'World is watching,' Trump warns Iran as protests rattle cities

TEHRAN, Farshid Motahari (dpa)– US President Donald Trump has warned Tehran that "the world is watching," after at least six Iranian cities were rocked by anti-government protests on Friday.
"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 wrote on Twitter, echoing an earlier White House statement.

"Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching!" he continued.
Iranian media reported that demonstrators turned out again on Friday, despite warnings from security officials after clashes between protesters and police and dozens of arrests a day earlier.
Videos on social media networks showed protesters chanting slogans against the country's governing clerics including "Shame on you mullahs, leave our country in peace."
In the western city of Hamedan, demonstrators shouted "Death to the dictators." Hundreds also reportedly joined protests in Rasht, a city on the Caspian Sea.
The videos could not be independently verified.
President Hassan Rowhani reportedly cancelled a Friday meeting with the parliamentary speaker because of the protests. There were also reports that he would hold a crisis meeting with his Cabinet.
Iran's security officials had warned protesters against further demonstrations after clashes on Thursday between protesters and police in three cities in the country's north-eastern province of Razavi Khorasan.
"There is no authorization for such protests," Mohsen Hamedani, security chief of Tehran Governorship, was quoted by the Tasnim news agency as saying, adding that police would take "strict action" should protests nevertheless take place.
Hamedani accused Iranian opposition groups abroad of being behind the protest calls.
Media reports said hundreds - and social media posts claimed thousands - of people took part in Thursday's protests in the cities of Mashhad, Iran's second most populous city, Nishapur and Kashmar.
As many as 50 people were reportedly arrested after clashes took place between protesters and the police and security forces in Mashhad's Shohada Square.
The US State Department said it "strongly condemns the arrest of peaceful protesters."
Protesters' grievances reportedly included the high cost of living, unemployment and Tehran's policies in the Middle East.
"Not Gaza, not Syria, not Lebanon, we will only sacrifice ourselves for Iran" and "Instead of solutions for Syria, solutions for our own country," protesters chanted.
Iran is one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main allies and supports him militarily, and is also a key backer of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement.
Critics have accused Tehran of putting its anti-Israel policies and support for the Palestinians, the Syrian regime and Lebanon above its own national interest.
Some of the protesters in Mashhad blamed Rowhani for not pushing through economic reforms despite making a breakthrough agreement with the international community in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
Vice President Ishagh Djahangiri accused Iran's hardliners of instigating the protests, the ISNA news agency reported, quoting him as saying that the country's economic problems were being used as a pretext to hinder Rowhani's political reforms.

Sunday, December 31st 2017
Farshid Motahari

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