Trump allies push for regime change at ‘Free Iran’ rally in Paris
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Trump allies push for regime change at ‘Free Iran’ rally in Paris

Giuliani, Gingrich call for ramping up sanctions on Islamic Republic, say 'freedom is right around the corner' amid recent protests

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani "Free Iran 2018 - the Alternative" event organized by exiled Iranian opposition group on June 30, 2018, in Villepinte, north of Paris. (AFP Photo/Zakaria Abdelkafi)
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani "Free Iran 2018 - the Alternative" event organized by exiled Iranian opposition group on June 30, 2018, in Villepinte, north of Paris. (AFP Photo/Zakaria Abdelkafi)

PARIS — US President Donald Trump allies Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani on Saturday urged regime change in Iran, saying the prospect was closer than ever after the Islamic Republic was hit by a wave of strikes and protests.

Former House speaker Gingrich and ex-New York mayor Giuliani also told a rally of thousands of Iranian opposition supporters in Paris that Trump needed to turn up the heat on European countries still seeking to do business with Tehran despite reimposed US sanctions.

“The only way to ensure safety in the region is to replace the dictatorship with a democracy, and that has to be our goal,” Gingrich told the Free Iran rally, organized by exiled opponents including the former rebel Mujahedeen-E-Khalq, or People’s Mujahedin of Iran, which is banned in Iran.

He stressed he did not speak for the Trump administration, but added: “It seems to me there would be a rather happy celebration should regime change occur.”

Gingrich said he did not support arming the Iranian opposition, saying Trump should instead heap on more sanctions after pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

Newt Gingrich, former US speaker of the House, attends “Free Iran 2018 – the Alternative” event organized by exiled Iranian opposition group on June 30, 2018, in Villepinte, north of Paris. (AFP Photo/Zakaria Abdelkafi)

And he blasted countries attempting to find ways to allow their companies to keep operating in Iran under the threat of penalties for US sanction-busting.

“We need to have a campaign to shame the European governments who are unwilling to support freedom and democracy,” Gingrich said. “We need to insist that they join the sanctions once again.”

Giuliani called for a boycott of companies “that continually do business with this regime.”

“Freedom is right around the corner,” he added of the recent protests in Iran.

Gingrich, Giuliani, and other US politicians have been heavily paid to speak at the annual Paris rally in recent years.

(L-R, front row) Former Canadian foreign minister John Baird, Canadian retired politician Stephen Joseph, Colombian-French politician and former senator Ingrid Betancourt, leader of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran Maryam Rajavi, former US mayor of New York City and attorney to US President Donald Trump Rudolph Giuliani, former US Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, US author and Chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity Linda Chavez (2nd row, 3rd R), and Italy’s former Foreign Affairs Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata (2nd row, R) pose for a picture during the meeting “Free Iran 2018 – the Alternative”, organized by the People’s Mujahedin of Iran in Villepinte, near Paris on June 30, 2018. (AFP Photo/Zakaria Abdelkafi)

Their comments came after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week gave his backing to the strikes and protests over economic woes, not least the collapse of the Iranian rial following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal.

On Monday, traders at Tehran’s Grand Bazaar staged a rare strike following earlier reports of street protests in provincial cities.

Iranians have been hit by rising prices, and record levels of unemployment have left a third of under-30s out of work.

The latest protests follow dozens over the new year which left at least 25 people dead.

A group of protesters chant slogans at the old grand bazaar in Tehran, Iran, June 25, 2018. (Iranian Labor News Agency via AP)

The People’s Mujahedin were founded in the 1960s against Iran’s royalist government and went on to fight the Islamic regime after the 1979 revolution.

In 2009 the European Union struck the Mujahedin from its list of terrorist organizations, where it had been since 2002. The United States did the same in 2012.

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