The United States on Dec. 5 accused Iranian security forces of killing potentially more than 1,000 people as part of a crackdown against recent protests. The Pentagon, meanwhile, is mulling whether to send additional U.S. troops to help combat the violent suppression.
Brian Hook, U.S. special representative for Iran, told reporters the tally was based on a variety of reports coming out of Iran, as well as intelligence analyses. The latest figure is much higher than previous estimates. President Donald Trump on Dec. 3 called for the media to get inside Iran to help monitor and report on the developing situation.
Speaking at the State Department, Hook said the United States had received and reviewed video of one specific incident of repression in the city of Mahshahr, in which the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) had mowed down at least 100 protesters with machine-gun fire.
The Trump administration in April officially designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization in a move that was both symbolic and unprecedented. Iran immediately condemned the move.
John Rood, defense undersecretary for policy, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Defense Secretary Mark Esper “intends to make changes” to the number of troops deployed in the region. Other officials said options under consideration could involve sending between 5,000 and 7,000 troops to the Middle East, but they all stressed that there have been no final decisions.
Following the revelations by the state department, U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, condemned the actions by the IRGC. The IRGC is a branch of the Iranian military controlled by the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
“Iran’s mullahs are soaked in blood. The slaughter of at least a thousand men, women, and children shows what Iran’s dictatorship is really about: complete and brutal power,” Sasse said in a statement. “If the mullahs served the Iranian people rather than their vicious ideology, they wouldn’t be mowing down innocent protesters and stacking the bodies like cordwood.”
“American sanctions have set the real thugs in Tehran on edge, and they’re lashing out,” he stated. “The U.S. should continue to tighten the reins, and our allies around the world should help.”
Amnesty International reported on Dec. 2 that at least 208 people were believed to have been killed during anti-government demonstrations in Iran.
Anti-government protests also have gripped Iraq since Oct. 1, when thousands took to the streets in Baghdad and the predominantly Shiite south. The largely leaderless movement accuses the government of corruption and has also decried the Iranian regime’s growing influence in Iraqi state affairs.
Hook said the video was one of tens of thousands of submissions the United States has received since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appealed to Iranians in November to submit evidence of atrocities by the authorities in putting down the protests.
The regime acknowledged on Nov. 27 that 200,000 took part in the protests and 7,000 were arrested, marking possibly the largest anti-government demonstrations in the regime’s 40-year history.
Widespread protests broke out in Iran on Nov. 15 after authorities announced a new petrol-rationing scheme that would see gasoline prices increase as much as 50 percent.
In one earlier instance of violent clashes, at least 45 protesters were shot dead by Iraqi security forces on Nov. 28 after demonstrators set fire to an Iranian consulate the night before.
Protesters set ablaze the Iranian consulate in Iraq’s city of Najaf in what was described by reports as one of the worst attacks targeting Iranian interests in the country since the protests first erupted two months ago. No Iranian staff were harmed in the attack, as they escaped out the back door.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.