The commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), Major General Hossein Salami has referred to the recent countrywide protest rallies, saying that Iranians have always "neutralized the enemy's delusions".
"The enemy howls like a hungry wolf and posts its delusions on social media, thinking the nation will respond to its lies and rumours. The enemy does not know the Iranian nation and that it has always neutralized the enemy's illusions and falsehoods," Salami said while addressing a large gathering of members of the IRGC and its paramilitary Basij force at the Imam Khomeini Mausoleum in south Tehran on May 20.
He added that “the White House has never stopped plotting against the Iranian people in the last 43 years. However, the Iranian nation has always thwarted these conspiracies” the state-run IRNA reported.
Salami means the US and Israel when he says "the enemy". His comments appear to be a reaction to recent protests in Iran over a sharp rise in the prices of food staples following the government's subsidy reforms.
According to the Dubai-based Al Arabia, Iranian activists have reported at least six deaths since the protests began last week, blaming security forces for the deaths.
Protests have broken out in Iran's several provinces, including Khuzestan, Lorestan, Charmahal and Bakhtiari, Kohkiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, and Ardabil, since a government announcement on May 3 that the cost of staple foods such as cooking oil, chicken, eggs and milk would rise as high as 300 percent.
Demonstrators have reportedly criticized Iran’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, as well as President Ebrahim Raisi, during protests in Iran’s central province of Isfahan on May 18, according to videos shared on Twitter.
The police commander in Iran’s south-western province of Khuzestan, Mohammad Salehi, said on May 20 that his forces captured 70 weapons during a four-day operation to collect unauthorised guns.
He added that 58 owners of the illegal arms and those who had been accused of engaging in shootings were arrested.
The IRGC announced on May 22 that the Guards and the country's Intelligence Ministry have arrested members of a network accused of collaborating with Israel's intelligence network, in a joint operation.
It added that they were involved in "robbery and destruction of private and public property, kidnapping and fabricated coercion of confessions".
On the same day, Iran’s Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri accused two French nationals arrested in Iran of training "mercenaries" to provoke street riots in the country.
He said that the detained French nationals were training "their affiliated elements in the country how to exploit the current situation and take people to the streets to fight and oppose the Iranian system".
Earlier, the Intelligence Ministry said on 11 May that it had detained two Europeans for allegedly planning to cause "chaos, social disorder, and instability" by "taking advantage" of protests organised by workers and teachers.
On May 16, Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh criticised the US government for its stance during the protest rallies, saying that America's "overexcitement" indicated that they were worried about the Iranian government's measures to protect the country's economy.
"Instead of such interferences, which have always embarrassed them, Americans should respect the national sovereignty of countries and try to learn for once that they should respect nations and countries," the spokesman added.
Khatibzadeh's response came after US State Department Spokesman Ned Price expressed support for the Iranians' protest on his Twitter account.
“Brave Iranian protestors are standing up for their rights. The Iranian people have a right to hold their government accountable. We support their rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression online and offline - without fear of violence and reprisal,” Price wrote.