Trump: 'Time for Change' in Iran; 'The U.S. Is Watching'

By Susan Jones | January 2, 2018 | 5:33am EST
President Donald Trump celebrates the passage of the Tax Cuts Act with Vice President Mike Pence, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on December 20, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

( - President Donald Trump weighed in on the anti-government protests taking place in Iran on Tuesday, tweeting: "The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their 'pockets.' The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!"

This followed a tweet on New Year's Day, when Trump wrote: "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!"

Press reports on Tuesday said 21 people have died in the past six days in clashes between protesters and Iranian security forces.

On Monday, Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN he agrees with President Trump that it's time for change in Iran:

I have been outspoken for years in favor of there being a regime change in Iran. What's really important to note within Iran is, you have millions of Iranians who want, desperately want, a free, stable, democratic Iran.

They're literally going back decades. They have been fighting, waiting for an opportunity, but fighting a dictatorial regime that has suppressed human rights, economic opportunity. They see money get squandered on pointless exercises outside of their own borders, and they want a better way of life for their people.

So, these people who are taking to the streets, it's just really important as we're watching it just to note that history and how desperate -- that we are witnessing literally millions of Iranians who want regime change for what seems to be all the right reasons.

CNN's Brianna Keilar asked Zeldin if the Trump administration should be more cautious in backing the Iranians who are demanding change, as President Barack Obama was in 2009.


Zeldin replied that it would be "very helpful" if Iran would hold truly democratic elections, allowing the Iranian people to "choose a better future for themselves."

"I have faith in the Iranian people, when given that opportunity to truly be able to elect those who are leading them in Tehran that they will be casting a vote for a different future, a better future for their country. We don't have to do that for the Iranians, but what we also want to be very careful about is, if we are too cautious to the point where we're actually propping up this current regime, and there's any missed opportunity of empowerment for those Iranians, that would be unfortunate at the same time."

Zeldin said he recently returned from a visit to Afghanistan, Kuwait and Jordan, and "there's a lot of concern (about) Iranian activities in those countries, among others.

"And these other Arab nations are deeply concerned with Iranian aggression. So, beyond Iran's rhetoric of calling the United States the great Satan, pledging death to America, are these real concerning activities of aggression within the Middle East."

On Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told CBS's "Face the Nation" that the unrest in Iran shows President Obama's approach to Islamic Republic -- lifting sanctions to encourage moderation --  has failed:

"The people are not getting the benefit of sanctions relief. They're more upset with their oppressors than ever," Graham said. "The money from sanction relief has gone into rebuilding the Iranian military and they're destabilizing the Mideast.

"So, if I were President Trump, I would have a nationwide address pretty soon explaining why the Iranian nuclear deal is a bad deal for the world, what a better deal would look like, and urge Congress and the European allies to get a better deal with Iran before it`s too late."

Graham said Trump should "do the exact opposite" of what Obama did regarding Iran:

Obama said, I don't want to get involved, I don't want to mess up the chance of getting a deal with Iran. Well, the deal with Iran hasn't worked. The money didn't to go benefit the people. It went to benefit the ayatollah and his henchmen.

The Iranian people are not our enemy. The ayatollah is the enemy of the world. Here is what I would do if I was President Trump. I would explain what a better deal would look like. It's not enough to watch. President Trump is tweeting very sympathetically to the Iranian people.

But you just can't tweet here. You have to lay out a plan. And if I were President Trump, I would lay out a plan as to how I would engage the regime. I would tell the Europeans and the Congress and the world that America is going to withdraw from this agreement unless it's a better deal. And I would lay out what a better deal would look like. And I would stand with the Iranian people the entire time.

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