Trump encourages Iran’s protesters, declares ‘time for change’

Trump praised the Iranians for “finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime.”

By: AP and World Israel News Staff

The Trump administration has thrown the weight of the US government behind the protesters taking to the streets of Iran.

President Donald Trump is rooting them on, declaring Tuesday it was “time for change” in Iran.

Iran’s government blamed the US, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Britain for the protests, saying “enemies of Iran” were meddling in its internal affairs.

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Iran’s enemies were using money, weapons, politics and spies “to create problems for the Islamic system, the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Revolution.”

Trump was undeterred, praising Iranians for “finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime.”

Khamenei’s remarks on the demonstrations, the largest seen in Iran since its disputed 2009 presidential election, came after a bloody night that saw protesters try to storm a police station and the first deaths among its security forces.

The unrest has killed at least 21 people in the past six days.

The protests began in Mashhad over the weak economy, unemployment and a jump in food prices. They have since expanded to cities and towns in nearly every province. Hundreds have been arrested, and a prominent judge warned that some could face the death penalty.

Is unrest caused by Iran’s ‘enemies’?

Khamenei warned of an enemy “waiting for an opportunity, for a crack through which it can infiltrate.”

“Look at the recent days’ incidents,” he said. “All those who are at odds with the Islamic Republic have utilized various means, including money, weapons, politics and (the) intelligence apparatus, to create problems for the Islamic system, the Islamic Republic and the Islamic Revolution.”

On Tuesday, Trump wrote that “all of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their ‘pockets,'” apparently referring to the nuclear deal reached under his predecessor. “The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The US is watching!”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi urged Trump to stop tweeting and focus on his own country’s problems.

“It is better for him to try to address the US’ internal issues like the murder of scores killed on a daily basis in the United States during armed clashes and shootings, as well as millions of the homeless and hungry people in the country,” Ghasemi said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

International emergency response needed

The US has called for the UN Security Council and UN Human Rights Council to hold emergency meetings on Iran, with the US ambassador to the United Nations saying the world body “must speak” on the issue.

“Nowhere is the urgency of peace, security and freedom being tested more than in Iran,” US Ambassador Nikki Haley said, adding that US officials “applaud the tremendous courage of the Iranian people.”

Haley said the US would be calling for emergency sessions in the coming days.

The government has shut down access to Telegram and the photo-sharing app Instagram, which now join Facebook and Twitter in being banned.

The Trump administration called on Iran’s government to stop blocking Instagram and other popular social media sites. US Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein said Instagram, Telegram and other platforms are “legitimate avenues for communication.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and others have warned that the government wouldn’t hesitate to crack down on those it considers lawbreakers. None of the protest rallies so far have received permission from the Interior Ministry, making them illegal.

The head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court also reportedly warned that arrested protesters could potentially face the death penalty.

“Obviously one of their charges can be ‘moharebeh,'” or waging war against God, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Mousa Ghazanfarabadi as saying. Moharebeh is punishable by death in Iran.