Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Ali KhameneiReuters

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Sunday defended his tough approach to the West, saying compromise would only invite further hostility from Iran’s enemies and blaming recent anti-government protests on “thugs and villains”, The Associated Press reported.

Khamenei’s remarks come amid an intensifying standoff with Western countries over Iran’s nuclear program.

The 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers hit a snag in 2018, when then-US President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran. Iran, in turn, began to scale back its compliance with the deal.

Attempts by the Biden administration to negotiate a return to the deal with Iran have failed, as US officials blamed Iran's insistence on the closure of the UN nuclear watchdog's investigations against it.

“Some people are mistaken to think if we back down from our stances in certain cases that will cause the enmity of the US the global arrogance, or Israel toward us to diminish,” said Khamenei, who has the final say on all major Iranian policies, adding, “This is a mistake.”

He spoke at an annual speech marking the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, his predecessor and the founder of the Islamic Republic.

Khamenei alluded to nationwide protests last fall sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by the morality police for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code.

Iranian authorities have blamed the protests on a foreign conspiracy. The government crackdown on the demonstrations has resulted in hundreds of people being killed, including dozens of security personnel, and thousands arrested.

“Thugs and villains did what they did and malicious individuals chanted such slogans,” Khamenei said Sunday, according to AP. “According to their plot they thought the Islamic Republic was finished and they could take the Iranian nation as servants. These fools, once again, were wrong. Once again, they failed to know our people.”