'Whatever it takes': Iran crackdown killed 1,500

A Reuters special investigation has uncovered that the death toll from last month's protests in Iran is much, much higher than initial estimates from human rights groups and the U.S. government.

Reuters can now report that 1,500 people are thought to have died. Most organizations had previously put it in the hundreds.

The number came to Reuters from sources inside Iran's government and close to the inner circle of the man at the top: Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The sources also said that Khamenei had personally ordered the crackdown to stop the protests, quote, "Do whatever it takes to end it," he told his lieutenants.

"You have my order."

The instructions are said to have come at a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani and cabinet officials on the second day.

Khamenei was infuriated by accounts that protesters were burning images of him.

Witnesses of the protests have also told Reuters that some demonstrators demanded the return of Reza Pahlavi, the exiled son of the last Shah of Iran, who now lives in the United States.

The unrest began in response to gasoline prices, which spiked under U.S. sanctions, but it quickly morphed into broader anti-government rallies.

The Reuters sources made clear that everyone at the ayatollah's meeting agreed the protesters intended to overthrow them.

Khamenei told his subordinates that he'd hold them directly responsible for the damage to the country if the protests weren't immediately stopped.