Iran Lays Out Nuclear Deal Red Lines

 President Hassan Rouhani giving a speech in the northwestern city of Sabzevar./ AFPi

 

Following Washington’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, the Islamic republic’s supreme leader has laid out his country’s conditions for upholding its side of the landmark accord with world powers.

The following excerpts from an address by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Iranian officials, published on Thursday, outline Iran’s demands of Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany if the deal is to survive:

 ‘Protest US action’ 

“The US withdrawal is a violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 (establishing the nuclear deal). The Europeans need to table a resolution against the US to protest this action.”

‘No objections to missiles’ 

“The heads of the three European nations must promise not to raise any objections to Iranian missiles or Iran’s presence in the region. Everyone should know that the Islamic Republic of Iran will never give up elements of its power, especially concerning questions of defence.”

The US has levied sanctions against Tehran for its ballistic missile programme and labels Iranian regional proxy groups such as Hezbollah as “terrorist” entities.

‘Safeguard oil sales’ 

“If the US succeeds in disturbing Iranian oil sales, the Europeans must promise to buy whatever quantity we wish to sell.”

US President Donald Trump triggered fears for Iran’s economy earlier this month when he pulled his country from the 2015 deal.

World powers and signatories have since rallied around the accord, which imposed curbs on Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of punishing economic sanctions.

The prospect of new American sanctions on Tehran has already caused some European firms to indicate they will pull out of business ventures in Iran.

 ‘Concrete guarantees’ 

Khamenei has said Iran could resume its uranium enrichment up to 20 percent should the deal collapse. The accord limits Tehran to enriching uranium to 3.67 percent, well short of weapons-grade strength.

“Iran is not seeking discord with the Europeans but given their past behaviour we cannot trust them,” Khamenei said. “For this reason, the guarantees must be concrete.”

Iran’s Rouhani ‘Losing Everything’ Due To Trump

A handout picture provided by the Iranian presidency on May 6, 2018 shows President Hassan Rouhani gave a speech during a rally in the northwestern city of Sabzevar./ AFP

 

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani staked his legacy on efforts to end decades of tension with the West. With the landmark nuclear deal unravelling, what hope is there for his political future?

Regardless of whether US President Donald Trump tears up the 2015 nuclear deal that was the centrepiece of Rouhani’s diplomatic efforts, it is clear that the traditional animosity between the US and Iran has returned for the foreseeable future.

“Rouhani bet big on the nuclear deal and invested all his political capital in it,” said Mojtaba Mousavi, a political analyst in Tehran.

“Now the deal is gasping its last breaths, and so Rouhani is losing everything — all his economic and political plans — that he built on the back of the nuclear deal,” Mousavi told AFP.

– A boon for conservatives –
From the start, Rouhani’s conservative opponents were deeply suspicious of his negotiations with Washington, and their fears were borne out when it became clear that US pressure would continue to hobble Iran’s trade ties even after the 2015 deal.

With his constant threats to tear up the accord, Trump has ensured the world stays wary of doing business with Iran.

“The uncertainty around the JCPOA (nuclear deal) is a victory for the conservatives who feed off the hostility of US foreign policy to reinforce internal repression and limit the reach of the Islamic republic’s elected institutions,” said Clement Therme, an Iran expert with Britain’s International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Behind-the-scenes conservative forces have made their presence felt in recent months, with sweeping arrests of dual nationals and NGO workers on espionage charges, the blocking of Iran’s most popular social media app Telegram, and pressure on high-profile reformers that forced the resignation of Tehran’s mayor and a top environmental official.

Rouhani has overseen a moderate easing of social restrictions, but in Iran the presidency is only one of many power centres.

He faces powerful conservative forces embedded in the clergy, the judiciary and a Guardian Council with veto power over laws and election candidates, not to mention the over-riding authority of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“Rouhani has totally flunked on all his promises, but he has doubled down on the reform rhetoric recently, trying to maintain his popular base and finger-pointing at the conservatives,” said Ardavan Amir-Aslani, an author and international lawyer with an office in Tehran.

“But opening a few new cafes and letting women push their headscarves back a few inches are not the fundamental reforms that Iran needs,” he added.

– Need for unity –
What may save Rouhani from being completely sidelined is the establishment’s fear of a greater unravelling.

