DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Iran's supreme leader 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."
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's remarks come amid an intensifying standoff with Western countries over Iran's nuclear program, which has made major advances in the five years since then-President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from an international accord that restricted it.
Trump restored crippling sanctions on Iran that have contributed to a severe economic crisis without forcing any concessions from its leaders. Iran has also lent support to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, supplying armed drones that have wreaked havoc on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.
"Some people are mistaken to think if we back down from our stances in certain cases that will cause the enmity of the U.S, the global arrogance, or Israel toward us to diminish," said Khamenei, who has the final say on all major Iranian policies. "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 a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by the morality police for allegedly violating the country's strict dress code. The protests escalated into calls for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic before a deadly crackdown largely extinguished them.
Iranian authorities have blamed the protests on a foreign conspiracy, without providing evidence, while the demonstrators said they were protesting over decades of repression and economic mismanagement.
"Thugs and villains did what they did and malicious individuals chanted such slogans," Khamenei said. "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."