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THE United States slapped sanctions on five subsidiaries of Iran’s Defence Ministry yesterday as the war of words between Washington and Tehran escalated.
The sanctions are related to allegations that the subsidiaries are involved in the production of ballistic missiles used by Houthi rebels in the Yemen war, and are unconnected to the wave of protests that has swept Iran over the past week.
The US says Iran is the main sponsor of the Houthi movement, whose takeover of Yemen in 2015 prompted a murderous Saudi assault on the country in which the US and Britain have supplied weaponry used in air raids on hospitals and schools.
The sanctions came after Iranian Prosecutor-General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri claimed the anti-government demonstrations were instigated by the CIA, with the aim of turning them into an armed insurrection against the Islamic Republic by mid-February.
At least 21 people have been killed in the protests, which broke out last Thursday over widespread poverty and unemployment, and included calls for an end to theocratic rule.
The communist Tudeh Party of Iran says some of the deaths were “false flag” killings by government agents to justify a heavier crackdown, and a source in the party told the Morning Star over 1,000 people have been arrested — around half in Tehran — for involvement in the protests.
At the same time, the government has organised major pro-regime demonstrations, “significantly slowed internet access generally” and cut access to some areas and networks completely in order to impede the spread of unrest via social media. On Thursday it announced that all unregistered mobile phones would be denied connection to the internet.
The Interior Ministry placed the total number of participants in anti-government protests at 42,000 and said the biggest single rally involved 1,500 people.
The size and duration of the protests, which it said were drawing to a close, were testimony to the “leniency, restraint and tolerance” with which the government had responded, according to Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli.
But more protests — including some involving tens of thousands of people — were breaking out on Thursday night, according to the Tudeh Party source, though they acknowledged that the “deployment of the most brutal militiamen and thugs” to the streets to crush the protests was beginning to stifle the upsurge.
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