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Iran's leader says Western agents not to blame, after all

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Photo composite: AFP/Newscom/Reuters

(Read caption) Former vice president and reformist Shiite cleric Mohamed Ali Abtahi is shown in June (l.), and on trial in August (r.)

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Late Wednesday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei directly contradicted the narrative the country's hard-liners have spun about their reformist opponents in recent months: the reformists are not part of an international conspiracy to destroy the Islamic republic and move Iran into a US-controlled sphere of influence, after all.

His comments come as the US and other Western governments are threatening to increase the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program. On Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that if Iran does not enter meaningful negotiations on the program soon, new UN sanctions will be sought against the country. "If there is no positive answer by September we will have to consider further measures," said Mrs. Merkel.

In a statement read on state television, Khamenei – the most powerful man in the country's theocratic government – said weeks of show trials have failed to prove that leaders have been agents of foreign powers and the televised confessions to that effect.

The trials included an elaborate conspiracy theory by the state prosecutor that about 100 opposition politicians, clerics, academics, and journalists on trial were part of a plot orchestrated by the CIA, Israel, the billionaire philanthropist George Soros, and many others. Khamenei does continue to insist, however, that foreigners – and not popular dissatisfaction – were the ultimate causes of the protests.

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