Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during President Hassan Rouhani’s inauguration in August 2017. (IRNA)

December 29, 2018

Less than three days after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani emphasized a role of popular protests across Iran in the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei responded through its weekly newsletter on the occasion of the protests’ first anniversary.

The two sides agreed that the popular protests – in which demonstrators chanted slogans condemning the Iranian regime and burned Khomeini’s and Khamenei’s posters – led US President Donald Trump to meet his pledge of withdrawing from the nuclear agreement and take unprecedented measures against the Iranian regime.

The US measures strengthened the conviction of various Iranian parties that Washington was intending to overthrow the Iranian political system.

But the differences between the two leaders was on the timing of the protests.

Rouhani said on Monday that the US withdrawal was the most important economic “problem” facing his government, and again blamed the popular protests that spread in more than 80 Iranian cities. Less than three days later, the weekly “Khat Hezbollah” newsletter, which appears on Khamenei’s official website, published a front-page photograph of a burning bus near protesters,  with a title in bold stressing that the 2009 uprising was behind the US withdrawal.

Rouhani has since last year been facing harsh criticism over the failure of his economic promises and the collapse of the value of the Iranian currency against the dollar. The riyal crisis grew months after rising inflation, which led to popular protests at the end of December.

This is the second time in six months that Rouhani links the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal to the protests that took place in more than 80 Iranian cities, resulting in 21 deaths, according to the authorities. Uncertainty lurks over the real number of those killed and detained during the massive demonstrations.

For three weeks, protesters burnt 65 offices belonging to Khamenei’s representatives in Iranian cities, as well as dozens of government buildings and courts. The demonstrators chanted slogans, criticizing top officials for their foreign policy and regional interventions and calling for the overthrowing of the regime. Senior Iranian officials, including Rouhani, sounded the alarm over the collapse of the public’s confidence in the regime.

Asharq Al-Awsat

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Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.