Speaking on February 1, 2018 in Mashhad, at the Conference for Support of the Palestinian Intifada, Ali Akbar Velayati, senior advisor to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, responded to Iranian critics of the regime who, during last month's uprising, protested against Iran's involvement in various battlefronts in the Middle East. Addressing an audience of students, he stated that Iran would maintain its involvement and presence in the region, in order to thwart the plots of Israel and the U.S., among other goals.
The following are his main points, as reported by the Iranian news agencies ISNA and Fars.
Ali Akbar Velayati (image: ISNA, Iran)
According to Fars, Velayati said: "Let me tell you, you don't have to worry about that mess [i.e. last month's popular uprising], some of whose [participants] stupidly became a tool in the hands of the mercenaries and speak against the sacred goals of the revolution. The call 'Neither Gaza nor Lebanon' conceals a misunderstanding of the developments in the world. Can someone sit at home and say that the conflagration at his neighbor's home does not concern him?
"Everyone wants a foothold in our country. That is the essence of the global developments.
"Let's assume we aren't Muslims. [Even so], could we conceivably [watch] the Israeli flag being raised near our border, in the Kurdish region of Iraq, and remain silent?
"The Lebanese Hizbullah has grown stronger thanks to Iran, and we are proud of this. Hizbullah is now in a situation similar to [its situation in] the 2006 Lebanon war: The Israeli leaders are fleeing from it.
"In the Gaza war [presumably the 2014 war with Israel], the leaders of the resistance in Palestine said, 'Iran supplied us with everything, from bread to bullets.' After the war, [Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader] Ramadan [Shalah] declared this at a press conference. We are proud to sit here and help the Muslims against the Zionists. For 22 days, Gaza, only 300 [square] kilometers in size, was under attack from all directions, yet managed to resist. This attests to the will of the Palestinian people, and to the support we extended. We are proud to have paralyzed Israel...
"Today, America wants to dismantle countries. The plot of the New Middle East [involves] breaking up countries, and Iran opposes this.
"The global arrogance [i.e. the U.S.] has excessive demands in the region. One [member of the P5+1] says that the JCPOA should be maintained, but [tells us], 'limit your missiles.' Another tells us, 'limit your presence in the region.' Why? Isn't this an excessive demand? You could make such excessive demands in the Shah's era, but not today.
"The Iranian people has always opposed the arrogance. It has rejected arrogance since the dawn of history...
"Our presence in the region is inevitable. We will continue this process, so as to become the most decisive force in the region. We are present in Iraq, Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon, at the behest of and in coordination with the governments of these countries. We help Yemen because it is our human duty to do so. Saudi Arabia must know that this ongoing process will make Yemen its Vietnam."
ISNA also quoted Velayati as saying: "If we had sat in silence, if the great Islamic general [commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Qods Force] Mr. [Qassem] Soleimani and the wisdom of the Leader [Ali Khamenei] had not existed, the Israelis would have opened up a front only dozens of kilometers from our border [i.e. in Iraqi Kurdistan]. In that situation, could we live in Iran? [Even] someone who does not share Iran's religion and identity – could they live where Israeli tanks are only dozens of kilometers away? How can anyone be so deficient in understanding?"
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5802, Iranian Reactions To The War In Gaza: Israel's Destruction Imminent; Israel Attacks Due To Arab World's Silence, We Have Supplied Gaza Resistance With Drones And Fajr 5 Missiles, July 21, 2014.
 Fars (Iran), February 1, 2018.
 ISNA (Iran), February 1, 2018.