Protests in December and January showed that anger over the economy and civil liberties was much wider spread than in the past, affecting dozens of second-tier towns and cities.

“I think the leader (Khamenei) is still trying to help Rouhani. Protecting the prosperity and unity of the country is his top priority, especially in this tough situation,” said Mousavi.

Rouhani won a second term as president a year ago, with the backing of reformists who saw him as the best option from the small selection allowed to stand by the Guardian Council.

There were never any illusions that he was a radical reformer — he has been a regime insider from the earliest days of the Islamic revolution — but many were still disappointed when his promises of reform fell flat.

“Some of the criticism is unfair. Rouhani has done great things. There is more openness, less morality police, journalists are somewhat freer,” said a reformist journalist, who asked to remain anonymous.

“But he is ultimately a man of the system and wants to remain one. His identity is tied up with being part of the system — if he denies it, he denies himself.”

For now, Rouhani has stuck to his guns, strongly criticising the censorship of social media and slamming officials for failing to respond effectively to popular anger.

But he faces a difficult challenge, having to respond to Trump without derailing his wider diplomatic efforts.

“The smart move would be to wait out the end of Trump’s mandate, stay in the nuclear deal and build up something with the Europeans, however limited. Wait until this blows over,” said Amir-Aslani.

“That’s what they should do — but we’ll see.”

Iran To Quit Nuclear Deal If U.S. Backs Out

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani                                                                                  ATTA KENARE / AFP

 

Iran warned on Thursday that it will quit a landmark nuclear deal with world powers if President Donald Trump pulls the United States out of the accord.

“If the United States withdraws from the nuclear deal, then we will not stay in it,” Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign policy advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was quoted as saying by the state television website.

Trump has threatened to abandon the agreement when it comes up for renewal on May 12, calling it “insane”.

Iran has always denied it sought a nuclear weapon, insisting its atomic programme was for civilian purposes.

Velayati warned against any move to try to renegotiate the deal signed by Iran and six world powers in 2015 curbing Tehran’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

“Iran accepts the nuclear agreement as it has been prepared and will not accept adding or removing anything,” he said.

“Even if countries allied with the United States, especially the Europeans, seek to revise the nuclear agreement… one of our options will be withdrawing from the accord,” Velayati added.

Britain, France and Germany — the three European countries that signed the deal — have repeatedly tried to persuade Trump not to abandon it.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday reiterated his commitment to the accord but admitted that it needed strengthening.

“I don’t know what the US president will decide on May 12,” Macron said during a visit to Sydney.

“I just want to say whatever the decision will be, we will have to prepare such a broader negotiation and a broader deal because I think nobody wants a war in the region, and nobody wants an escalation in terms of tension in the region,” he said.

AFP

HRW Slams Iran’s Banning Of Telegram As ‘Unjustifiable’

Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani gives a speech in the city of Tabriz in the northwestern East-Azerbaijan province during an event commemorating the city as the 2018 capital of Islamic tourism. ATTA KENARE / AFP

 

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday hit back at Iran’s “unjustifiable” decision to ban the Telegram messaging app, warning Tehran against stifling access to information.

“The Iranian judiciary’s blocking of the messaging application Telegram is an unjustifiable restriction on freedom of expression and access to information,” the US-based rights organisation said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch accused Tehran of “stifling access to information to try to make its problems go away” and said such censorship “should never be used to protect leaders from scrutiny”.

A Tehran judge blocked Telegram on Monday, following accusations that the hugely popular app has allowed armed opposition groups to fuel unrest.

The decision was described as “just another stain on Iranian authorities’ already dismal record on freedom of expression” by Human Rights Watch.

Telegram is the Islamic republic’s most popular social network with some 40 million users, around half the population.

The move to ban the app has highlighted differences of opinion between the government of reformist President Hassan Rouhani and ultra-conservatives who control the judiciary and security services.

Reflecting the government’s support of more open access to the internet, telecoms minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi on Tuesday highlighted problems in Russia since authorities there banned Telegram.

“These problems could happen in Iran as well,” he said, quoted by the ISNA news agency after thousands rallied in Moscow on Monday in support of internet freedom.

Despite Telegram being blocked, the app was still easily accessible in Tehran on Wednesday.

