As unrest continues, Iran’s U.N. envoy blasts U.S. over ‘grotesque’ meddling

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At the United Nations on Wednesday, Iran angrily accused the United States of meddling in its domestic affairs after President Donald Trump backed anti-government protests,thejapantimes has published.

Gholamali Khoshroo, Iran’s U.N. ambassador, said in a letter that the U.S. government “has stepped up its acts of intervention in a grotesque way in Iran’s internal affairs under the pretext of providing support for sporadic protests, which in several instances were hijacked by infiltrators.”

Khoshroo charged that the United States had violated international law and the principles of the U.N. Charter, and urged countries to condemn Washington’s statements.

“The president and vice president of the United States, in their numerous absurd tweets, incited Iranians to engage in disruptive acts,” Khoshroo said in the letter to the Security Council and to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“The U.S. Department of State went so far as admitting that the U.S. government wants to encourage protesters in Iran to change their government, admitting that the U.S. is engaged in interfering with the internal affairs of Iran through Facebook and Twitter,” he added.

The letter was released after Trump pledged to help Iranians “take back” their government.

“Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!” Trump tweeted.

A White House official, who asked for anonymity, said Wednesday the administration will look for “actionable information” to try to begin imposing sanctions on those responsible for any crackdown.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Tuesday she will be seeking an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting to discuss the violence, which has left 21 dead so far.

But diplomats said Wednesday that no such meeting has been scheduled for the time being.

Russia and China are among the countries that are expected to oppose Security Council action on Iran, diplomats said.

Guterres earlier deplored the loss of life during the anti-government protests and said “further violence must be avoided.”

U.N. rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein separately urged Iranian authorities “to handle the wave of protests that have taken place around the country with great care so as not to further inflame violence and unrest.”

Protests over economic problems broke out in Iran’s second-largest city, Mashhad, on Dec. 28 and quickly spread across the country, turning against the regime as a whole.

Tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets in several cities on Wednesday for pro-regime rallies, but Iran’s Revolutionary Guard chief announced the “end of the sedition.”

Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said the guard had only intervened “in a limited way” against fewer than 15,000 “troublemakers” nationwide, adding that a large number were arrested.

“Today we can announce the end of the sedition,” Jafari said, quoted on the Guard’s website. “A large number of the troublemakers at the center of the sedition, who received training from counterrevolutionaries . . . have been arrested, and there will be firm action against them.”

Jafari added those behind the protests had “intervened massively on social media” but that “once restrictions were started, the troubles reduced.”

The strength of the protests was unclear on Thursday, with fewer reports of demonstrations as government supporters again took to the streets. It wasn’t immediately clear if the drop in reports of new demonstrations meant the protests were subsiding or that the authorities’ blocking of social media apps had stopped protesters from offering new images of rallies.

Thousands rallied on Thursday in support of the government in various towns and cities, including Mashhad.

A heavy police presence was still on the streets of central Tehran, along with a large number of Revolutionary Guard members.

Even reformists in Iran, who backed the 2009 protests, have condemned the violence and the support the demonstrations have received from the United States.

But they also urged the authorities to address economic grievances.

“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.

Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon’s powerful Tehran-backed Hezbollah movement, said “there is nothing to worry about and what happened in Iran is well contained.”

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

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 U.S. that they are desperate for freedom were overblown.

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

Mojtaba Mousavi, a Tehran-based political analyst, said Iranians do not generally support violence, no matter how unhappy they are with their government.

“There are certainly Iranians who aren’t happy with certain policies, frustrated people who would like to protest against their economic situation, but history shows none of these people support violence and subversion,” he said.

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.