Iran’s top leader champions hardline approach to West, blames protests on ‘thugs and bad guys’

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s supreme leader on Sunday defended his tough approach to the West, saying compromise would only invite more hostility from enemies of Iran and blaming recent anti-government protests on “thugs and bad guys”.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s remarks come amid an escalating standoff with Western countries over Iran’s nuclear program, which has made major strides in the five years since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from an international agreement that restricted it.

Trump reinstated crippling sanctions on Iran that have contributed to a severe economic crisis without forcing any concessions from its leaders. Iran also lent its support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, supplying armed drones that wreaked havoc in the Ukrainian capital, kyiv.

“Some people are mistaken in thinking that if we give up our positions in some cases, it will decrease the enmity of the United States, global arrogance or Israel towards us,” said Khamenei, who has the final say on all the main Iranian decisions. “It is a mistake.”

He spoke at an annual speech marking the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, his predecessor and founder of the Islamic Republic.

Khamenei referred to nationwide protests last fall sparked by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested by vice squad for allegedly breaking the country’s strict dress code. The protests turned into calls for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic before a deadly crackdown largely extinguished them.

Iranian authorities blamed the protests on a foreign conspiracy, without providing evidence, while protesters said they were protesting decades of repression and economic mismanagement.

“Thugs and bad guys did what they did and malicious individuals chanted such slogans,” Khamenei said. “According to their plot, they thought the Islamic Republic was over and they could take the nation of Iran as their servants. Those fools, again, were wrong. Again, they didn’t know our people.

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