As street protests continue across Iran for the fifth day, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has blamed foreign governments for stoking the unrest, claiming that the country’s enemies are attempting to overthrow the government.
“In the events of the past few days, the enemies of Iran are deploying every means at their disposal,” Khamenei said in a statement, “including money, arms and political and intelligence support to coordinate making troubles for the Islamic establishment.”
Reports suggest that nearly 500 people have been arrested by riot police and paramilitary forces in Tehran and that at least 21 individuals have died in the ongoing clashes.
The protests emerged from economic discontent among the nation’s youth, as the country continues to suffer from international sanctions despite the relatively moderate politics of Iran’s current president, Hassan Rouhani.
Rouhani has publicly stated that the protesters have a right to be heard, but leaders of the nation’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps – a powerful paramilitary group closely tied with the theocratic branches of the nation’s government – has threatened a crackdown similiar to that of 2009, when the group violently repressed the Green Movement protests that stemmed from a contested presidential election.