TEHRAN (Dispatches) – Chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) announced the "end of the sedition" Wednesday as millions of people rallied across Iran in a massive show of unity and strength after days of deadly riots which were vociferously supported by the country’s sworn enemies.
General Muhammad Ali Jafari said the IRGC only intervened "in a limited way" against fewer than 15,000 "trouble-makers" nationwide, adding that a large number had been arrested.
"Today we can announce the end of the sedition," he said. "A large number of the trouble-makers at the centre of the sedition, who received training from counter-revolutionaries... have been arrested and there will be firm action against them."
Jafari spoke after millions of demonstrators took to the streets to vent their anger at seditionists and serve them a warning.
Chants of "Leader, we are ready" rang out as images showed hundreds of thousands rallying in the cities of Ahvaz, Kermanshah, Gorgan, Bushehr, Abadan and elsewhere.
Several other cities planned to hold similar rallies on Thursday, while Tehrani residents will hold a rally following the Friday prayers.
The demonstrators waved Iranian flags and pictures of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, as well as placards saying "Death to seditionists."
"We offer the blood in our veins to our Leader," the participants chanted. They also shouted slogans against the U.S. and the occupying regime of Israel which welcomed the turmoil and voiced support for the riots.
U.S. President Donald Trump has angered Iranians by repeatedly posting insulting tweets in recent days after calling Iran a "terrorist nation” in October and slapping a travel ban against the country’s citizens.
There were new reports of new riots on Tuesday and Wednesday after Iranians across the country closed ranks against the unrest since last week that has reportedly left more than a dozen dead.
General Jafari added those behind the protests had "intervened massively on social media" but that "once restrictions were started, the troubles reduced".
Telecoms Minister Muhammad-Javad Azari Jahromi said Telegram would only be unblocked if it removed "terrorist" content.
"I had mail exchanges with the head of Telegram and I told him that the continuation of Telegram's activities is conditioned on the suppression of terrorist content," he said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call that he hoped the protests in Iran would end in a few days, sources in Erdogan's office said on Wednesday.
In the phone call, Erdogan said Rouhani had taken an appropriate stance by saying demonstrators should not violate the law while exercising their right to peaceful protests, the sources said.
Iran's officials have said the protests, which began over economic issues on December 28 but quickly turned violent, were part of a foreign plot to destabilize the country.
"The enemies have united and are using all their means, money, weapons, policies and security services to create problems for the Islamic establishment," Ayatollah Khamenei said on Tuesday.
"The enemy is always looking for an opportunity and any crevice to infiltrate and strike the Iranian nation."
Even reformists, who backed the last sedition in 2009, condemned the violence and the support it has received from the United States.
On the streets of the capital, there is widespread opposition to any act which may undermine the country’s security in the face of outside threats.
"The poorer section of society is really under pressure," Sakineh Eidi, a 37-year-old pharmacist in Tehran, told AFP. "But I don't think it will continue."
"Even those who maybe acted emotionally, vandalizing things and setting fire to public property, know that the smoke will get into everyone's eyes and that insecurity in the country is not in anyone's interest."
Rouhani came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, but high living costs and a 12% unemployment rate have left many feeling that progress is too slow.
Rural areas, hit by years of drought and under-investment, are particularly hard-hit.
Rouhani on Sunday acknowledged there was "no problem bigger than unemployment", and also promised a more balanced media and more transparency.
Iran’s labor minister pledged to listen to the demands of protesters.
"We are all responsible when it comes to recent events,” Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Ali Rabei said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. "The government and authorities will listen to people’s demands and will make every effort to materialize them.”