Massive protests have erupted in Iran with in recent days as the country’s economic crisis worsens, with many Iranians blaming the government’s costly foreign interventions as the root of their economic ills.
The unrest began on Sunday, when angry shopkeepers in Tehran’s markets closed up shop and went on strike, demanding that the government intervene to curb rising inflation. On Monday, shopkeepers in the Grand Bazaar of Tehran joined the protests, with massive crowds quickly forming on the street chanting slogans against the government and even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Other protests also were seen around the country, with shouts of “death to Palestine,” “No to Gaza, no to Lebanon” and “Leave Syria and think of us,” being heard.
Over the last several years, Iran has spent billions on foreign interventions around the Middle East, including the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, while also propping up terror groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad that target Israel. However, this spending has come at the expense of the domestic needs of the Iranian people, who have struggled for years under tough international sanctions against the regime.
At the same time, Iran’s rial has plunged, losing almost half its value in less than a year and causing inflation to skyrocket. The economic situation has also been exacerbated by U.S. President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal and new sanctions targeting the regime. The pullout has caused international companies, such French oil giant Total, to end its business deals in Iran over fear of being targeted by U.S. sanctions.
In a national speech on Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attempted to downplay the protests and calm tensions.
“Even in the worst case, I promise that the basic needs of Iranians will be provided. We have enough sugar, wheat and cooking oil. We have enough foreign currency to inject into the market,” said Rouhani, Reuters reported.
The Iranian president also blamed the U.S. for waging a “psychological, economic and political war” on Iran.
“Withdrawal was the worst decision [the U.S. president] could make. It was appalling. It hurt America’s global reputation,” he added. “The U.S. cannot defeat our nation; our enemies are not able to get us to their knees.”
Widespread protests also erupted at the end of last year across Iran over the ongoing economic situation. Those demonstrations, which largely took place outside of Tehran in some 75 smaller cities and towns, were seen as the largest protests since 2009.