Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called on Iranians in their fourth day of street rioting to restore order, telling the nation in a broadcast speech that Iran is a free nation “based on the Constitution.” He said that while people are free to demonstrate, it’s not permissible to resort to violence or damage property. The reference to damaging property follows days of attacks against public buildings and banks in cities across the nation. What began as protests against the rising cost of living has escalated into a general anti-government/anti-corruption movement, albeit absent cohesive and focused leadership. A testament to the seriousness of the demonstrations and the mindset of the protesters is the anti-Ayatollah rhetoric being heard in the streets. Chants calling for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to resign are not only rare, but dangerous. On Sunday, shouts of “Death to the dictator” were also heard. Two demonstrators in the city of Dorud have been killed and throughout the country numerous injuries have been reported. Iranians are blaming the Rouhani government for failing to deliver the improvements and economic prosperity the president promised during the May election campaign – much of it resulting from the nuclear agreement negotiated with the United States and other Western nations. But so far it hasn’t come, largely due to sanctions still in place and the refusal of prudent investors to deal with Iran for fear that President Trump will end the agreement as he promised during his election campaign. On Sunday, President Trump became the target of Rouhani vitriol after the American leader tweeted his support for those rioting against the government. A news agency reported that in a cabinet meeting Rouhani rebuffed President Trump saying, “those who called Iranians terrorists have no business sympathizing with our nation.”
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