The director of the CIA bluntly denied Iranian officials’ accusations that the United States was behind deadly protests that spread across the Islamic Republic.
“False. It was the Iranian people, started by them, created by them, continued by them, demanding a better set of living conditions and a break from the theocratic regime that has been with them since 1979,” Mike Pompei, the CIA head, told Fox News in an interview on Sunday.
He was responding to an accusation by Iran’s Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri alleging that the United States, Israel, and Saudi Arabia were behind a four-year plan created by a former CIA officer to create unrest in Iran, according to IRNA. Anti-government protests began on December 28, 2017, in the far east of Iran, then spread across the country reaching the far northwestern provinces of Iranian Kurdistan. At least 21 people have died with more than 1,000 detained.
“The issue with the protests in Iran is very real. Economic conditions in Iran are not good, that’s what caused the people to take to the streets. President Trump made very clear that American supports the Iranian people,” said Pompeo.
The anti-government demonstrators protested against high unemployment, the rising costs of goods, the announcement of a doubling in fuel prices, freedom of speech suppression, and Iran’s regional military intervention, namely Syria.
“Meanwhile the Iranian regime threatens violence. Qassem Soleimani [the Quds Force commander] wastes their money in places like Lebanon and Syria and Yemen, trying to foment goodness knows what… That is a backward-looking regime, a theocratic regime that is looking backwards. Instead of a regime that is looking to make the lives of their people better,” said Pompeo.
Pro-government protests ensued. And on Sunday, Iran declared the protesting was “over.”
The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a paramilitary force loyal to the Supreme Leader, said the anti-government protests were over. It blamed the unrest on the United States, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Iranian opposition parties such as Mujahadeen-e-Khalq (MEK). The CIA head expects the Iranian people to continue to revolt against President Hassan Rouhani, the IRGC, and the Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“Protests will continue at a low level and they are not behind us,” said Pompeo.
Iran has also accused the Kurdistan Region of inciting the anti-government protests in collaboration with the CIA and the “Barzanis” in Erbil. KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of the KDP emphasized the importance of the stability of Iran for the Kurdistan Region, denying the Iranian claims at a press conference in Sulaimani on Monday.
“It is more like a comedy than reality, even the way it was said. We, in the Kurdistan Region, do not have a hand in these problems with Iran. Iran is an important neighbor,” he said.
Mahmoud Sadeqhi, an Iranian MP who attended a closed session of the legislature on Sunday with the ministers of intelligence and interior in attendance, wrote on Twitter that no foreign agent was involved in the protests.
“Based on the accounts of the intelligence officials, there has not been any foreign actor involved in the recent unrests,” Sadeqhi, an MP representing Tehran, said on Sunday.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has rejected an accusation made by a senior Iranian official who blamed the recent deadly protests in the country on a U.S.-sponsored intelligence operation staged from the Kurdish capital of Erbil in cooperation with “Barzanis” and various Iranian opposition parties.
“We reject this baseless accusation. The KRG wants to have friendly relations with each and every country based on mutual interests and such remarks [made by the Iranian official] do not serve neighbourly ties and the relationship between the Kurdistan Region and the Islamic Republic,” Safeen Dizayee, the KRG spokesperson said in a statement on Saturday evening, claiming that the Kurdish Region has been a “factor of stability,” and that it has never allowed any act from the Kurdistan Region to undermine stability in the neighbouring countries.
Mohsen Rezaee, who heads an advisory board that reports to the Supreme Leader of Iran, claimed on Saturday that they have intelligence showing the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been working to stage the anti-government protests for some time now.
He said that several months ago the “head of the special operations desk of CIA in Erbil” formed a team with close associates of the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, “a representative from Saudi Arabia, Barzanis, and Munafiqeen [Mujahideen-e-Khalq]” to stage the protests that took place in Iran since late December, Iranian Tasnim news agency reported.