A US State Department official has called for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to suspend the accounts of Iran’s leaders.
Brian Hook, US special envoy for Iran, also accused the country’s leaders of hypocrisy for continuing to use social media while imposing an internet blackout across the country.
“It is a deeply hypocritical regime,” Mr Hook told Bloomberg. “It shuts down the internet while its government continues to use all of these social media accounts.
“We are calling on social media companies like Facebook and Instagram and Twitter to shut down the accounts of supreme leader [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei, the Foreign Minister [Javad] Zarif and President [Hassan] Rouhani until they restore the internet to their own people.”
The Iranian government cut off the internet across the country on November 16 before a crackdown on nationwide protests against a steep increase in fuel prices announced a day earlier.
Landline connections have been restored gradually since Thursday as officials said the protests were quelled after hundreds of arrests.
Connectivity was back on Sunday for much of the country but not through mobile networks, monitor NetBlocks said.
Internet connectivity on the main mobile service providers MCI, Rightel and Irancell was at zero, 1 and 28 per cent on Sunday afternoon, NetBlocks said.
The US imposed sanctions on Iranian Communications Minister Javad Jahromi on Friday for his role in the blackout.
“The regime shut down the internet because they’re trying to hide all of the death and tragedy that the regime has been inflicting on thousands of protesters around the country,” Mr Hook said.
Iran said five people were killed in the protests, but Amnesty International estimated the toll at more than 100. The UN said at least 1,000 people were arrested by Tuesday.
One hundred and eighty ringleaders had been arrested over the protests, Iran’s Fars news agency reported. Officials have blamed the strife on enemies abroad.
“We have arrested all stooges and mercenaries who have explicitly made confessions that they have been mercenaries of America, of [exiled opposition group] Monafeghin and others,” said Rear Adm Ali Fadavi, deputy commander in chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“We have arrested all of them and, God willing, the judiciary will give them maximum punishments.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed the allegations of US involvement.
“This has nothing to do with anyone outside of Iran fomenting these protests,” Mr Pompeo said.
“This is the Iranian people struggling for freedom, demanding their rights, desiring the capacity to take care of their own people.”
He denied US sanctions were to blame for economic hardship faced by Iranians.
“The reason that the economy is struggling and the reason that you see these protests all across the country are because the Iranian leadership has failed the Iranian people,” Mr Pompeo told Iran International Television, based in London.
“They haven’t allowed the economy to grow, they haven’t created opportunity.
“Instead, they’ve behaved like kleptocrats, stealing the wealth of the Iranian people for their own personal enrichment.”