President Donald Trump tried to ramp up pressure on Iran’s “brutal and corrupt” regime amid a sixth day of anti-government protests Tuesday, ignoring warnings that his intervention could backfire.
Trump demanded a snap UN Security Council meeting to debate unrest that has killed 21 people — mostly protestors — and fired off ever-harsher condemnations of the Islamic republic’s rulers.
“The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime,” Trump tweeted, setting the tone a fresh rhetorical blitz on America’s old enemy in Tehran.
His top diplomat at the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley, used her public platform to recite protestors’ slogans and declared that “the people of Iran are crying out for freedom.”
From the White House podium, Sarah Sanders also took aim at the regime, accusing it of spending Iran’s “wealth on spreading militancy and terror abroad, rather than ensuring prosperity at home.”
“Prices for everyday staples and fuel are rising, while the Revolutionary Guard spend the nation’s wealth on foreign militant groups and enrich themselves in the process.”
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.
“All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their ‘pockets.’ The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The US is watching!” Trump tweeted.
Trump — who built his broader political fortunes around opposing America’s first black president — has left the fate of that deal with Congress while he continues to oppose it.
Obama’s muted support for 2009 protests in Iran has also appeared to play a role in the Trump administration’s’ more vocal response.
He has taken to Twitter multiple times since the protests erupted last week.
On Monday, he said it was “time for change” in Iran and that the country’s people were “hungry” for freedom.
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.”
The White House dismissed suggestions that Trump’s interventions could fuel allegations of foreign hands at work.
“I think even Hillary Clinton outlined this when she said that the Obama administration was too restrained of the 2009 protests and said that won’t happen again,” said Sanders.
“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.”