Trump vows 'support' for Iran protestors

AFP , Wednesday 3 Jan 2018

US President Donald Trump (Photo: Reuters)

US President Donald Trump pledged unspecified support for Iranians trying to "take back" their government Wednesday, extending a drumbeat of encouragement for countrywide protests.

"Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government," Trump tweeted early Wednesday.

"You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!" he said, without offering any specifics on what or when that might be.

Trump has sought to ramp up pressure the Iranian regime, which has struggled to contain a week of protests across the country.

But so far his administration's input has been rhetorical and diplomatic.

Trump on Tuesday described the regime as "brutal and corrupt," ignoring warnings that his intervention could backfire.

Trump's administration also demanded a snap UN Security Council meeting to debate unrest that has killed 21 people -- mostly protestors.

His top diplomat at the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley, used her public platform to recite protesters' slogans and declared that "the people of Iran are crying out for freedom."

Trump -- flanked in the White House by a coterie of former generals who spent a career fighting Iranian proxies from Beirut to Baghdad -- has taken a hard line against Iran since coming to office.

He has abandoned Obama-era diplomatic overtures and embraced allies in Israel and Saudi Arabia who are keen to confront Iran's growing regional power.

Much of Trump's response has focused on playing up perceived errors by the Obama administration, not least a deal that gave Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.

Trump -- who built his broader political fortunes around opposing America's first black president -- has, for now, left the fate of that deal with Congress while he continues to oppose it.

But he must soon decide where to extend sanctions relief. If he declines, the deal could effectively be dead.

Obama's muted support for 2009 protests in Iran has also appeared to play a role in the Trump administration's' more vocal response.

Protests began in Iran's second largest city Mashhad and quickly spread to become the biggest challenge to the Islamic regime since mass demonstrations in 2009.

In response to Trump's latest Twitter attack, Iranian officials have said online accounts in the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia are fomenting protests, which Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed on the country's "enemies."

"President Trump is not going to sit by silently like President Obama did. And he certainly supports the Iranian people and wants to make that clear," said White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards said Wednesday that the unrest that rocked Iran over several days was at an end, and claimed that a maximum of 15,000 people had taken part nationwide.

"Today we can announce the end of the sedition," said Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Revolutionary Guards.

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