Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has tried to defend Iran's military presence in regional countries such as Syria, Iraq and Yemen in a speech in Mashad on Wednesday March 21.
“Nosy foreign characters protest as to why Iranians intervene in Iraq and Syria,” Khamenei said, “What has it got to do with you?” he asked.
Khamenei once again repeated Tehran’s usual position saying, “governments have asked us to be there,” adding that Tehran’s intervention in the region has “rational motivations.”
The international community has repeatedly denounced Tehran’s regional ambitions and world leaders have criticized Khamenei for Iran’s military interference in other countries’ affairs as a threat to peace and stability of the region.
Khamenei also evaluated the Islamic Republic’s performance during the past four decades as “generally positive” as “many of the slogans of the 1979 revolution have been materialized.”
During the past month, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote two letters to Khamenei to convince him that his policies have failed. Ahmadinejad warned in those letters that “Public dissatisfaction with the regime’s performance is serious and extremely high” and quickly engulfing the Islamic Revolution itself.
Khamenei also said “We have managed to shorten the socio-economic gap between classes. There is freedom of speech” in the country, and that “No one has been pressured in this country because of their beliefs. Anyone claiming such a thing would be lying.”
Khamenei made the statement less than two months after economic injustice brought hundreds of thousands of unemployed Iranians to the streets. International human rights watchdogs have condemned Iran for violating civil liberties and human rights such as freedom of speech.
In February Khamenei’s security organizations arrested tens of dervishes for their beliefs and violently cracked down on peaceful protests against compulsory hijab.
Khamenei said elsewhere in his speech, “We lag behind in the area of justice, although a lot of work has been done.”
Regime’s critics, including Ahmadinejad and his aides have characterized Iran’s Judiciary as corrupt and added that Khamenei cannot control it and if someone wants to complain about the Judiciary’s behaviour, there is nowhere to turn to.
The regime has opposition leaders and even the leader of dervishes, a group with no political agenda, under house arrest, the Bahais are being prosecuted and students and women are under pressure not to voice their concerns.
Khamenei summed up his speech by saying that “There is no problem in Iran that cannot be solved.” He added the comment while politicians and sociologists, economists and political activists have warned following the protests in January that there is a high likelihood for a new round of unrest in the future.
In the meantime, Khamenei’s remarks have remained unchallenged in Iran’s strictly controlled media, and he has evaded international press for three decades to keep his ideas unchallenged.
On social media, where Iranians have relative freedom to speak up under pseudonyms, hundreds of Iranians have characterized Khamenei’s comments about freedom of speech and the state of economy as “bluffs“ and reminded him of the enormous wealth at the disposal of his office without checks and balances. Still others question his comments about solving economic problems by posting videos of security forces running over protesting workers in Isfahan, who have not been paid for months.