As Iran struggles to control spiraling unrest, Iran’s geopolitical foes have backed marginal opposition groups and voiced hopes for “regime change.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement addressing the ongoing mass protests in Iran and highlighting the apparent ambitions of some regional and international powers to turn the country’s internal affairs into a vehicle for advancing their interests.
“This is Iran’s internal affair,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said, according to TASS news agency. “We express the hope that the situation won’t develop under the scenario of bloodshed and violence.”
“External interference destabilizing the situation is inadmissible.”
The protests began on Dec. 28, 2017, in response to the country’s complicated social conditions and had been focused primarily on economic and policy demands.
Since then, however, authorities have sought to get a handle on the increasingly disparate and often radicalized nature of the opposition, which has in some cases shown hostility to the Islamic Republic established by late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979.
Ten people were reportedly killed in protests on Sunday, a death toll that rose on Monday when the deputy governor of the western Hamadan Province, Saeed Shahrokhi, told ISNA another three persons were killed in the city of Tuyserkan. The circumstances and cause of these deaths, however, remain unclear.
On Monday, a protester shot and killed a policeman during demonstrations, according to police, the first reported fatality during the five days of unrest.
Slogans calling for the ousting or assassination of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have been echoed and amplified by several corporate and state-owned foreign media outlet as officials and heads of state of Iran’s geopolitical foes the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have displayed unabashed glee at Iran’s domestic unrest.
In groups where high concentrations of minority nationalities such as Ahwazi Arabs or Balochis are located, separatist and terrorist tendencies have also been displayed in the form of violent clashes with security forces, calls for secession from Iran, and even a pipeline bombing, which was claimed by jihadist group Ansar al-Furqan Ahwaz Martyrs Brigade.
Marginal groups of anti-government extremists that are unpopular within the country such as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran have also been prominently featured in foreign state-controlled media such as the Saudi-owned network Al Arabiya. The PMOI, also known as Mojahedin-e Khalq, once enjoyed the protection of Saddam Hussein and played a role in assassination attempts against Iranian officials and attacks on Iran.
The group has long gained significant lobbying muscle in Washington and is widely considered to enjoy the backing of Riyadh, with Saudi officials publically backing the group’s efforts.
Iranian Information and Communications Technology Minister Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi said Monday that Iran would temporarily restrict access to social networks in Iran.