Iran attacks US 'hypocritical' support for protesters

Iran accuses US of 'hypocritical' support for protesters after applying economic pressure
4 min read
18 November, 2019
Tehran slammed the United States for showing support for protesters in Iran despite Washington's economic pressure on the Islamic Republic.
Tehran has described the protesters as 'rioters' [Getty]

Iran condemned the US' support for "rioters" in a statement issued late on Sunday, after two days of violent protests in the Islamic Republic against a petrol price hike.

The foreign ministry said that it was reacting to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's "expression of support... for a group of rioters in some cities of Iran and condemned such support and interventionist remarks".

Protests erupted in Iran on Friday in response to an announcement of rising price of petrol. 

In a tweet on Saturday, Pompeo said in response to the demonstrations that "the United States is with you".

Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi slammed his comments in Sunday night's statement.

"The dignified people of Iran know well that such hypocritical remarks do not carry any honest sympathy," Mousavi was quoted as saying.

"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."

The statement 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.

"It's curious that the sympathising is being done with the people who are under the pressure of America's economic terrorism," Mousavi said.

The protests flared hours after it was announced in the early hours of Friday that the price of petrol would be raised by 50 percent for the first 60 litres (16 gallons) and by 300 percent for anything above that each month.

 Explainer: Hike in petrol prices ignites nationwide protests in Iran

The measure was expected to bring in 300 trillion rials ($2.55 billion) per annum, the head of the country's Planning and Budget Organisation, Mohammed Bagher Nobakht, said on state television.

About 60 million Iranians in need would get payments ranging from 550,000 rials ($4.68) for couples to slightly more than two million rials ($17.46) for families with five members or more, he said.

Read more: Iran's Khamenei slams 'hooligan' protesters, backs petrol price hike that sparked anger

Under the scheme, drivers with fuel cards will pay 15,000 rials (13 US cents) a litre for the first 60 litres of petrol bought each month, with each additional litre costing them 30,000 rials.

One person was killed and others injured when people tried to set fire to a fuel depot but were thwarted by security forces on Saturday.

On Sunday, a police officer succumbed to wounds sustained during clashes with protesters in Iran’s Kermanshah city a day earlier. 

Iran’s economy is suffering under severe economic sanctions imposed by President Trump since May 2018, when he pulled Washington out of the 2015 deal with world powers that imposed controls on Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for a lifting of sanctions.

 

Since wide-ranging sanctions were reimposed on Iran, the rial has plummeted, inflation is running at more than 40 percent and the International Monetary Fund expects Iran's economy to contract by nine percent this year and stagnate in 2020.

Iran's supreme leader on Sunday threw his support behind a decision to impose petrol price hikes and rationing, a move that sparked angry protests in the sanctions-hit country.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed "hooligans" for damaging property and said "all the centres of the world's wickedness against us have cheered" the unrest.

Khamenei said that "I am not an expert and there are different opinions but I had said that if the heads of the three branches make a decision I will support it".

"The heads of the branches made a decision with the backing of expert opinion and naturally it must be implemented," he said in a speech aired on state television.

"Some people would definitely get upset over this decision... but damaging and setting fire (to property) is not something (normal) people would do, it is hooligans," he added.

Khamenei also pointed at regime opponents abroad in what he called "the centres of the world's wickedness".

These included the Pahlavi royal family ousted in the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the People's Mujahedeen of Iran (MEK) group, which Iran considers a "terrorist" cult.

"What I am asking is that no one help these criminals," the supreme leader said, calling on people to distance themselves from those stoking the street protests.

Meanwhile, police spokesman Ahmad Nourian warned that security forces "will not hesitate to confront those disrupting peace and security and will identify the ringleaders and field forces and confront them".

He called on people to denounce "the opportunists and mercenaries" and help the police keep the peace, in comments quoted by ISNA.

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