Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has finally broken his silence on the ongoing protests against his regime and said these events are orchestrated by "enemies" of Tehran. In his first remarks on the fifth day of nationwide demonstrations and rallies, he said the anti-Iran forces are looking for every opportunity to destabilise the theocratic nation, but did not reveal who he was referring to.

Multiple Iranian cities are witnessing rare anti-government upheaval since Thursday (28 December), in what has been described as one of the biggest such gatherings since 2009. The protests have claimed 22 lives so far with many rallies turning violent.

"In recent events, enemies of Iran have allied & used the various means they possess, including money, weapons, politics & intelligence services, to trouble the Islamic Republic. The enemy is always looking for an opportunity & any crevice to infiltrate & strike the Iranian nation," Khamenei, who wields the highest political authority in the country, wrote on Twitter.

He added that he will address the nation "when the time is right".

Images of Khamenei, who is hardly ever criticised in public, were brought down by angry protesters. As the protests took a dramatic turn from economic grievances to political demands, calls were also being made for Khamenei to step down.

These demonstrations began over the failing economy and falling standards of living, but are gradually spiralling into a larger anti-government campaign with people demanding an end to alleged corruption.

The Iranian government has issued severe warnings against the anti-government protests and asked the campaigners to disperse. President Hassan Rouhani had earlier said though the demonstrators have the right to express their demands, they should not destroy public properties.

Iran protests
People protest in Tehran, Iran December 30, 2017 Reuters