On Saturday, demonstrations broke out across Iran when oil prices jumped 50 percent overnight following the government’s decision to slash fuel subsidies.
While the Iranian demonstrations began peacefully, riots broke out and violence escalated.
By Sunday, evening street protests had spread out to about 100 cities and towns across the country.
Within those cities and towns were scenes of abandoned cars, ransacked banks and stores, torched gas stations, and streets filled with debris and the sound of gunfire.
According to Reuters, over 1,000 people have been arrested, and Amnesty International reports over 100 have been killed.
Iran’s religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called the protesters “thugs” who were being influenced by foreign enemies.
He singled out as instigators members of the family of the former Shah of Iran and the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK).
The Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlav, the monarch with close ties to U.S. oil and military interests, was overthrown during the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
The MEK, an exiled group calling for the overthrow Iran’s government, has been represented by Rudy Guiliani, former mayor of New York City and personal attorney for President Trump, for over ten years.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the powerful branch of the military that deals with political unrest, was brought in restore order. A spokesperson for the Guard stated, “If necessary, we will take decisive and revolutionary action against any continued moves to disturb the people’s peace and security.”
Iranian officials also claimed that protestors arrested during the recent riots have confessed receiving $60 for each place set on fire.
On Sunday, the government shut down the Internet.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the hike in gasoline prices would raise over two and half billion dollars a year and would be distributed to families suffering economic hardship from the crushing sanctions imposed by the U.S.
The Trump administration imposed the sanctions after unilaterally withdrawing from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal agreed upon by world powers, known as the P5+1 (the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany).
An official U.S. response to the Iranian street protest came from White House Secretary Stephanie Grisham:
“Tehran has fanatically pursued nuclear weapons and missile programs, and supported terrorism, turning a proud nation into another cautionary tale of what happens when a ruling class abandons its people and embarks on a crusade for personal power and riches.”
In response, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif rebutted, “A regime that impedes food and medicine to ordinary people, including the elderly and the sick, by economic terrorism can never get away with the obscene claim of supporting the Iranian people.”
Among the results of U.S.-enforced sanctions, inflation has spiked some 40 percent and the World Bank said, “The expected deterioration in economic growth would mean that by the end of 2019/20 the economy would be 90 percent of its previous size compared to just two years earlier.”
The sanctions have also led to a crisis in medical care by restricting the ability of Iranian hospitals to purchase essential medicines and medical equipment.
TRENDPOST: Doubling down on its mentality of launching economic warfare against nations whose leaders they want to over throw, U.S. sanctions succeed in increasing the hardship of the citizens and not – as with North Korea, Venezuela, Syria and Iran – in overthrowing its leaders.
Further, the official U.S. statement that “Tehran has fanatically pursued nuclear weapons” is false. According to The International Atomic Energy Agency, prior to Washington’s withdrawal, Iran was in full compliance with the terms of the JPCOA.