The head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) threatened the United States and its allies as he addressed a massive pro-government rally denouncing last week’s protests over fuel-price hikes.
Waving the Iranian flag and portraits of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, tens of thousands of demonstrators poured into central Tehran on November 25 to condemn days of "rioting" that Iran’s clerical establishment blamed on its foreign foes.
The Iranian government announced gasoline rationing and price hikes on November 15, sparking protests in more than 100 cities across the country.
The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said that dozens of demonstrators have been killed and many more injured in a broad crackdown on the protests, while Amnesty International on November 25 revised its estimated death toll from the unrest to 143, adding that the deaths "resulted almost entirely from the use of firearms."
Iranian authorities have rejected Amnesty's numbers and imposed a near-total Internet blackout for several days, making it difficult to ascertain the situation.
NetBlocks, an Internet freedom advocacy group, on November 24 said that “basic connectivity is returning, but many users now face a filternet that restricts access to the outside world.”
There were reports saying that dozens of gas stations, banks, shops, and public property had been damaged or destroyed by protesters.
Addressing the pro-government rally on Tehran's Enghelab (Revolution) Square, IRGC head General Hossein Salami accused the United States, Britain, Israel, and Saudi Arabia of stoking the unrest and claimed the rise in fuel prices was a “mere pretext” for an attack on the nation.
“If you cross our red line, we will destroy you. We will not leave any move unanswered,” Salami said.
Ahead of the rally, Iran's Foreign Ministry condemned the "interference of foreign countries" in the violence.
"We recommend they watch the rallies taking place these days in our country so they realize who the real people are in our country," spokesman Abbas Musavi said.
Iran’s economy has been battered by U.S. sanctions reimposed after President Donald Trump last year abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers to trade curbs on Iran's disputed nuclear program for sanctions relief.