Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei claimed Tuesday that protests in recent days were an "intelligence operation” not “popular protests”.
Khamenei added, “both friends and enemies should know that we have pushed back the enemy in the military, political and security fields”.
Protests erupted on last Friday when the Islamic Republic suddenly announced a gasoline price hike. Ordinary Iranians who have already been squeezed by unprecedented economic pressures, unemployment and inflation immediately poured into the streets and protests quickly spread to dozens of cities.
Khamenei and other officials began attributing the protests to plots by the United States and foreign based Iranian opposition and started using unrestricted force against civilian demonstrators. Videos and reports indicate direct live fire at protesters in many locations.
Amnesty International announced Tuesday, November 19 that according to its estimate 106 people have been killed. A United Nations human rights office expressed deep concern.
But Khamenei insisted that everything was a “intelligence” operation, meaning a plot by foreign agents and said that after overcoming the enemy in every respect, “with God’s help we will decisively push back the enemy also in the economic field.”
Iran’s economy is in deep trouble with negative 9 percent growth this year according to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Part of the trouble is heavy U.S. sanctions, but Iran has an inefficient economic system heavily dependent on oil exports.
Khamenei also said that U.S. sanctions will continue for the foreseeable future and added that Iran should not hope for an end to the sanctions or an end to Donald Trump’s presidency to save its economy.
Trump has adopted a tough policy toward the Islamic Republic, demanding a new nuclear agreement, which will close Iran’s path to nuclear weapons and also insists on Tehran ending its foreign policy of meddling in regional countries.