TEHRAN (Dispatches) – Tens of thousands rallied in several Iranian cities on Friday in a show of support for the Islamic Republic following foreign-backed riots during which public property was destroyed, banks and gas stations were torched and security forces and police were attacked by armed hooligans and thugs.
Television channels showed massive crowds chanting in support of the Islamic Republic and vowing "Death to America” in the major cities of Mashhad, Shiraz, Qom and Esfahan.
Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi promised to deliver "severe punishment” to anyone undermining security.
He said those "who have abused the concerns and troubles of the people in order to create disorder and insecurity" will face severe consequences.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran is known as the safest country in the region due to the sacrifices of our martyrs and our wounded," he said. "We will never allow the smallest breach in the security of our people," he added.
On Friday, the internet trickled back after days of shutdown over security concerns in a further sign of calm returning to the country after gas stations, banks and stores were burned to the ground by violent rioters. America’s top diplomat urged demonstrators to send videos of their attacks and other incidents.
Tasnim news agency said the ringleaders of the riots with ties to foreign security services have been arrested.
Deputy commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) said on Friday Iranian security forces put an end to the riots within 48 hours.
"Based on information we have received, the Americans have gone mad that the riots were over within 48 hours and are disappointed that there is no more disorder in Iran," Brigadier General Ali Fadavi said.
"Attacking homes, shops, hospitals, banks and gas stations is a malicious act which is not an act of protest nor rioting, but an act of thievery," he said. "This is the difference between protest and disorder."
The IRGC deputy commander added that peaceful protests were "natural" given the recent price hike and that the government has to adopt additional measures to reduce pressure on the general population.
However, "the fact that the malicious actors of the world are targeting Iran in issues that are by no means related to them is a matter to note," he added.
Brigadier General Salar Abnoosh, a deputy head of Iran's Basij volunteer forces, said Friday "a full-fledged war" had been meant to be waged against the country, only to be quelled early on.
Abnoosh added that interrogations of arrested rioters had revealed that a "coalition of evil" made up of "Zionists, America and Saudi Arabia" had joined forces to organize destructive riots from abroad.
Addressing worshipers during weekly Friday prayers in Tehran, senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said certain foreign countries had spent "three years" preparing for an opportunity to wreak havoc in Iran, training specific elements to that end.
"But their schemes were neutralized," he said, adding that the riots ceased to continue despite the fact that countries such as Saudi Arabia had spent many resources and had provided much media coverage in order to instigate disorder.