Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei says the November protests in Iran have been “deep-rooted, widespread and very dangerous”.
Khamenei was addressing the IRGC-linked Basij militia members and commanders who have played a substantial part in the violent suppression of the protests.
He said the protests that broke out on November 15, following a sudden hike in gasoline prices, were part of a deep-rooted and dangerous conspiracy. This is the send time in over a week that the Supreme Leader tells his supporters the protests posed a serious danger. On previous occasions Iranian officials were more dismissive of similar events.
Earlier, both Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani as well as several Iranian military commanders charged that the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia were behind the protests and Vice-President Es'haq Jahangiri threatened that "if one of Iran's neighbors was behind the protests, it will pay for it dearly."
One of the officials has admitted that the protests were partly the result of accumulated political pressure and economic hardship, as several sociologists and analysts in and out of Iran have pointed out.
Khamenei in his speech described the Basij as "the largest cultural, social and military network in the world."
He may be right as the IRGC and its Basij force have been operating in Iraq and Syria since 2011 and controlling at least one fifth of the Iranian economy as well as running a wide media network including newspapers, websites and TV channels in Iran and the region. Their combined numbers is well over one million trained personnel.
Khamenei called on the Basij to "be present in all Iranian neighborhoods and confront various eventualities by adapting various strategies and tactics."
Some Iranian officials have said that protests have been going on for about a week in 500 locations in Iran. In the capital Tehran, clashes occurred between security forces and demonstrators in over 100 neighborhoods after the price of gasoline rose three-fold.
Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said on state TV Tuesday evening that 500 demonstrators marching toward the state-owned broadcaster were stopped by security forces.
Meanwhile, Alireza Adyani, the Chairman of the Iranian police force's ideological and political department earlier described the security forces' confrontation with protestors as "a full-fledged war."
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International puts the number of demonstrators killed during clashes with security forces at 143.
Meanwhile, Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, a member of the Iranian Parliament's National Security Committee told Etemad newspaper in Tehran that more than 7,000 protestors have been arrested. This comes while a local official in Shahr-e Rey, south of Tehran has said prisons are overcrowded and there are concerns about inmates' safety and well-being.
Other reports from Iran indicate that security forces continue identifying and arresting activists who took part in the protests particularly in Tehran, Shiraz, Zanjan and Hamadan.
The official news agency IRNA quoted the police chief in Zanjan on Wednesday that the "leaders" of protests in that city have been detained. Similar claims were made elsewhere by officials.
An official in Hamadan said five people have been arrested on the charges of organizing mobs in the city using social networking tools, IRNA reported.
Interior Minister Rahmani-Fazli has insisted that those arrested should confess on TV to what they have done during the protests. Iranian TV is known for airing forced confessions under duress.