Backing Iran protests, Trump says ‘oppressive regimes cannot last forever’

US president tweets his September speech on Islamic Republic as anti-regime demonstrations, hardliner counterprotests sweep country

Iranian students scuffle with police at the University of Tehran during a demonstration on December 30, 2017. (AFP/STR)
Iranian students scuffle with police at the University of Tehran during a demonstration on December 30, 2017. (AFP/STR)

US President Donald Trump weighed in on protests in Iran Saturday, warning that the country’s people want change and “oppressive regimes cannot endure forever.”

Trump posted on Twitter a clip of his speech to the UN General Assembly in September in which he took aim at the Iranian regime, which Washington has held out as its top adversary in the Middle East.

“Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice,” he tweeted, quoting from the speech.

“The world is watching!”

The US president had addressed the protests on Friday, tweeting: “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.”

A state television report on Saturday quoted Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, as saying that “Iranian people give no credit to the deceitful and opportunist remarks of US officials or Mr. Trump.”

Iranian state-controlled media on Saturday characterized the worst anti-regime protests in eight years as masterminded by American, British, and Israeli spies seeking “to stir unrest” in the Islamic Republic.

Iranian protesters chant slogans at a rally in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. Iranian hard-liners rallied Saturday to support the country’s supreme leader and clerically overseen government as spontaneous protests sparked by anger over the country’s ailing economy roiled major cities in the Islamic Republic. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The regime on Saturday warned protesters against holding fresh demonstrations, and organized rallies by hardline supporters, after protests spread Thursday and Friday into several cities including Tehran. Fifty-two people were arrested in Iran’s second most populous city of Mashhad on Thursday. State news channel IRINN said it had been banned from covering the protests.

Three Iranian protesters were shot dead by the Revolutionary Guards at a Saturday night demonstration in central Iran, the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya network reported, citing local reports. There was no immediate confirmation of the incident, which reportedly took place in Doroud, in the Loerstan province.

Footage from Iranian opposition websites showed thousands participating in the nationwide anti-regime demonstrations, with some calling for the death of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iranian social media accounts posted videos of demonstrators tearing down regime billboards featuring Khamenei’s photo.

A swirl of online rumors, combined with travel restrictions and a near-total media blackout from official agencies, made it difficult to verify footage.

The semi-official Fars news agency said 70 students protested at Tehran University, throwing rocks at police. They reportedly chanted “Death to the dictator,” in reference to Khamenei.

Reuters reported that footage on social media showed riot police clubbing and arresting the demonstrators, and said protesters were also arrested elsewhere in Tehran.

It also reported anti-Khamenei marches in the western towns of Dorud and Shahr-e Kord, and quoted reports that Iranian forces used tear gas against protesters.

Media coverage inside Iran focused almost exclusively on the pro-regime rallies held on Saturday to mark the defeat of the last major protest movement in 2009, which hardliners call “the sedition.”

State television showed large crowds of black-clad supporters gathering in the capital Tehran, second city Mashhad and elsewhere to mark the anniversary of the end of “the sedition.”

Initially aimed against high prices, the anti-government protests quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole.

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