AFP

Iran Calls Netanyahu ‘Infamous Liar’ Over Nuclear Allegations

 Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani attending a cabinet meeting in the capital Tehran. 
HO / IRANIAN PRESIDENCY / AFP

 

Iran on Tuesday branded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu an “infamous liar” over his allegations of a secret Iranian nuclear weapons programme.

Netanyahu’s comments came from a “broke and infamous liar who has had nothing to offer except lies and deceits,” foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said in a statement.

AFP

Iran Lifts Ban On Telegram

A handout picture provided by the office of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on December 31, 2017 shows Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani attending a cabinet meeting in the capital Tehran. Criticism is different to violence, warns Iran’s Rouhani.
HO / IRANIAN PRESIDENCY / AFP

Iran has lifted restrictions imposed during recent protests on the country’s most popular social media app Telegram.

AFP journalists were able to access the service on Sunday and officials confirmed it has been restored.

“The information concerning the end of filtering on Telegram is correct,” a spokesman for the telecoms ministry told AFP.

Telegram, which counts some 25 million users in Iran, was blocked on mobile phones during the five days of unrest that hit dozens of cities over the new year.

The semi-official ISNA news agency said the restrictions on Telegram had been “entirely lifted under orders of (President Hassan Rouhani).”

The government accused “counter-revolutionaries” and foreign groups of inciting violence via social media during the unrest, and also temporarily cut mobile access to photo sharing app Instagram.

They also blocked some VPN privacy apps, which are commonly used to get around longstanding bans on sites such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.

Rouhani said during the unrest that the restrictions were necessary, but should not be “indefinite”.

He accused conservative opponents of using the protests to impose widespread censorship.

“You want to take the opportunity to shut down this social media for eternity. You might sleep well, but 40 million people had problems… 100,000 people lost their jobs,” Rouhani said on January 9, referring to complaints that many businesses were hit by the Telegram shutdown.

The head of the country’s cybercrime committee, Abdolsamad Khoramabadi, had earlier criticised the government for not blocking Telegram sooner, and said officials should be “punished” if it was found they deliberately failed to act against online “trouble-makers and enemies”.

Conservatives have also called for the development of local apps to replace Instagram and Telegram.

Rouhani’s support for temporary restrictions still represented something of a reversal for a president who has vowed to end all online censorship.

Just three weeks before the unrest, on December 19, Rouhani told the country’s first conference on civil liberties: “We will not seek to filter social media. Our telecoms minister promises the people he will never touch the filtering button.”

AFP

More Pro-Regime Rallies As Iran Declares ‘Sedition’ Over

Iranian pro-government supporters march during the funeral of a young member of the Revolutionary Guards, Sajjad Shahsanai, in the city of Najafabad, west of Isfahan, on January 3, 2018. Morteza SALEHI / TASNIM NEWS / AFP

Iran saw another day of large pro-regime rallies Thursday after authorities declared the end of deadly unrest and turned attention to addressing economic concerns that fuelled protests.

A week after the demonstrations broke out, there were no reports of fresh protests in local media overnight, while videos on social media suggested only limited unrest in provincial towns which could not be immediately verified.

As Washington suggested it may be looking to impose fresh sanctions on Tehran, Iranian authorities were weighing options including blocking unpopular measures in President Hassan Rouhani’s recent budget.

State television showed huge crowds marching in support of the government across 10 cities early Thursday, including Isfahan, Ardebil and Mashhad, where the protests first erupted last Thursday.

“We are together behind the leader,” chanted the crowds, in reference to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“The revolutionary Iranian people have responded in time to the enemies and trouble-makers by coming out on the streets,” Ali Akbar Velayati, an advisor to Khamenei, told the semi-official ISNA news agency.

“The people’s main demand now is for the government and officials to deal with the economic problems,” he added.

General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards, on Wednesday announced the “end of the sedition”.

A total of 21 people died in five days of unrest that began on December 28 as protests against economic grievances quickly turned against the regime as a whole, with attacks on government buildings and police stations.

Jafari told state television that “a large number of the troublemakers” were behind the unrest, saying many had been arrested and would face “firm action”.

 ‘Grotesque intervention’

The unrest — the biggest challenge to Iran’s Islamic regime since mass protests in 2009 — caused international concern, with the United States in particular accusing authorities of a crackdown on dissent.

A White House official, who asked for anonymity, said Wednesday that Washington would look for “actionable information” to try to bring fresh sanctions on those responsible.

