to 10 years.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said during a meeting with his Omani counterpart Sayyid Badr Albusaidi in Tehran that recent attacks in the provinces of Shiraz and Khuzestan were “in line with the maximum pressure policy of the US and some European states against Iran”, echoing what top political and military officials have said in recent months.

It is worth noting that the US and the European Union have imposed a slew of sanctions on Iranian officials and entities since September over crackdown on anti-government protests.

Iran’s top diplomat also vowed “retaliatory action” against what he termed as an "unconstructive" resolution against Iran passed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) earlier this week.

The UN nuclear watchdog censured Iran for not cooperating with its investigation into traces of uranium found at three “undeclared” nuclear sites in the country.

Source: Anadolu Agency