Iran’s Supreme Leader points finger at Saudi Arabia, US, Israel over unrest

Al-Monitor- In his first extensive comments on the recent protests in Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Jan. 9 pointed the finger at the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, saying they planned the unrest.

On Dec. 28, people in the northeastern city of Mashhad took to the streets to express their anger at the government for failing to control the cost of living. The protests — which, according to a number of Iranian officials were initially orchestrated by opponents of moderate President Hassan Rouhani — quickly got out of control and turned into a crisis in many small cities.

On Jan. 2, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani stated in an interview that Saudi Arabia, Israel and a number of Western countries had plotted the unrest. The protests reportedly led to the arrest of thousands of people and the deaths of almost two dozen people, who, according to officials, were killed by “rioters.” Law enforcement officials have said that a large number of those who were arrested have been freed.

In an address in the holy city of Qom on Jan. 9, Khamenei reacted to the protests, differentiating between those who expressed their objections peacefully and those who reportedly destroyed public property. “Regarding the recent events, there have been various analyses,” said Khamenei. “There is a correct point commonly made: that is, separating people’s honest and rightful demands from the violent and vandalizing moves by a certain group. These two must be separated.”

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