Saudi Arabia 'sold its soul to America,' says Iran's General Qassem Soleimani
Speaking at a ceremony commemorating the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in his hometown of Kerman on Sunday, Soleimani said Saudi Arabia and its allies "have sold everything they have to America".
"Ponder the state of the country that called itself the mother of all villages selling themselves cheaply," he added.
The shadowy commander of the Qods Force, Iran's equivalent of the Foreign Legion, oversees Tehran's proxy wars from Yemen and Iraq to Syria and Lebanon.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are regional foes who have never fought a direct war but are engaged in a fierce proxy confrontation in several countries in the region, as they vye for dominance of the Islamic world.
Soleimani claimed his country has achieved victory in the region, saying Iran has helped Iraq "uproot the Baath... and defeat the Islamic State... as vouched for even by enemies."
Iranians on Sunday marked the 39th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, just weeks after anti-government protests rocked cities across the country.
Demonstrators in Tehran on Sunday chanted traditional slogans against the United States and Israel. Hundreds of thousands converged on the city's central Azadi Square, where President Hassan Rouhani later addressed the crowds.
Abroad, Iran has successfully helped push back the Islamic State group in Iraq and assisted embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in regaining strategic ground in his country's long war.
|In late December and early January, protests across the country began over the economy. They later changed into demonstrations directly challenging the government|
At home, however, the country's economy still struggles despite its 2015 landmark nuclear deal with world powers.
In late December and early January, protests across the country began over the economy. They later changed into demonstrations directly challenging the government.
Soleimani's Revolutionary Guards were instrumental in putting down the brief protest movement, which authorities claimed was the work of "foreign agents", with thousands arrested and several killed.
In the same address, Soleimani said those who publicly criticise Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei betray the Islamic Revolution and its founder.
“It is saddening that some people have labelled themselves as followers of [Islamic Revolution leader Khomeini’s] line, but instead of writing open letters criticising the enemy and its global arrogance, they write letters criticising the guardian of Islamic jurisprudence [Khamenei] who is standing on the frontline,” Soleimani said, according to IRGC-run news agency Tasnim.
Speaking in his hometown, Soleimani did not mention any names in his address, but he may have been responding to an open letter written two weeks earlier by two-time former Speaker of the Parliament Mehdi Karroubi.
In the letter, Karroubi wrote that Supreme Leader Khamenei is responsible for Iran’s current economic, social, political and cultural shortcomings.
The Iranian opposition figure is under house arrest. Karroubi along with Mir Hossein Mousavi lost in the 2009 presidential election, which sparked mass protests and allegations of vote-rigging.
Under Iran’s political system, Khamenei is considered the representative of God on earth, with the final say on all major policies. Iranians can go to jail for publicly criticising him.