US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly tweeted his backing for Iranian protesters, wrote: “You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!”

The question now is whether Trump will continue to waive nuclear-related sanctions that were suspended under the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers.

Under the deal, Trump must actively waive certain sanctions every few months and the next deadline falls on January 12.

Iran — which has long accused the United States and Sunni Arab rivals led by Saudi Arabia of interference in its affairs — said external “enemies” were behind recent unrest.

Its UN Ambassador Gholamali Khoshroo said in a letter that the US government had “stepped up its acts of intervention in a grotesque way in Iran’s internal affairs” and accused Washington of violating international law and the principles of the UN charter.

Online messaging and photo sharing platforms Telegram and Instagram remained blocked on mobile phones, having been interrupted soon after protests began.

Telecoms Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi said Telegram would only be unblocked if it removed “terrorist” content.

Parliament responds 

Iran’s political establishment has closed ranks against the unrest, with even reformists condemning the violence.

But many have also called on Rouhani to address the economic grievances that drove the initial protests.

There have already been moves in parliament to block the unpopular budget measures announced last month, which included cuts to welfare and fuel price hikes.

“As concerns petrol prices, we must absolutely take into account the situation of the people because the tensions are absolutely not in the interests of the country,” parliament speaker Ali Larijani said on Wednesday.

Rouhani came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, but high living costs and unemployment have left many feeling that progress is too slow.

Rural areas, hit by years of drought and under-investment, are particularly hard-hit.

On the streets of the capital, there is widespread sympathy with the economic grievances driving the unrest, particularly an unemployment rate as high as 40 percent for young people.

“People have reached a stage where they can no longer tolerate this pressure from the authorities,” said Soraya Saadaat, a 54-year-old jobless woman.

But some Tehranis said claims from the US that they were desperate for freedom were overblown.

“We do have some freedom in Iran,” Hamid Rahimi, a 33-year-old bank employee told AFP.

“If the people of Iran have something to say, it’s about economic problems. They want to see their demands, what they voted for, fulfilled.”

AFP

Huge Pro-Regime Rallies In Iran As Protests Die Down

 

(File Copy)

Tens of thousands gathered across Iran Wednesday in a massive show of strength for the regime after days of deadly unrest, with state television showing vast crowds marching through several cities. 

Chants of “Leader, we are ready” were heard as images showed thousands rallying in the cities of Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Gorgan and elsewhere.

The demonstrators waved Iranian flags and pictures of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as well as placards saying “Death to seditionists”.

“We offer the blood in our veins to our leader,” was another popular chant.

There were few reports of anti-regime protests overnight after the political establishment closed ranks against the unrest since last week that has left at least 21 dead.

Washington continued to exert pressure on the Islamic republic, with its UN ambassador Nikki Haley calling for emergency UN talks to discuss the situation.

“The people of Iran are crying out for freedom,” she said at a news conference. “All freedom-loving people must stand with their cause.”

Iran’s leaders have said the protests, which began over economic issues on December 28 but quickly turned more radical, were part of a foreign plot to destabilise the regime.

“The enemies have united and are using all their means, money, weapons, policies and security services to create problems for the Islamic regime,” Khamenei said.

“The enemy is always looking for an opportunity and any crevice to infiltrate and strike the Iranian nation.”

 ‘The poor under pressure’

Even reformists, who backed the last major protest movement against alleged election-rigging in 2009, condemned the violence and the support it has received from the United States.

But they also urged the authorities to address economic grievances that have fuelled the protests.

“Officials must acknowledge the deplorable situation of the country as the first step to hearing the protesters,” tweeted Mohammad Taghi Karroubi, whose father Mehdi Karroubi has been under house arrest for almost seven years for helping lead the 2009 demonstrations.

Many have been turned off by the violence, which has contrasted with the largely peaceful marches in 2009.

But on the streets of the capital, there is widespread sympathy with the economic grievances driving the unrest, particularly an unemployment rate as high as 40 percent for young people.

“The poorer section of society is really under pressure,” Sakineh Eidi, a 37-year-old pharmacist in Tehran, told AFP. “But I don’t think it will continue.”

“Even those who maybe acted emotionally, vandalising things and setting fire to public property, know that the smoke will get into everyone’s eyes and that insecurity in the country is not in anyone’s interest.”

