Iran’s supreme leader on Wednesday claimed without evidence that recent protests across the Islamic Republic over government-set gasoline prices rising were part of a “conspiracy” involving the U.S., as authorities began to acknowledge the scale of the demonstrations.
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.
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 says it believes the violence killed at least 143 people, something Iran disputes without offering any evidence to support its claims.
In his 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.”
Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state, described the protests as being orchestrated by “global arrogance,” which he uses to refer to the U.S. He described America as getting slapped by the authorities’ response.
Wednesday marks the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Basij. Videos from the protest purport to show plainclothes Basij officials and others on motorcycles beating and detaining protesters.