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Iran Protests Spark Trump to Suggest Regime Change Is in Order

Nationwide actions leave hawks suddenly expressing concern for Iranians and human rights

President Donald Trump on Monday made a subtle call for regime change in Iran, where a wave of protests has entered its fifth day and sparked vacuous calls of support by right-wingers.

Trump wrote on Twitter before 5am: "Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!"

The actions erupted last week and spread nationwide, and have thus far left at least 12 people killed. The government has also blocked social messaging apps Instagram and Telegram. 

The issues driving tens of thousands to the streets appear to be diverse, including economic grievances like high unemployment and inflation, as well as the clerical regime itself, experts say.

The size of the protests is much smaller than those of 2009, but Iranian lawyer and Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi told Italian newspaper La Repubblica Sunday she believes "the protests are not going to end soon" and could very well swell.

At the moment though, writes Reza Marashi, research director for the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), "these protests more closely resemble a continuation of Iran's long-standing civil rights movement rather than an attempt to overthrow the government."

The actions over the past days have also sparked statements by war hawks spouting newfound concern for the Iranian people and human rights abuses.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who joked about bombing Iran a decade ago, tweeted: "The U.S. stands with the brave protesters who yearn for freedom, peace, and an end to corruption in Iran." Nuclear deal foe and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley praised the "Iranian people [who] are now finding their voice." Lindsey Graahm, who once called Iranians "cheaters and liars," said the protests show the Iran nuclear deal isn't working and that he would lay out what a "better deal would look like, and I would stand with the Iranian people the entire time." Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu even wished "the Iranian people success in their noble quest for freedom."

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert tweeted that "Secretary Tillerson reiterates the United States' deep respect for the Iranian people. We call on all nations to stand with us in demanding the regime respect their basic human rights." The tweet came less than two weeks after it was revealed that Tillerson told State Dept. employees that allies and adversaries should get different treatment for human rights abuses.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and Iran bombing advocate John Bolton said clearly that regime change should be the goal of the protests, and praised Trump for "taking the side of the demonstrators." 

Commentators on social media were quick to point out the shallowness of such calls from right-wingers:

According to Trita Parsi, founder and president of the NIAC, "there are still more questions than answers" about the ongoing protests.

But Marashi says one thing is clear: "Washington would be wise to acknowledge the limits of its power inside Iran. Policymakers and pundits cannot change this simple truth: The problems are Iranian, the protestors are Iranian, and the solution will be Iranian."

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