Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei described on Monday the anti-government protests in Iraq as a “conspiracy” sowed by “enemies” to drive a wedge between Tehran and Baghdad.
Following the deadly unrest in neighboring Iraq, he tweeted on Monday: “Iran and Iraq are two nations whose hearts and souls are tied together... Enemies seek to sow discord but they've failed and their conspiracy won't be effective.”
Khamenei added that bonds between Iran and Iraq would grow stronger day after day.
More than 100 people have been killed in Iraq in anti-government protests that broke out on October 1. The protests turned violent as demonstrator clashed with security forces, who opened fire at the rallies.
The protests began spontaneously in Baghdad and southern cities, without public support from any major political faction in Iraq.
This was Khamenei’s first statement on the protests, said Iran’s state news agency IRNA. The protests precede Arbaeen, a Shiite pilgrimage to the city of Karbala.
Arab social media users were divided in slamming and supporting his remarks.
Dozens of Twitter accounts shared a photo showing Iraqi protesters burning the Iranian flag.
Meanwhile, Iranian Police Chief Brigadier General Hossein Ashtari said on Monday that enemy conspiracies in Iraq were foiled by the people.
A top military adviser to Khamenei said those behind the unrest would be unable to deter Iranian pilgrims.
"They want to scare people into not going to Arbaeen, but even if it rains arrows and stones, they will not be afraid," Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.
AFP reported on Monday that Iran has urged its citizens planning to take part in the pilgrimage to delay their travel over the violence.
Last week, Iran shut the Khosravi border crossing with Iraq at the request of Iraqi authorities as the protests raged.
The post was reopened on Monday morning and Iranians were making their way towards the shrines in Iraq, an official said, according to ISNA.