Iran blames US for weekend of violence and issues chilling warning to protestors
Furious protestors took to the streets after officials in Tehran announced the introduction of 50 percent petrol price hikes and fuel rationing. The demonstrations quickly spread across the Islamic Republic and have turned political with growing calls for top clerical leaders step down. State-controlled media said at least 100 banks and dozens of buildings and cars have been attacked and set alight.
But the exact scale of the unrest remains unclear as authorities have curbed internet access to stop the use of social media to organise rallies and disseminate videos.President Hassan Rouhani’s government said the petrol price rises were intended to raise around £2bn a year for extra subsidies to 18 million families on low incomes.But the move has enraged ordinary Iranians already suffering as a result of reimposed US sanctions that have undermined government promises of more jobs and investment.
Iran’s heavily-armed and much-feared Revolutionary Guards issued a warning that hinted a harsh security crackdown could be on the cards.It said: “If necessary we will take decisive and revolutionary action against any continued moves to disturb the people’s peace and security.”Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed the turmoil on Iran’s opponents and foreign foes, denouncing protesters who attacked public property as “thugs” and “hooligans”.READ MORE: Iran news: How Trump tensions could spark fresh Putin row
Foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi attacked the US for expressing support for “a group of rioters” after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted a tweet telling the demonstrators “the United States is with you”.He accused Washington of sowing discord by waging “economic terrorism” on its people through sanctions and called the rioters saboteurs.Mr Mousavi said: “The dignified people of Iran know well that such hypocritical remarks do not carry any honest sympathy.“The acts of a rioter and saboteur group supported by the likes of Pompeo have no congruity with the conduct of the wise Iranian people.“It’s curious that the sympathising is being done with the people who are under the pressure of America’s economic terrorism.”
Mr Mousavi blasted Washington’s “ill-intent” over its decision to reimpose sanctions on Tehran after the US withdrawal in May last year from the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal.The struggle of ordinary Iranians to make ends meet became even harder last year when President Donald Trump withdrew the US from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions that had been lifted under the accord.Frustration has grown over a sharp devaluation of Iran’s rial currency as well as spikes in the prices of bread, rice and other staples since Washington began to apply “maximum pressure” on Iran to make tougher nuclear and security concessions.Many in oil-producing Iran see cheap petrol as a fundamental right and the price hike sparked worries about a further squeeze on living costs, despite state assurances that the revenue raised would be put to assisting needy families.DON'T MISSHow Trump's mistakes have 'handed Middle East to Rouhani and Putin'[ANALYSIS]Iran has ‘secret atomic warehouse’ to enrich uranium underground[FOCUS]Nuclear War warning: Iran can produce enriched uranium for weapon[SPOTLIGHT]
As the violence spread, some Iranians managed to post social media videos showing police firing tear gas to disperse protesters.Authorities said one policeman and a civilian had been killed and 1,000 “rioters” arrested.Government spokesman Ali Rabiei told a televised news conference: “Rioters used knives and guns.“A number of security agentsand policemen were killed or taken hostage.”