“Inspired By Your Courage”: Trump Tweets Support of Iranian Protesters
Iranians hit the streets this weekend, protesting the government immediately after Tehran finally admitted (with little other choice) that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard was responsible for accidentally downing a commercial jet on Wednesday night. After having denied culpability for days, the Iranian government was forced to take responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian airliner and killing all 176 people on board.
In remarks to Iranian state TV on Saturday, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh belatedly said that his IRGC unit takes “full responsibility” for the destruction of the jet. President Hassan Rouhani chalked the incident up to “human error” and apologized for the “great tragedy and unforgivable mistake.”
But these words rang hollow to the hundreds of protesters at universities across the country. Students and anti-government activists called for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to resign and chanted against the Iranian regime and the IRGC as a whole. Some held signs denigrating now-deceased Gen. Qassem Soleimani as a murderer and proclaimed “his leader” to be one as well. All in all, it was a much different scene than the carefully-orchestrated one that Iran stage-managed last week to make the world believe that Soleimani (and the Iranian regime) was a beloved and treasured institution.
President Trump was quick to assure the protesters that the U.S. was on their side.
“To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I’ve stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you. We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage,” Trump wrote in both English and Persian. “The government of Iran must allow human rights groups to monitor and report facts from the ground on the ongoing protests by the Iranian people. There cannot be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching.”
Trump’s tweets (which quickly became the most retweeted Persian-language messages in Twitter’s history) were echoed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“The voice of the Iranian people is clear,” Pompeo wrote. “They are fed up with the regime’s lies, corruption, ineptitude, and brutality of the IRGC under @khamenei_ir’s kleptocracy. We stand with the Iranian people who deserve a better future.”
That Iran is spinning out of control is obvious to anyone watching. On Saturday, they briefly arrested the British ambassador under suspicion of having instigated the protests. This fanatically-unwise decision drew ire from British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who said, “The arrest of our Ambassador in Tehran without grounds or explanation is a flagrant violation of international law. The Iranian government is at a cross-roads moment. It can continue its march towards pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to deescalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards.”
With their actions over the last weeks, Iran has managed to erode whatever relationship it had with Ukraine, Canada, the still-intact partners of the nuclear agreement, the United States, and now Britain. With their people on the verge of rising up, the regime is indeed at a cross-roads moment. That makes them incredibly vulnerable…but it also makes them especially dangerous.
Things could get dicey.