Others rejected the official line that foreign powers were behind the unrest.

“I don’t agree. People have reached a stage where they can no longer tolerate this pressure from the authorities. They have burst and are now out in the streets,” said Soraya Saadaat, a 54-year-old unemployed woman.

12 percent unemployment 

There were only limited reports of violence and clashes in provincial areas on the night of Tuesday to Wednesday.

Two men fired on a bank and police post in the central province of Isfahan, without causing casualties, said state television.

“No information has been published on clashes or arrests in Tehran,” said reformist news agency ILNA late Friday.

Police presence in the capital also appeared to have dwindled, official media and AFP journalists said.

That was in contrast with the previous two nights, when multiple deaths were reported across smaller towns, including six protesters killed during attacks on a police station in Isfahan province.

As violence grew, authorities stepped up arrests, with at least 450 people detained in Tehran between Saturday and Monday, and many more in outlying areas.

Rouhani came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, but high living costs and a 12 percent unemployment rate have left many feeling that progress is too slow.

Rural areas, hit by years of drought and under-investment, are particularly hard-hit.

Rouhani on Sunday acknowledged there was “no problem bigger than unemployment”, and also promised a more balanced media and more transparency.

In 2009, authorities ruthlessly put down protests against the re-election of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At least 36 people were killed, according to an official toll, while the opposition says 72 died.

AFP

Policeman Killed Amid Crackdown On Iran Protests

An image grab taken from a handout video released by Iran’s Mehr News agency reportedly shows a group of men pulling at a fence in a street in Tehran on December 30, 2017. 
Handout / MEHR NEWS / AFP

Fresh protests broke out as night fell in Iran on Monday with reports of a policeman shot dead, as the authorities moved to crack down on days of unrest across the country.

There was a heavy police presence in Tehran as small groups of protesters ran through the city centre shouting anti-regime slogans, local agencies reported.

State television said one policeman had been killed and three others wounded by fire from hunting rifles in the city of Najafabad in central Iran.

The latest demonstrations came despite President Hassan Rouhani’s vow that the nation would deal with “rioters and lawbreakers”.

US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticised Tehran over four days of demonstrations, said it was “time for a change” and that the Iranian people were “hungry” for freedom.

The intelligence ministry released a statement saying “rioters and instigators” have been identified “and will be dealt with seriously soon”.

The Revolutionary Guards published photos of three people wanted for their role in the unrest, calling on the public to report any “seditionist elements”.

It followed the deadliest night yet on Sunday, with state television reporting six people killed by gunfire in the western town of Tuyserkan, and a local lawmaker saying two people had been shot dead in the southwestern town of Izeh.

Two others, including a teenage boy, were run down and killed by a fire engine protesters stole in the western town of Dorud, the state broadcaster said.

The total death toll linked to the protests currently stands at 13.

Rouhani tried to play down the unrest, which began in second city Mashhad last Thursday and quickly spread across the country to become the biggest test for the regime since mass protests in 2009.

“This is nothing,” Rouhani said in a statement on the presidency website.

“Our nation will deal with this minority who chant slogans against the law and people’s wishes, and insult the sanctities and values of the revolution,” he said.

Pro-regime rallies were held across several towns and cities.

Reporting restrictions remained tight, but videos on social media showed seemingly widespread anti-government protests in many parts of the country, with attacks on government buildings and a school for clergy in the northwestern town of Takestan on Sunday.

‘Country must have discipline’ 

Tehran has seen relatively small protests, but many people sympathise with the economic grievances driving the unrest.

“Life is really difficult. The high prices really put me under pressure. My husband is a government worker but his salary is no way enough for us to make ends meet,” said Farzaneh Mirzaie, 42, a mother of two.

“Mr Rouhani says it’s free for people to protest but we’re scared of speaking. Even now, I’m scared of talking to you,” added Sarita Mohammadi, a 35-year-old teacher.

“If it’s free to speak out and protest, then why have they deployed so many forces out there in the streets?”

The authorities have confirmed more than 400 arrests since the outbreak of the unrest, of whom around 100 have been freed.

“Those who have rightful demands must be guided in lawful ways and those who riot and commit sabotage and chaos and set fire to public property… must be confronted decisively,” judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani told the state broadcaster.

“The country must have discipline,” he added.

