Khamenei: Protests 'American and Zionist' plot to overthrow government
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday praised a "massive movement of the people against the plots of the enemies", accusing the United States and Israel of inciting anti-government demonstrations.
Pro-government rallies have been held across the country since late December, according to Iranian state media, following several days of opposition protests which sparked violence that left 21 dead.
It has been estimated that some 3,700 anti-regime demonstrators have been imprisoned, three of whom have died in custody.
Such a "popular mobilisation against the enemy's plots targeting the regime... doesn't exist anywhere [else] in the world," Khamenei said in a speech broadcast by Iranian media.
He accused the United States and "the Zionists" of spending months preparing demonstrations in small towns in the hope that they would spread to the capital.
"This will not go unanswered," he said.
"The money came from the rich governments of the Persian Gulf and the perpetrators were the criminal Monafeghin group," he added.
Monafeghin, meaning "hypocrites" in Persian, is a label Iranian authorities use for the People's Mujahedeen of Iran, an outlawed opposition group.
|Demonstrations that began in Iran's second city over
economic woes soon snowballed into rallies condemning
theocratic rule in general, spreading to cities worldwide
"In the recent days' incidents, enemies of Iran utilised various means — including money, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatuses - to create problems for the Islamic system," he added.
The anti-government protests had used the slogan "no to high living costs", which "pleases everyone", he said.
"But the people, who were not very many, quickly dissociated themselves [from the movement] when they realised the real objectives" of the instigators, he said.
Khamenei did acknowledge however that complaints about the economy were abound, but stressed a distinction between "the just demands of the people and the wild and destructive actions of this group".
He said protests for rights had nothing to do with "burning the Koran, insulting Islam, insulting the flag and burning mosques".
The anti-government demonstrations, in which tens of thousands are known to have taken part, were the biggest such movement in the tightly controlled country since protests over a disputed election in 2009.