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December 31, 2017 1:13 pm

US Leads Support for Biggest Wave of Protest in Iran Since 2009 Uprising

avatar by Ben Cohen

Protestors gathered outside Iran’s embassy in London on New Year’s Eve. Photo: Eddie Keogh/Reuters.

As anti-regime demonstrations spread to more than thirty Iranian cities on Sunday, American officials continued to express their support for the biggest grassroots challenge to the ruling mullahs since the crushing of the pro-democracy movement in 2009.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley was the latest high-level American representative to give unambiguous backing to the demonstrators, in a statement released on Sunday.

A map shared by Iranian activists on social media showing the locations of anti-regime protests. Image via @lisadaftari.

“In the New Year, our hopes and prayers are with the millions of people who are suffering terribly from oppressive governments in North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, and especially in Iran, where the long-repressed Iranian people are now finding their voice,” Haley declared.

“The Iranian government is being tested by its own citizens,” Haley continued. “We pray that freedom and human rights will carry the day.”

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The Ambassador’s comments echoed earlier statements from American leaders, including President Donald Trump, who issued a flurry of tweets warning the Iranian regime – as reports emerged of violent crackdowns by Iranian security forces – that “the world is watching.”

“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,” Trump said in one tweet. “Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching! #IranProtests”

In another tweet, Trump observed that “Iran’s people are what their leaders fear most.” Trump also pointed out that ordinary Iranians are increasingly angered by the Tehran’s regime financial backing for pro-Iranian proxies throughout the region – such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq – at the expense of their own welfare.

One of the most popular anti-war chants of the 2009 protests – “Not Gaza, Not Lebanon, My Life for Iran” – is now being heard again on the streets of Iran’s cities.

Other leading American politicians to come out in support of the protestors included veteran Republican Senator John McCain – a stalwart critic of the Iranian regime, as well as of the previous Obama Administration’s attempts, such as its signature 2015 nuclear deal, to normalize relations with Tehran.

“For too long, the Iranian people have been oppressed by their government, which cares more about sowing instability abroad than its own citizens,” McCain said. “The US stands with the brave protesters who yearn for freedom, peace, and an end to corruption in Iran.”

Meanwhile, former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton tweeted, “The Iranian people, especially the young, are protesting for the freedom and future they deserve. I hope their government responds peacefully and supports their hopes.”

Many leading advocates of diplomatic engagement with Iran were silent on the latest protests, however. As of Sunday, no statement had been issued by Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s high representative for foreign policy, nor Europe’s main foreign ministries – although British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson did tweet that he was watching “events in Iran with concern.”

“Vital that citizens should have the right to demonstrate peacefully,” Johnson said.

On social media, Iranian activists drew attention to a petition to former President Barack Obama urging him to voice support for the protests. The petition noted that in 2009, Iranians who took to the streets had pleaded for the president’s support by chanting, “Obama, Obama ya ba oona, ya ba ma.”

“At the time, you made a choice not to take a public position on these protests,” the petition stated.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry bitterly attacked the global expressions of support for the protests, now in their fourth day. Addressing reporters in Tehran, spokesman Bahram Qassemi slammed Trump’s comments as “cheap, ‎worthless, and invalid.”

Qassemi also denounced an official Canadian statement that described Ottawa as “encouraged by the Iranian people who are exercising their basic right to protest peacefully.”

“The Islamic Republic of Iran regards the meddlesome stance of the Canadian government as a violation of that country’s legal and international commitments,” Qassemi said.

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