Khamenei blames Iran's 'enemies' for unrest as US ups pressure

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Trump and other administration officials, including US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, have voiced support for peaceful protestors demonstrating against the Iranian government, reported the Hill. Following are factors that have brought Iranians to the streets and the challenges the authorities face.

According to the Western media, these protests differ from those in 2009 that were staged by the middle class, as the current demonstrations are led by "the oppressed class - the unemployed, and people from the economic and social fringes".

"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 nearly seven years for helping lead the 2009 demonstrations. And yet tens of thousands of people have protested across the country since Thursday.

On Tuesday, in his first public remarks since the rallies erupted, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed external "enemies" for the turmoil.

Demonstrators are angry over corruption and economic hardship in a country where youth unemployment reached 28.8 per cent previous year.

The protests began late last week over economic concerns, according to reports, but have moved toward anti-government demonstrations.

She noted that in its most recent budget, the Iranian government cut subsidies for 20 million people, including bread subsidies.

Calling the protesters "brave" and "heroic", Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video posted to YouTube on Monday that the protesters sought freedom, justice and "the basic liberties that have been denied to them for decades".

Marashi said he believes the protests will make it more likely that Trump will decide against waiving sanctions suspended under the Iran nuclear agreement, in effect walking away from it.

Hundreds of people have been arrested but security forces have largely shown restraint.

Ray Takeyh, an Iran expert and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Iran's leaders will blame internal troubles on the U.S. and other outside powers, no matter what Washington does.

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State television says on January 2 that nine people, including the policeman, were killed in unrest overnight Monday into Tuesday.

The comment was very much in keeping with Khamenei, who has packed the government with conservative clerics and has long had close relations with the security forces.

Trump repeatedly tweeted his backing for the protesters during Iran's unrest, at one point saying: "Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government".

Reuters reported that protesters are demanding higher wages and an end to graft.

How are the protests different from 2009 unrest?

"This gentleman in America who is now trying to sympathize with our nation appears to have forgotten that he called the Iranian nation terrorists several months ago", Rouhani said.

On Tuesday, the supreme leader accused enemies of the Islamic Republic of stirring the unrest.

The 2015 agreement, in which Iran curbed its nuclear activities in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions, remains popular in Iran, but one of the central grievances of the protesters is that average Iranians have seen few benefits from it.

However, growth has been too slow for the overwhelmingly youthful population.

"The contrast between the silence and the failure to support freedom in the last administration and President Trump's unapologetic willingness to stand with the courageous people of Iran - I know it is giving hope to the people on the streets and those cities across the country".