(CNSNews.com) – Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday accused the U.S., Israel, and other enemies of mounting “hybrid warfare” against the Islamic Republic, as the Biden administration threw its support behind a campaign to expel Iran from the U.N.’s top gender equality body.
In a speech to students, Khamenei said in reference to protests roiling Iran that “the events that took place these past few weeks were not merely street riots.”
“They were detailed plots,” he said. “The enemy initiated hybrid warfare. The enemy, namely the United States, the Zionist regime, some insidious and malicious European powers, and some groups, came to the scene with all of their capabilities.”
The regime’s news agency IRNA accused U.S. officials of riding “a wave of Iranian youths’ emotions” in a bid to “realize their hidden goals.”
The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) intelligence division earlier alleged that the CIA and Israel’s Mossad, closely cooperating with British and Saudi intelligence services and “reactionary proxies,” were playing a key role in provoking the unrest, “with the aim of committing a crime against the great nation of Iran and the country’s territorial integrity.”
The U.S. government has publicly expressed support for Iranians protesting against the regime, a movement sparked seven weeks ago by the death in custody of a young woman arrested for not complying with mandatory hijab rules.
But administration officials dispute that it supports “regime change.”
“We’re not pushing for the downfall of the Iranian government,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview with BBC Persian on Wednesday. “The people of Iran are speaking, and we are supporting their efforts to peacefully demonstrate against what their government is doing to them.”
“It is not up to the United States to determine any government, which government is in power in any particular country,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday when asked if the administration “supports a regime change or change in government in Iran.”
“That applies to Iran,” Price said. “This is a decision for the people of Iran.”
On Wednesday, the U.S. co-hosted an informal U.N. Security Council meeting to hear from Iranian women’s rights advocates, and announced that the U.S. will lead efforts to expel Iran from the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).
Iran is serving a four-year term on “the world’s leading intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women,” after winning a secret ballot election in New York in April last year with the support of some liberal democracies.
Its election onto the CSW was slammed at the time by rights advocates. After the outbreak of protests and a harsh regime crackdown that has cost hundreds of lives a campaign to undo the move pick up steam, drawing support especially from high-profile women including former U.S. first ladies.
“The [CSW] cannot do its work when it is being undermined from within,” Thomas-Greenfield said during the Security Council meeting. “Iran’s membership is an ugly stain on the Commission’s credibility. In our view, it cannot stand.”
‘From theocracy to representative government’
During the meeting, Iranian-born actor and human rights advocate Nazanin Boniadi said the scale of rights abuses in Iran was a symptom of “a government considered illegitimate by its own people.”
She addressed what she said were two “myths” about the country – that hijab wearing is a “cultural” norm that shouldn’t be interfered with, and that the Islamic regime can be reformed.
“Where schoolgirls are defying a lifetime of indoctrination by rising up in classrooms, and people are taking to the streets in their tens of thousands to protest something despite the risk of death at the hands of the authorities, you can safely assume that’s not part of their culture,” she said.
“Another myth is that this regime is reformable,” Boniadi said.
“Elections in Iran are theater,” she said, adding that the rise to the presidency of Ebrahim Raisi, “a pillar of the oppressive state, implicated in crimes against humanity … is proof enough that a culture of impunity reigns supreme in Iran and that the theocracy is impervious to reform.”
Pointing to malign regime activities beyond its borders, Boniadi said that “the potential for the current protests to transform Iran from theocracy to representative government could be a geopolitical game-changer, and the single most important key to bringing about stability in the Middle East.”
The Iranian people want the international community “to stop turning a blind eye to their suffering in order to fulfil our own political objectives,” she said.
“For decades we’ve only responded to the symptoms of the Islamic Republic’s hostile activities, with a focus on countering Iran’s nuclear ambitions and regional aggression,” she said. “But in order to address the cause, we must commit ourselves to intelligently supporting the Iranian people’s democratic aspirations.”
Seated behind Boniadi as she spoke was Rob Malley, the administration’s point man in its diplomatic efforts to revive the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal, which President Trump exited in 2018.
Kayhan, a newspaper whose editor is appointed by and serves as an advisor to Khamenei, lashed out at what it called U.S. efforts to tarnish Iran’s image “through scattered incidents of riots in a few localities.”
“Its team of thugs, tricksters, terrorists, and traitors that include a handful of characterless women, have been ordered to indulge in arson, vandalism, murder, blasphemy, and obscene acts in public, accompanied by shouting of the weirdest of slogans against Islam and the Islamic Republic,” it said.
“Iran is the country of the virtuous and vigilant Muslim masses adhering to the Holy Qur’an,” Kayhan said. “So no-one in his or her wildest dreams can undermine the solid foundations of the Islamic Republic.”