Tensions are presently running high in Iran as anti-government protests — the largest in years — have broken out in cities across the country.
The protests began Thursday in the second most populous city, Mashhad, with people expressing dissatisfaction with Iran’s economic problems. The following day, the protests spread to half a dozen cities and evolved into broad anti-government demonstrations. While protesters numbered in the hundreds in some places, there were thousands in others.
Many Iranian citizens have been arrested for their participation in “illegal” gatherings.
President Donald Trump weighed in on the situation Friday evening as reports of the protests in Iran poured into the U.S. via the media.
Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching! #IranProtests
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2017
“Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement, “As President Trump has said, the longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are Iran’s own people.”
The statement also hinted at U.S. support for regime change within Iran.
The ongoing protests are the largest public anti-government outcry in Iran since the 2009 Green Revolution, a response to a prevailing belief that former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had stolen the election. As violence erupted in the streets and authorities cracked down on Iranian citizens, the Obama administration was initially silent on the acts of a hostile Islamic regime. For the first two days, the president failed to respond.
It was not until the third day that former President Barack Obama broke his silence.
“I think it would be wrong for me to be silent about what we’ve seen on the television over the last few days,” he said, adding, “I would say to those people who put so much hope and energy and optimism into the political process, I would say to them that the world is watching and inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was. And they should know that the world is watching.”
It is “up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be,” Obama explained.
The former president was, however, careful to avoid stepping on the toes on the Iranian government. “We respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran.”
“My understanding is, is that the Iranian government says that they are going to look into irregularities that have taken place. We weren’t on the ground, we did not have observers there, we did not have international observers on hand, so I can’t state definitively one way or another what happened,” he said.
A week later, Obama condemned Iran for its oppressive behavior.
Obama encouraged Iran to respect the democratic process and universal values such as freedom of speech, but the administration’s tone was not as critical as its successor.
The previous administration sought to engage Iran through diplomatic initiatives, offering economic opportunities in exchange for cooperation on key security issues. The Trump administration has taken a much more antagonistic approach to a country that often engages in behavior detrimental to American interests.
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