Gen Hossein Salami, the head of the country’s Revolutionary Guards, accused the US, Britain, Israel and Saudi Arabia of stoking last week’s violent protests over a fuel price hike.
Addressing a pro-government demonstration in the capital’s Enghelab Square, he today warned the West: ‘If you cross our red line, we will destroy you… We will not leave any move unanswered.’
Iran wants to lift the crippling sanctions imposed by the US in the wake of Tehran’s downing of a US drone in the Persian Gulf in June.
Amnesty International said more than 100 people have been killed during the protests last week.
Iran has not released a death toll and cut off internet for several days, making it hard to ascertain the extent and severity of the demonstrations.
Thousands of young and working-class Iranians took to the streets on November 15 after gasoline price hikes of at least 50 per cent were announced, voicing outrage at a further squeeze on living costs compounding hardships imposed by renewed US sanctions.
Protesters quickly expanded their demands to include a removal of leaders seen as unaccountable and corrupt.
Violence erupted with at least 100 banks and dozens of buildings torched, the worst disturbances since unrest over alleged election fraud was crushed in 2009, with dozens killed by security forces.
On Monday, state television carried live footage of demonstrators chanting ‘Death to America,’ and ‘Death to Israel’, while marching toward Tehran’s Revolution Square to hear a speech by a commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards.
State television and the foreign ministry had promoted the government-organised rally since Sunday in response to Western statements of support for the fuel price protests.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said: ‘I recommend they [foreign countries] look at the marches today, to see who the real people in Iran are and what they are saying.’
The Islamic Republic has accused ‘thugs’ linked to exiles and foreign foes – the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia – of stirring up the street unrest, during which Amnesty International said around 115 protesters were killed.
What are they?
On June 24, President Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing new sanctions on the Islamic Republic in the wake of Tehran’s downing of a US drone in the Persian Gulf.
The US Treasury said that eight senior Iranian commanders were targeted in the penalties.
The US further tightened its sanctions on Iran’s oil exports in the measures.
In May 2018, the Trump administration reimposed the sanctions which had been repealed as part of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
In May of this year, Trump further strangled Iran by imposing sanctions on countries buying its oil.
Iran’s economic growth plummeted after the Iran deal broke down and has continued to do fall in the wake of fresh sanctions.
Why have they been put in place?
US sanctions were reimposed when the nuclear deal broke down.
President Trump said that Iran had violated the terms of the agreement over the development of its nuclear capabilities.
What is their purpose?
The sanctions strangle Iran’s vital oil trade and are meant to force the renegade state to accept stricter limits on its nuclear program.
In addition, the Americans want the Iranians to limit its development of ballistic missiles and to stop supporting hostile proxies throughout the Middle East.
‘Death to the dictator. Time for you to step down!’ chanted protesters in social media videos posted by Iranians from inside the country. The images have not been verified.
State authorities warned ‘rioters’ of severe punishment if unrest continued.
They said late last week disturbances had ceased, although unverified videos posted on social media after restrictions on internet access were partially lifted suggested sporadic protests were continuing in parts of the country.
Washington has sided with Iran’s protesters, while France and Germany have expressed deep concern over reports of many deaths during the demonstrations.
Rights group Amnesty International said last week security forces had fired into crowds of protesters from rooftops and in one case from a helicopter.
Social media footage showed dozens of police on motorbikes driving into crowds and attacking protesters with clubs.
Other videos showed police firing at people with live ammunition.
Iran has rejected Amnesty’s death toll figures as speculative, saying several people, including members of the security forces, had been killed and more than 1,000 people arrested.
The Center for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based advocacy group, said the number of arrests was likely closer to 4,000.
A young protester in Tehran said: ‘My cousin has been arrested. We don’t know where he is and whether he is alive or not.’
Some Iranian lawmakers have called for ‘the execution of ‘ringleaders of the riots’.
Anxious to curb support for the unrest, authorities blocked internet access for several days before partially restoring it on Thursday.
Washington imposed sanctions on Iran’s information minister for his role in ‘wide-scale internet censorship’.