The US to seek emergency United Nations sessions amid heightening suppression on protesters, however, denies it’s job for regime amendment.
Iran’s supreme leader has blamed the Islamic Republic’s enemies for nationwide unrest, as authorities cracked down with increasing intensity on protesters, leading to the death toll rising.
“In the events of the past few days, the enemies of Iran are deploying every means at their disposal including money, arms and political and intelligence support to coordinate making troubles for the Islamic establishment,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in his first public remarks since the protests began on Thursday.
Videos posted on social networks suggest riot police and protesters are becoming more confrontational. In a sign that the rhetoric is also hardening, Esmail Kowsari, a senior Revolutionary Guards commander, vowed that the elite forces would crush those he said were disturbing the country’s security. In the event that the unrest continued, “the authorities will undoubtedly make a decision and finish the business”, Kowsari said.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, called for international action in solidarity with the demonstrators and said the US would seek emergency UN sessions on Iran.
Haley, one of the most hawkish figures on Iran in the Trump administration, rejected Khamenei’s comments, saying the protests were “completely spontaneous”.
“By the thousands, Iranian citizens are taking to the streets to protest the oppression of their own government. It takes great bravery for the Iranian people to use the power of their voice, especially when their government has a long history of murdering its own people who dare to speak the truth,” Haley said. “We must not be silent,. The people of Iran are crying out for freedom.”
The US Department of State spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, later denied that the US was calling for regime change, saying it was simply backing the right of the protesters to demand changed policies from their government.
The demonstrations, the largest seen in Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election, resumed on Tuesday evening for the sixth consecutive day.
The protests began on Thursday when opponents of Iran’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, gathered in north-eastern Iran to demonstrate over economic grievances. They then spread nationwide and took on more of an anti-regime dimension, including anti-Khamenei chants.
An intervention by Rouhani on Sunday, when he acknowledged the discontent, failed to quell the anger. Monday night’s disturbances were the most violent so far.
At least 21 people are now thought to have died across the country. More than 450 people have been arrested in Tehran alone since Saturday – nationwide figures have not been released.
The UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, expressed his “regret” at the rising death toll and called on Tehran to respect the rights of peaceful protesters. “We expect that the rights to peaceful assembly and expression of the Iranian people will be respected,” his spokesman said.