(CNSNews.com) – As the U.S. and European Union joined Monday in condemning “continuing human rights violations” by the Iranian government, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ratcheted up tensions ahead of Thursday’s anniversary of the Islamic revolution by vowing that the nation would deliver a “punch” to stun its enemies.
“Through its unity, the Iranian nation will by Allah’s favor stun the arrogant powers, including the U.S., Britain, and the Zionist regime on the 22nd of Bahman,” he said in a speech to air force personnel, using the Persian calendar date for February 11.
Khamenei’s remarks, in a speech to air force personnel, are the latest by top regime figures seeking to discredit opposition supporters ahead of the anniversary by accusing them of being agents or tools of hostile countries.
“Of course there were some people who started opposing the Islamic Republic immediately after the victory of the Islamic Revolution,” he said in the speech, a translation of which was posted on his official Web site.
“They were after restoring the dominance of the U.S. over the country. These people live both inside and outside the country.
“All these people are only a small group. But the great Iranian people are united in treading the path of Islam and practicing divine principles despite having different political opinions.”
Supporters of what has become known as the “green movement” following President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed and allegedly fraudulent re-election last June have angered the establishment by arranging protests on important national and religious days, when many Iranians traditionally take to the streets.
Opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have called for a large turnout of supporters on Thursday, the 31st anniversary of the revolution, and the regime is determined to block the move.
Top security officials have issued warnings and threats, and opposition leaders say the execution late last month of two of 11 people sentenced to death for their role in the protests was clearly designed to intimidate. The two were accused of plotting to overthrow the Islamic republic.
In his speech, Khamenei, whose powers include that of commander in chief, railed against “counter revolutionary” forces which he said were trying to divide the nation.
“The Islamic system will continue to stand in the face of the pressure, and the United States, Zionism, and the hegemonistic and domineering powers of the world will not be able to undermine the revolution through political and economic means or threats,” he said.
‘Look beyond the barriers’
In a joint statement, the U.S. and E.U. expressed concern about “the potential for further violence and repression during the coming days, especially around the anniversary of the Islamic Republic’s founding on 11 February.”
“We call on the government of Iran to live up to its international human rights obligations, to end its abuses against its own people, to hold accountable those who have committed the abuses and to release those who are exercising their rights.”
Meanwhile a group of exiled Iranian journalists urged foreign journalists who may be invited to cover Thursday’s events to be careful of regime attempts to manipulate them.
The head of Iran’s Culture Ministry told the Fars news agency last week that more than 200 journalists representing 120 foreign media outlets would cover the anniversary ceremonies.
A letter posted on reformist Web sites and carrying almost 50 signatories’ names, warns that the government will try to use Western journalists to spread the message that it enjoys massive popular support.
The writers said the government would try to prevent “green movement” supporters from approaching the location in Tehran where Ahmadinejad is scheduled to deliver a speech, and ensure the area was flooded with pro-government demonstrators.
“The goal of the Iranian government is to direct journalists towards the pro-government demonstrations and prevent them from going to other locales,” it said.
“You will hear the protesting voice of the Iranian people clearer than ever if you look beyond the fences, cordons, and barriers and look at the real people of Iran.”
The writers also noted that dozens of Iranian journalists are behind bars, giving the names, affiliation and dates of arrest of 38 of them. Apart from three held in 2007 and 2008, the rest were all arrested since the disputed election last June, seven of them in the past week.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Iran is now holding at least 47 journalists in prison, at least 26 of whom were jailed in the last two months.
“The relentlessness of the press crackdown in Iran demonstrates that authorities continue to fear new ideas and information,” CPJ executive director Joel Simon said in a statement. “Our goal is not simply to document the brutality, but to let the government know that the world is watching.”