It took Washington all of two days to jump behind the large popular protests over gas price hikes which gripped cities across Iran since Friday. Over the weekend the US State Department predictably came out in favor of more protests, in a volatile situation in the sanctions-ravaged country which has already witnessed multiple demonstrators killed and over a thousands arrested, and banks and gas stations torched in anger over soaring gas prices.
Given Uncle Sam is all too eager to hijack any Iranian domestic protests for the purpose of 'regime change' in what's currently a middle and lower class driven movement over the deteriorating economic situation and drastic change in policy which saw petrol subsidies suddenly slashed, this could be the very recipe which brings the unrest to a halt. Ayatollah Khamenei already labeled those behind vandalism and sabotage as "thugs" and described them as "counter-revolutionary" forces, in reference to Iran's 'Islamic revolutionary' government.
The Islamic Republic's clerics and political leaders will now no doubt paint the crowds in the streets as being the servants of US and Israeli imperial aggression and interference. But then again, considering that the Trump administration established a special CIA unit reportedly named the 'Iran Mission Center' — with an express purpose to facilitate US-driven political change in the country — the mullahs might not be too far off the mark in their paranoia and suspicions at any "spontaneous" uprising.
“The proud Iranian people are not staying silent about the government’s abuses,” Pompeo said in a statement published Sunday, saying that “the United States is with you,” and will stand against Iran’s “tyranny.” The statement said further, "We condemn the lethal force and severe communications restrictions used against demonstrators” and described the unrest as a “Cautionary tale of what happens when a ruling class abandons its people and embarks on a crusade for personal power and riches.”
As I said to the people of Iran almost a year and a half ago: The United States is with you. https://t.co/D972wPyLxm— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 16, 2019
Protests and clashes with police began Friday when petrol prices suddenly rose by at least 50% after government subsidies on it were slashed. Government statements said the plan is to divert the funds in order to make cash payments to low-income households.
The AP reported that while at the start of this week drivers were allotted up to 250 liters a month at the pump at at a controlled 10,000 rials per liter, as of Friday that changed drastically to an allowance of 60 liters (or 13 gallons) of petrol a month at 15,000 rials ($0.13; £0.10) a liter. Additional liters after that cost 30,000 rials.
Khamenei in a speech on Sunday defended the move: "If the heads of the three branches of the government make a decision [about it], I will support," he said. "The decision must be implemented."
Banks filmed up in flames over the weekend in a serious escalation:
Khamenei blamed opponents and foreign enemies for "sabotage" after multiple banks and gas stations were torched over the weekend. He described that,"The counter-revolution and Iran's enemies have always supported sabotage and breaches of security and continue to do so."
"Setting a bank on fire is not an act done by the people. This is what thugs do," Khamenei said.
The top cleric further signaled a severe crackdown is coming as protests were reported to have hit 100 cities across the country of 80 million people.
Meanwhile, new video emerging from Monday protests and clashes with police appears to show some incidents of security forces using 'live fire' to disperse the crowds.
In some places gas prices have jumped to as much as 300% compared to what they were before last Friday.
While protests began on Friday, they appeared to get more confrontational by Saturday, as police were filmed using riot control measures against crowds, and with some reports of deadly force being used by police, as has been the case over the past month in neighboring Iraq.