Iran's Revolutionary Guards Vow 'Decisive' Action to Suppress Deadly Fuel Protests

Iran's elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard corps has warned protesters it will take "decisive" action to restore calm after mass protests erupted against a new fuel tax.

Protesters have marched in dozens of towns and cities across the country over the past three days, following the government's announcement that it will ration gasoline purchases and cut fuel subsidies amid harsh U.S. sanctions. Prices have risen by as much as 50 percent, Reuters reported.

The scale of the unrest is still unclear as the Iranian authorities are throttling internet connection across the country. At least six people—three protesters, two members of Iran's security forces, and one security guard—are thought to have been killed so far, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

The true toll is likely to be higher, and videos of security forces firing on crowds have been successfully uploaded and shared despite the internet restrictions, which have cut connectivity to around 5 percent of normal levels, according to the NetBlocks web monitor.

Protesters are also reported to have burned at least 100 banks and attacked other buildings, including government facilities.

The IRGC released a statement Monday saying that such activities were unacceptable and that the elite branch would take all necessary steps to suppress the unrest.

"If necessary we will take decisive and revolutionary action against any continued moves to disturb the people's peace and security," the statement—carried by various state media outlets—warned.

The message also praised the "vigilant and insightful people of Iran" who are not involved in the protests, which the IRGC said were being driven by "rioters."

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Sunday that the demonstrations were being encouraged by the U.S., claiming "all evil centers in the world" were working to stir up unrest. Khamenei also described demonstrators as "thugs" and "hooligans."

There is widespread frustration at the lack of economic progress in the oil-rich nation, whose citizens had hoped that the 2015 Iran nuclear deal would lift sanctions and bring a financial boon to the struggling country.

But the benefits were slow to reach the people, and President Donald Trump's 2016 electoral victory put the deal on notice. Trump duly withdrew from the agreement last summer, and has since steadily intensified his "maximum pressure" campaign in the hope of forcing Tehran to negotiate a new deal with more restrictive terms.

The campaign has seen crippling sanctions reintroduced as Washington seeks to hobble Iran's business with foreign nations and cut its oil exports to zero. The Iranian government has regularly described the strategy as "economic terrorism."

Iran, protests, IRGC, gasoline, prices
Iranian protesters gather around a burning motorcycle during a demonstration against an increase in gasoline prices in the central city of Isfahan, on November 16, 2019. -/AFP via Getty Images/Getty