Iran Lashes Out at Its Enemies, at Home and Abroad, Amid Protests

A pro-government rally in the northeastern city of Mashhad, Iran, on Thursday.

TEHRAN — Members of Iran’s ruling establishment took turns on Thursday assigning blame for what they regard as an embarrassing outbreak of protests in more than 80 cities across the country.

Iran’s chief prosecutor elaborated on the government’s claims that the United States and other foreign enemies were responsible for stirring up trouble. The United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia planned the “riots” to “subvert the Iranian government,” the prosecutor, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, said on state television.

“The U.S., the Zionist regime and the Al Sauds were the three sides of this subversive plan, and Saudi Arabia committed to provide money for it,” Mr. Montazeri said.

Mr. Montazeri asserted that Michael D’Andrea, a C.I.A. officer who runs Iran operations, was a “main designer” of the protests and that the C.I.A. hoped to turn the protest into an “armed” revolt by mid-February, the anniversary of the country’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

The Trump administration has denied having any involvement in the protests, and the C.I.A. declined to comment. But a former intelligence official who was granted anonymity to discuss Mr. D’Andrea’s thinking said the operative did not believe the United States could do anything to bring about regime change in Iran.

Iran did not provide evidence for its accusation, which evoked memories of the C.I.A.’s role in a 1953 coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations also sent a letter to the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday complaining about “acts of intervention” by the administration, citing President Trump’s Twitter posts in support of the protests.

The Islamic State also played a role, Mr. Montazeri said, without explaining precisely how. He also called on clerics in the holy city of Qum to support the judiciary in a permanent ban on the messaging app Telegram, now closed in Iran.

Government officials also blamed internal enemies for instigating the protests, with the leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps seeming to imply that a former hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was involved.

Whatever Mr. Ahmadinejad’s role, Iran’s reformist faction has accused hard-liners in the city of Mashhad of organizing the first protests to create political problems for Iran’s moderate president, Hassan Rouhani. And hard-liners have, in turn, accused Mr. Rouhani of leaking secret parts of his proposed budget, including details of the country’s religious institutes, in a calculated move to turn ordinary people against religious institutions.

“They all blame each other,” said Nader Karimi Joni, a reformist journalist. “What else can they do?”

The death toll from the clashes rose to at least 21, and in the central province of Esfahan, a police officer was reported killed.

The State Department said on Thursday: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the deaths to date and the arrests of at least one thousand Iranians,” it said, adding, “To the regime’s victims, we say: You will not be forgotten.”

Unrelated to the protests, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on five Iranian entities over their involvement in developing ballistic missiles, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said additional sanctions “targeting human rights abuses are coming.”

The protests, meanwhile, seemed to be winding down, though there is no sure way to tell. Fewer videos of what seemed to be demonstrations appeared on social media on Thursday. But many sites have been blocked, possibly obscuring the true extent of the protests.

Iran’s government routinely filters websites and apps it deems inappropriate or dangerous, and Twitter and Facebook have been blocked since the 2009 antigovernment protests. The prosecutor said that about a million pages on social media had been banned by the authorities, but complained that the pages “mushroom under new names and colors despite more than 15,000 of them being blocked every week.”

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