Iran managed to foil US plot in Middle East: Khamnei

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Tehran—Iran has defused all regional threats against the country, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei said on Tuesday, as tension rises between Tehran and Washington over the influence of the Islamic Republic in the Middle East.

Sayed Khamenei did not specify any particular threat, but he appeared to be mainly referring to the Islamic State (Daesh) group, which Iranian forces have confronted in Syria and Iraq as well as at home.

“Last year, the Islamic Republic defused regional threats – one of their aims was to harm the Islamic Republic,” Ayatollah Khamenei said in his annual Nawroz speech at the of Imam Reza shrine in North Eastern Mashahd broadcast live on state television. “These threats did not damage our country, but turned into opportunities.”

In November, Tehran declared the end of Islamic State and hailed the Iranian soldiers killed fighting against it in Syria and Iraq.

Iran has provided critical military support to Syrian and Iraqi governments, helping them regain swathes of land from rebels and militants in last few years.

“The Islamic Republic managed to neutralize the US plan in the region. [The United States] wanted to create wicked and ruthless groups such as Daesh so that other nations’ minds would be distracted from the usurper Zionist regime and engage them in internal wars.”

“They [the United States] say that they participated in destroying Daesh. They are lying. They want Daesh and groups like Daesh to be under [their] control,” Ayatollah said.

Iranian officials have long claimed that the United States and Saudi Arabia have played an undeniable role in the creation of al-Qaeda and IS.

“Our humble soldiers and tireless diplomats were able to stand with the people of Iraq, Syria , and Lebanon to establish stability and increase security for the region,” President Hassan Rouhani said in his New Year message.

US President Donald Trump, who sees Iran as a threat to stability in the Middle East, has pledged to work with Gulf Arab states and Israel to curb what they say are Tehran’s attempts to extend its influence in the region.

Trump said in his Nowruz message that Tehran had spent more than US$16 billion to prop up Syria’s government and support militants in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

Many Iranians, however, resent the foreign interventions and want their leaders to create more jobs at home, where youth unemployment stood at 25% this year.

Anti-government protests swept the country in December, with young working-class demonstrators asking for jobs and calling for more freedom. The unrest resulted in many deaths.

Ayatollah Khamenei said on Tuesday the protests were “the enemies’ plot against Iran” and were promptly defused.

Iran leader conceded his country had been tested but insisted it would emerge stronger.

The 1979 Islamic Revolution “has undergone a test and Iranians have been able to safeguard its values,” Ayatollah Khamenei said. Iran’s enemies had sought to “overplay” its problems, he said.

Ayatollah insisted young Iranians were committed to the ideals of the Islamic Republic. “If they don’t care more than the first generation, they don’t care any less either,” he said.

Addressing the domestic economic and political situation and, in particular, the status of political freedom in Iran, Iran leader said, “In our country, there exists freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of choice. No one with ideas and thoughts opposing the establishment is pressured, threatened or persecuted by the establishment. However, freedom is observed within the framework of law and religion.”

In his annual speech Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also called for people to support locally made products.

“If we use the existing capacities, Iran’s economy would be among the top 12 countries among the 200 countries [in the world].” He added, “One of the obstacles in the way of progress is our officials’ lack of belief in our capacities, or they don’t care about it.”

Leader named the new Iranian year as one of “Support for Iranian Products.” In recent years, he has initiated a tradition of announcing a national motto in connection with Nowruz, with a particular emphasis on economic issues in recent years past.

Mentioning his motto for this year, Iran leader said, “We should have partiality [in favor of] our national economy. Consumption of foreign goods is one of [our] flaws. We should have partiality for national products.”

Ayatollah Khamenei added, “In the world today, no country’s independence is equal to that of the Iranian nation. All nations of the world have some sort of compromise with major powers. The nation whose decisions are not influenced by any other nation is the Iranian nation.”

Touching on regional developments as well as US and European criticism of Tehran’s role in the region, Khamenei stated, “International nosy [actors] who are meddling in all of the world’s issues are protesting and [asking] why Iran is having a presence and is meddling in Iraq and Syria. Well, it is none of your concern.”

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