Iran's supreme leader breaks silence on protests, blames US

Iran's supreme leader breaks silence on protests, blames US

Iran's supreme leader breaks silence on protests, blames US

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has responded publicly to the biggest protests in Iran in years, breaking weeks of silence to condemn the “rioting” and accuse protests of being planned by the U.S. and Israel

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded publicly on Monday to the biggest protests in Iran in years, breaking weeks of silence to condemn the “rioting” and accuse protests of being planned by the U.S. and Israel.

Khamenei described the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran's morality police, which set off the nationwide protests, as “a sad incident” that “left us heartbroken.” However, he sharply condemned the protests as a foreign plot to destabilize Iran, echoing authorities' previous comments.

“This rioting was planned,” he told a cadre of police students in Tehran. “I say clearly that these riots and insecurities were designed by America and the Zionist regime, and their employees.”

He added of the protests: “Such actions are not normal, are unnatural.”

His comments come as nationwide protests sparked by Amini's death entered a third week despite the government’s efforts to crack down. Authorities have repeatedly blamed foreign countries and exiled opposition groups for fanning the unrest, without providing evidence.

The protests over Amini’s death have tapped into a deep well of grievances in Iran, including the country's surging prices, high unemployment, social restrictions and political repression. Demonstrations have continued in Tehran and far-flung provinces even as authorities have restricted internet access to the outside world and blocked social media apps.

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