Iran’s state TV on Saturday showed several hundred government supporters rallying a day after the foreign minister said a US move to call an emergency UN Security Council meeting to discuss anti-government protests was another Trump administration “blunder.”
The state broadcaster showed the pro-government rally in the city of Amol, in the northern province of Mazandaram, with hundreds of people waving the Iranian flag and chanting slogans against the US and Israel. State TV described the rally as a “response to rioters and supporters of the riots.”
Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Mohammad Ali Jafari previously claimed the protest was quelled, and that seemed to be the case in the streets Friday. With the usual chants of "Death to America, death to Israel", so often heard in the Islamic country, demonstrators waved photos of Khamenei and hoisted Iranian flags.
"We support Khamenei. We will never abandon him in his fight against the Islamic republic's enemies," said one pro-regime protester.
Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami told students at Tehran University that the regime was determined to deal with anyone wishing to destabilize Iran, which has been hard hit by rampant unemployment.
"But those ordinary Iranians who were deceived by these American-backed rioters should be dealt with based on Islamic clemency," senior cleric Khatami told worshippers at Tehran university, TV reported.
Khatami also called on the government to "pay more attention to people's economic problems."
Along those lines, Rouhani's government has decided to temporarily shelve a program to cut social benefits and raise gas prices. "Some employees have not been paid in months. This problem has to be solved first," Khatami said.
Anti-government protests broke out in Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city, on Dec. 28 and have since spread to several other cities and towns. The protests were sparked by a hike in food prices amid soaring unemployment. Some demonstrators have called for the government’s overthrow.
At least 21 people have been killed and hundreds have been arrested. Large pro-government rallies have been held in response, and officials have blamed the anti-government unrest on foreign meddling.
US President Donald Trump has voiced encouragement for the anti-government protesters. The US called the UN meeting on Friday, portraying the protests as a human rights issue that could spill over into an international problem.
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the emergency session put Iran on notice that “the world will be watching” its actions.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter after the session that the Security Council “rebuffed the US′ naked attempt to hijack its mandate.”
He said the majority emphasized the need to fully implement the 2015 nuclear deal and to refrain from interfering in the affairs of other countries. “Another FP (foreign policy) blunder for the Trump administration,” he wrote.
Russia portrayed the Security Council meeting as a US attempt to violate Iran’s sovereignty. Envoys from several other countries, from China to newcomer Equatorial Guinea, expressed reservations about whether the council was the right forum for the issue.
Support for the anti-regime protests came from an unexpected direction Friday, when the Islamic State declared support for the anti-government protests.
In its latest weekly publication, Al Nabaa, the extremists describe the protests as a "revolution against the regime" and an uprising against Wilayat al-Faqih, or Iran's system of governance by clerics.
Friday's statement also says the messages sent through the protesters to their rulers are "highly important" and that they should continue.
Following the hard-line terror organization's support of the protests, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif did not miss an opportunity to point a finger at the US—who he said supported the Islamic State—in blame.