'The World Is Watching': Trump Praises 'Peaceful' Protests in Iran, Warns Regime

'Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime's corruption,' Trump tweets after two consecutive days of protests against Iran's strained economy

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani attends the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's Extraordinary Summit in Istanbul, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017.
Emrah Yorulmaz/Pool Photo via AP

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted out his support early Saturday for the spontaneous protests against Iran’s strained economy that swept across the Islamic Republic Friday and Thursday.

"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," he wrote. "Iranian govt should respect their people's rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching! #IranProtests."

The economic protests began Thursday, sparked by social media posts and a surge in prices of basic food supplies, like eggs and poultry. Thousands went into the streets in several cities in Iran, beginning first in Mashhad, the country's second-largest city and a holy site for Shi’ite pilgrims. In Tehran, Iran’s capital, several protesters were reportedly arrested.

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The spontaneous demonstrations appear to be the largest to strike the Islamic Republic since its 2009 Green Movement arose over allegations of voter fraud in the re-election of hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, information about them remains scarce as both state-run and semi-official media in Iran have not widely reported on the protests.

It's unclear what effect Trump's support for the demonstrations would have. Iranians already are largely skeptical of him over his refusal to re-certify Iran's nuclear deal with world powers. Trump's insistence in an October speech on using the term "Arabian Gulf" in place of the Persian Gulf also has also riled the Iranian public.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's comments in June to Congress saying American is working toward "support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government" has been used by Iran's government of a sign of foreign interference in its internal politics.

The State Department issued a statement Friday supporting the protests, referencing Tillerson's earlier comments.

"Iran's leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos," the statement said.