Trump, a fierce critic of Tehran, used one of his first tweets of 2018 to again lash out at a favourite target.

“The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!” he tweeted.

 Living costs, unemployment 

After initial silence, state media began showing some footage of the demonstrations on Sunday, focusing on young men attacking banks and vehicles, an attack on a town hall in Tehran and images of a man burning the Iranian flag.

Rouhani came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, but high living costs and a 12 percent unemployment rate have left many feeling that progress is too slow.

“We have no problem bigger than unemployment. Our economy needs an operation. We must all stand together,” Rouhani acknowledged on Monday.

The authorities have blamed external forces for fomenting violence, saying the majority of social media reports were emanating from regional rival Saudi Arabia or exile groups based in Europe.

Authorities ruthlessly put down the 2009 protests, which followed a disputed presidential election that gave hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term. At least 36 people were killed in the 2009 unrest, according to an official toll, while the opposition says 72 died.

AFP

10 Dead In Latest Iran Unrest As Rouhani Defiant

United States President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly criticised Tehran over four days of demonstrations, said it was “time for a change” and that the Iranian people were “hungry” for freedom.

Sunday night was the deadliest since the angry demonstrations broke out on Thursday and spread across the country in the biggest test for the regime since mass protests in 2009.

Six people were killed in the western town of Tuyserkan after shots were fired, state television reported, while a local lawmaker said two people had been shot dead in the southwestern town of Izeh.

Two others, included a teenage boy, were run down and killed by a fire engine stolen by protesters in the western town of Dorud, the state broadcaster said, bringing the total death toll in the protests to 12.

Rouhani tried to play down the unrest, saying: “This is nothing.”

“Criticism and protest are an opportunity not a threat,” he said in a statement on the presidency website, adding that the Iranian people would “respond to the rioters and lawbreakers”.

“Our nation will deal with this minority who chant slogans against the law and people’s wishes, and insult the sanctities and values of the revolution.”

Pro-regime rallies were held across several towns and cities, but videos on social media showed seemingly widespread anti-government protests in cities including Kermanshah, Khorramabad and Shahinshahr.

A school for clergy and government buildings were torched in the northwestern town of Takestan and videos showed police using tear gas and water cannon to disperse a small protest in Tehran’s Enghelab Square on Sunday evening.

The authorities did not give details on who was responsible for the fatal shootings.

‘Country must have discipline’

The authorities have confirmed more than 400 people were arrested since the outbreak of the unrest, of which around 100 have been freed.

Judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani joined Rouhani in warning against illegal action.

“Those who have rightful demands must be guided in lawful ways and those who riot and commit sabotage and chaos and set fire to public property… must be confronted decisively,” he told the state broadcaster.

“The country must have discipline,” Larijani added.

Verifying rumours and videos remained challenging due to travel restrictions and sporadic blocks on mobile internet and popular social media sites including Telegram and Instagram.

The protests began as demonstrations against economic conditions in second city Mashhad on Thursday but quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole, with thousands marching in towns across Iran to chants of “Death to the dictator”.

Trump, a fierce critic of Tehran, used one of his first tweets of 2018 to again lash out at a favourite target.

“Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama administration,” Trump tweeted, referring to the nuclear pact agreed under his predecessor Barack Obama.

“The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!”

Living costs, unemployment

After initial silence, state media began showing some footage of the demonstrations on Sunday, focusing on young men attacking banks and vehicles, an attack on a town hall in Tehran, and images of a man burning the Iranian flag.

Rouhani came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, but high living costs and a 12 percent unemployment rate have left many feeling that progress is too slow.

“We have no problem bigger than unemployment. Our economy needs an operation. We must all stand together,” Rouhani acknowledged on Monday.

The authorities have blamed external forces for fomenting violence, saying the majority of social media reports were emanating from regional rival Saudi Arabia or exile groups based in Europe.

Authorities ruthlessly put down the 2009 protests, which followed a disputed presidential election that gave hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term. At least 36 people were killed in the 2009 unrest, according to an official toll, while the opposition says 72 died.

In the years since, many middle-class Iranians have abandoned hope of securing change from the streets. But low-level strikes and demonstrations have continued, with groups such as bus drivers, teachers and factory workers regularly protesting against unpaid wages and poor conditions.

