TEHRAN, Iran — Iran on Thursday directly blamed a CIA official for a week of protests calling for the overthrow of the Islamic Republic, as the strength of the demonstrations was uncertain with fewer reports of rallies.

The Trump administration has denied having any hand in the protests, and the CIA declined to comment.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the drop in reports of new demonstrations challenging Iran’s theocratic government meant the protests were subsiding or that the authorities’ blocking of social media apps has managed to stop protesters from offering new images of rallies.

The demonstrations, which began Dec. 28 over the country’s struggling economy, have been the largest in Iran since the disputed 2009 presidential election. At least 21 people have been killed and hundreds arrested.

The CIA accusation came from Iran’s prosecutor general, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, in a story by the state-run IRNA news agency. Montazeri alleged the official headed an operation that received intelligence support from Israel and financing from Saudi Arabia – Iran’s two biggest regional adversaries.

Montazeri said the CIA official sought help from exiled Iranian groups and prepared for various scenarios that included protesting the high cost of living and financial demands on the elderly.

The plot focused on fomenting dissent from the countryside to shake Tehran, Montazeri said. He alleged the CIA planned to turn the protest into an “armed” insurrection by mid-February, the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The Associated Press is not publishing identifying details about the CIA official because the official may be an agent of its clandestine service.

A senior Trump administration official on Wednesday disputed the notion that the U.S. played any role in the protests, saying it had not expected them to occur.

“The protests were entirely spontaneously generated,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.

Iranian suspicion of the CIA stretches back to 1953, when the CIA and the British executed the coup that overthrew its elected prime minister and cemented the rule of the American-backed shah.

The prosecutor’s comments appeared aimed at discrediting protests that raised real questions about the challenges faced in Iran even after its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. While many Iranians have denounced the violence that has accompanied some demonstrations, they echo the protesters’ frustration over the weak economy and official corruption. On Thursday, thousands again rallied in support of the government in dozens of towns and cities.

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