DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Protesters angry over government-set gasoline prices spiking in Iran attacked hundreds of banks, police outposts, and gas stations in the demonstrations, Tehran acknowledged Wednesday as its supreme leader alleged without evidence that a “conspiracy” involving the United States caused the unrest.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the comment while addressing members of the Revolutionary Guard’s all-volunteer Basij force, which help put down the demonstrations. Meanwhile, one lawmaker was quoted as saying authorities arrested more than 7,000 people over the protests while a security official claimed demonstrators attempted to take over Iranian state television.
The remarks represent the latest swing in the response by Iran’s Shi’ite theocracy to the protests, which has seen officials either downplay or demonize demonstrators. Unlike the 2009 Green Movement protests over Iran’s disputed presidential election, or its 2017 economic protests, demonstrations this month rapidly turned violent within a day, showing the boiling anger of many as the country’s economy struggles under renewed US sanctions.
Iran’s government still hasn’t offered any statistics on injuries, arrests, or deaths in the protests and security crackdown that followed government-set gasoline prices rising Nov. 15. Amnesty International said it believes the violence killed at least 143 people, which Iran disputes without offering any evidence to support its claims.
In comments reported by state media, Khamenei said the Iranian people extinguished “a very dangerous deep conspiracy that cost so much money and effort.” He praised the police, the Guard, and the Basij for “entering the field and carrying out their task in a very difficult confrontation.”
Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state, described the protests as being orchestrated by “global arrogance,” which he often uses to refer to the United States, “and Zionists.” He described the United States as seeing the price hikes as an ‘‘opportunity’’ to bring their ‘‘troops’’ to the field but the ‘‘move was destroyed by the people.’’