On Persian New Year, Trump slams Iranian rulers

Holiday celebrates arrival of spring

By SABA HAMEDY, CNN
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

U.S. President Donald Trump departs from the White House after answering questions from the media about his firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on March 13, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Donald Trump had a message to Iranians celebrating Persian New Year, known as Nowruz: Your country's government is corrupt.

He began the statement wishing "a beautiful and blessed Nowruz" to people across the globe, but went on to slam Iran's government and military leaders. The holiday, which this year falls on Tuesday, marks the arrival of spring. It's celebrated by millions across the globe.

"The history of Nowruz is rooted in Iran, where for millennia a proud nation has overcome great challenges by the strength of its culture and the resilience of its people," Trump said in a statement released Monday. "Today, the Iranian people face another challenge: rulers who serve themselves instead of serving the people."

He called out the Iranian regime's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, calling it a "hostile army that brutalizes and steals from the Iranian people to fund terrorism abroad."

He accused the guard corps of spending "Iran's wealth" to support "the Assad regime and support militants and terrorists in Syria, Iraq and Yemen" rather than the "ordinary Iranians" who "struggle economically and find it difficult to celebrate holidays like Nowruz."

"Deceit has become official state policy," Trump added. "To hide the truth, Iran's rulers suppress their own citizens' rights to free assembly, access to information, and equal opportunity. "

The statement came as the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal approaches reauthorization next month. While speaking with reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday, Trump provided little clarity on what he will do with the deal.

"The Iran deal is coming up. It is probably another month or so and you are going to see what I do," Trump said, sitting next to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Trump said Iran had not been treating the region and the world "appropriately."

"A lot of bad things are happening in Iran," he said. "The deal is coming up in one month and you will see what happens."

Trump's tone in this year's Nowruz message was a stark contrast from last year's, when he called the Iranian-American community "one of the most successful immigrant groups in our country's contemporary history."

"It is an occasion to celebrate new beginnings," he wrote of Nowruz in that statement. "A sentiment that is particularly meaningful for so many Iranians who have come to our country in recent decades to make a new start in a free land."

The Trump administration's travel ban -- which will be challenged at the Supreme Court in April -- places varying levels of restrictions on foreign nationals from eight countries, including Iran.

Without mentioning Trump by name, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif appeared to tweet a response to the President's comments Tuesday.

"With millennia of civilization, Iranians have the historical depth to ignore the absurd insults of an arriviste leader; one whose entire command of history, politics and diplomacy can be condensed into 280 characters - but even so, still superior to his juvenile royal stooge," Zarif wrote.

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