The Iranian regime on Sunday criticized U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for voicing support for protesters amid reports of a rising death toll across the Islamic republic.
The Iranian foreign ministry blasted U.S. sanctions as “economic terrorism” and claimed they were responsible for the country’s fiscal hardships, which have in turn led to the widespread protests.
But the Trump administration countered that economic problems experienced by ordinary Iranians was due to the “corrupt” regime’s self-enrichment at the expense of citizens while spending money to fund militant proxies and fueling instability across the Middle East.
The White House said Sunday it “supports the Iranian people in their peaceful protests against the regime that is supposed to lead them.”
“We condemn the lethal force and severe communications restrictions used against demonstrators,” Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement.
“Tehran has fanatically pursued nuclear weapons and missile programs, and supported terrorism, turning a proud nation into another cautionary tale of what happens when a ruling class abandons its people and embarks on a crusade for personal power and riches,” she added.
Iranian opposition sources claim more than 25 people have been killed since the latest wave of protests began on Friday. Iranian media outlets report at least 1,000 detentions.
Those figures have not been independently confirmed, however.
Protests were spurred by President Hassan Rouhani’s announcement that gasoline prices would rise 50 percent while rationing would also occur.
“The billions of dollars in sanctions relief weren’t used for new roads, new hospitals, new schools,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told Fox News. “Instead that money was used to fund Iran’s terrorist proxies throughout the Middle East.”