WASHINGTON (Dispatches) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has threatened to impose even more sanctions on Iran after recent riots which are believed to be the result of Washington’s coercive measures.
The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on Iran’s minister of information and communications technology, Muhammad Javad Azari-Jahromi. The U.S. Treasury announced the sanctions move on its website.
In meddlesome comments on Thursday, Pompeo urged Iranians to send photos and other information documenting what he called "repression,” while vowing to sanction "abuses" by the Iranian government.
"I have asked the Iranian protesters to send us their videos, photos and information documenting the regime's crackdown on protesters," Pompeo tweeted, vowing that the U.S. will "expose and sanction the abuses".
U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday accused Iran of blocking the internet to cover up what he claimed was a "tragedy".
However, the fake news and propaganda spread on social media networks have proved to be a key element in provoking further unrest in the country.
Last December, U.S. news magazine Foreign Policy wrote that the currency market turmoil in Iran was mostly stoked and tended by social media networks, mostly messaging applications.
According to the publication, most speculators were using messaging apps to spread fake news about the rial, hence the decision by the Iranian authorities to block the application.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Thursday Pompeo’s remarks had "left us puzzled since most of the things that sparked the discontent and other processes that are taking place in Iran were actually brought upon the Islamic Republic by the U.S.’ own actions”.
She said Tehran’s decision to raise fuel prices was the result of the "illegal and massive sanctions pressure” that the White House is exerting on the Islamic Republic, adding that Iranians’ rights to receive food, medication, and other necessities have been violated due to Washington’s so-called punitive measures.
"The way we see it – this was the U.S.' goal all along, when they decided to initiate the policy of sanctions pressure against Iran. It turns out that, on the one hand, Washington supports the aspirations of the Iranian people, at least verbally, and on the other hand, they are doing anything possible to make the population of this country suffer," Zakharova said.
Ordinary Iranians suffer the most under the U.S. sanctions which Trump imposed on the Islamic Republic after leaving a 2015 international nuclear deal with Tehran last year.
Iran has been trying to take the sanctions in its stride, working through a raft of measures which could ease up the pain for the most needy.
Experts say rationing fuel in Iran would prevent tens of millions of liters of gasoline being wasted each day in a country which grapples with the economic impacts of the American sanctions.
Iranians guzzle up to 110 million liters per day of petrol in their cars, 40 million liters above the maximum domestic requirement.
On Friday, the government increased the price of gasoline by 50% to 15,000 rials ($0.12) per liter and imposed a cap on its use, meaning motorists demanding more petrol have to pay 30,000 rials per liter.
The government has said its new plan aims to reduce subsidies for gasoline and instead spend the proceeds from price hikes on handouts and other forms of assistance to the needy.
Many critics of the government have supported the plan, while state officials have said they are unfazed by the riots because they strongly believe in the program.
President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday said the rioters were few, but were "organized, armed and tasked with acting in a calculated manner.”
The rioters, he said, acted "completely based on a scheme planned in advance by the reactionary regional regimes, the Zionists, and the Americans.”
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has also thrown his weight behind the plan, even though "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 said on Sunday.