AFP

Iran Warns Protesters Will ‘Pay The Price’ As Unrest Turn Deadly

Iranians chant slogans as they march in support of the government near the Imam Khomeini grand mosque in the capital Tehran on December 30, 2017. Tens of thousands of regime supporters marched in cities across Iran in a show of strength for the regime after two days of angry protests directed against the country’s religious rulers. HAMED MALEKPOUR / TASNIM NEWS / AFP

Iran warned on Sunday that protesters will “pay the price” after a third night of unrest saw mass demonstrations across the country in which two people were killed and dozens arrested.

As videos on social media showed thousands marching across the country, an official in the small western town of Dorud confirmed two people had been killed during protests, but denied security forces had fired on the crowd.

“A number of people took to the streets responding to calls from hostile groups,” Lorestan province deputy governor Habibollah Khojastehpour told state television.

“Unfortunately in these clashes two citizens from Dorud were killed. No bullets were fired by the police, military or security forces towards the people,” he said.

Videos on social media overnight showed demonstrations in Isfahan, Mashhad and many smaller cities but travel restrictions and limited coverage by official media made it difficult to confirm reports.

Semi-official conservative outlets confirmed an evening attack on a town hall in Tehran and showed protesters attacking banks and municipal buildings in other parts of the country.

“Those who damage public property, disrupt order and break the law must be responsible for their behaviour and pay the price,” Interior Minister Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli said on state television early on Sunday.

“The spreading of violence, fear and terror will definitely be confronted,” he added.

US President Donald Trump weighed in, saying “oppressive regimes cannot endure forever”.

In one of the few official reports, an official in Arak, around 300 kilometres (190 miles) southwest of Tehran, said 80 people had been arrested overnight.

“Some intended to enter and damage some government places but the attackers did not manage to achieve their goals… and the town is under control,” the unidentified official told the ILNA news agency.

Iranian authorities said the majority of social media reports were emanating from regional rival Saudi Arabia and exile groups based in Europe.

Internet was temporarily cut on mobile phones on Saturday night but was restored not long after.

– Spreading protests –
President Hassan Rouhani, who came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, has so far not made any statement since the unrest started in second city Mashhad on Thursday.

The protests began in Mashhad against high living costs and the struggling economy before spreading quickly to other areas and turning against the Islamic regime as a whole.

Slogans such as “Death to the dictator” have been heard throughout the protests.

There have been reminders of the regime’s continued support among conservative sections of society, with pro-regime students outnumbering protesters at the University of Tehran on Saturday.

Pre-planned rallies to mark the defeat of a 2009 protest movement also saw thousands of regime supporters out on the streets across the country on Saturday morning.

But the anti-government protests appear to have been driven in large part by poorer sections of society, angry over high unemployment, soaring prices and financial scandals.

“These protests are driven by the lower levels of society who have been hit by major economic problems, particularly losing their money when credit institutions collapsed,” said Payam Parhiz, editor in chief of reformist media network Nazar, which first broke news of the Mashhad protests.

“These economic protests are not something that has started overnight, it’s been at least a year since these people lost their money in credit institutions and have been protesting at various places,” he told AFP.

Unemployment is particularly high among young people, who have grown up in a less restrictive environment and are generally considered less deferential to authority.

Since the 2009 protests against a disputed presidential election that gave hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term were ruthlessly put down, many middle-class Iranians have abandoned hope of securing change from the streets.

But low-level strikes and demonstrations have continued, with bus drivers, teachers and factory workers protesting against unpaid wages and poor conditions.

AFP

Iran ‘Will Not Tolerate’ Trump Jerusalem ‘Violation’, Says Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. str / afp

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blasted his US counterpart Donald Trump’s plan to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital on Wednesday, saying it would not be tolerated.

Iran “will not tolerate a violation of Islamic sanctities,” he said. “Muslims must stand united against this major plot.”

Rouhani was speaking at a gathering of officials and dignitaries from Islamic countries, who happened to be meeting in Tehran for events aimed at promoting Muslim unity, marking the anniversary of the birth of prophet Mohammed.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke earlier at the conference, saying US recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel was a desperate move resulting from their “paralysis and incompetence”.

“The Islamic world will undoubtedly stand against this plot and the Zionists will receive a big blow from this action and dear Palestine will be liberated,” Khamenei said.

AFP