The government decided on Friday to cut gas subsidies to fund support for the poor. Gasoline in Iran still remains among the cheapest in the world, despite prices jumping 50%.
As per the new plan, each car with a fuel card will receive a monthly ration of 60 liters for the price of 15,000 rials per liter. Every extra liter will be charged 30,000 rials.
Ayatollah Khamenei said on Sunday while he is not an expert in the field, he still supports the decision which has been made by the three branches of power — namely, executive, legislative and judicial.
“The heads of power branches have sat down and made a decision supported by experts. The decision must be implemented,” the Leader said.
On Saturday, President Hassan Rouhani, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and Judiciary Chief Ebrahim Raisi convened a session of the Supreme Council of Economic Coordination and agreed that all state bodies will fully cooperate in implementing the decision.
Political factions mostly agree on the move’s necessity but some critics have questioned the timing when many ordinary Iranians are under pressure as a result of draconian US sanctions.
Largely peaceful, demonstrations have been held in several cities, but they have turned violent in several instances. On Saturday, Iran’s Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri warned that there is a foreign-orchestrated effort to take advantage of the situation and foment unrest.
“Yesterday, last night and the night before, there were unfortunately problems in some cities. Some people lost their lives and some centers were destroyed,” Ayatollah Khamenei said.
“There are a few things to keep in mind; first, when something is approved by the heads of state, one must look at it optimistically. In this case, I am not an expert, but I told the gentlemen given that the views of experts about the gasoline issue is mixed – some viewing it necessary and imperative and some others harmful – so I have no judgment myself. But if this is the decision of the heads of the three branches of power, I support it. I said this and I stand by my support,” the Leader said.
“The second point is that some people are definitely worried or upset about this decision; they think it will hurt them or they are unhappy for whatever reason. However, it has to be noted that torching a bank is not what people do, this is what bandits do,” he added.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli has said security forces have so far shown restraint after protesters blocked traffic in a few cities and clashed with police. In one southern town, protesters tried to set fire to an oil depot but were stopped by police.
Ayatollah Khamenei warned that violence orchestrated by certain parties could infiltrate peaceful protests and foment sedition.
“In such incidents, hooligans, spiteful and evil people often enter the field and sometimes some youths, driven by emotion, accompany them and commit seditious acts. Such deeds do not fix anything other than adding insecurity to the problems.”
The Leader described insecurity as “the biggest disaster” for any country and society, saying that is what the enemies want for Iran.
“You see in the past two days, all the centers of evil in the world have been exhorting such acts against us. From the demonically vicious family of the Pahlavi dynasty to the vicious and criminal gang of Monafeqin (hypocrites), they are constantly encouraging hooliganism in cyberspace and elsewhere.”
Monafeqin is the sobriquet used to describe the Mujahein Khalq Organization (MKO), which is vehemently detested by Iranians because of its history of terrorism and betrayal.
In recent days, Saudi-funded media outlets and US and European TV networks have stepped up broadcasting messages by the group as well as the US-based son of the deposed shah of Iran, calling for riots and unrest in the country.
“No one should help these thugs,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. “No wise and decent man who is interested in his own country and his own comfortable life should help them. They are hoodlums and these acts are not what ordinary people will do.”
“Our dear people, who have fortunately shown their insight in various cases before, should know who are behind these bitter events and how they are. They should know who are orchestrating [such acts as] torching, destruction, feud and insecurity. They should beware of them and distance themselves from them,” the Leader added.
He further urged state officials to do everything possible to ease the impact of the new decision on people, saying it should not lead to further hike in commodity prices. He also called on security officials to diligently deliver on their duty of protecting the country.