Iran expert: Trump's foreign policy approach aimed at instigating 'unrest'

Iran expert Trita Parsi on Wednesday said that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says his advice to impeachment defense team is 'just be honest' Trump expands tariffs on steel and aluminum imports CNN's Axelrod says impeachment didn't come up until 80 minutes into focus group MORE’s hardline approach towards Iran is “aimed at fomenting unrest” in the country amid ongoing protests.

Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have been on the rise ever since Trump pulled out of an Obama-era nuclear deal in 2018 and reimposed economic sanctions on Tehran.

Parsi said when you put this type of pressure on a country, governments tend to “become more repressive in order to retain power,” adding that the Iranian people have now begun to lose their faith in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

“People’s faith in Rouhani and his ability to be able to change the situation has really been shattered and in the next election, we may very well end up seeing another version of Mohammad Khatami becoming president in Iran,” Parsi told Hill.TV. 

He said this shift in public perception is a “direct consequence” of Trump pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal.

“Instead of seeing more moderate elements in Iran being able to gain more influence and more standing in power, we’ve seen the opposite,” he added.

Parsi is the founder and former president of the National Iranian American Council. He now runs the think tank Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, which aims to promote diplomacy and ideas "that move U.S. foreign policy away from endless war." 

His comments come after Amnesty International reported that at least 208 people have being killed since demonstrations broke out in Iran last month, but noted that this figure is likely to be higher.

The demonstrations were first fueled over an increase in gas prices. Protestors are now calling for the removal of the Iran leaders.

President Trump has weighed in on the escalating situation.

Trump on Tuesday clarified U.S. support for Iranian protestors after he initially appeared to indicate otherwise during a meeting with French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronGerman president expresses 'sorrow' for Holocaust, warns 'spirits of evil' are rising Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Apple reportedly dropped plans to let iPhone users encrypt backups | Justices decline facial recognition case | Critics fear Facebook losing misinformation fight | Truce on French tech tax On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Trump at Davos warns Europe on trade | President boasts about US economy to global elite | Experts say Trump trade victories may yield little growth MORE at a NATO gathering in London.

"The United States of America supports the brave people of Iran who are protesting for their FREEDOM. We have under the Trump Administration, and always will!" Trump tweeted.

The Trump administration has previously spoken out against Iran for its crackdown on protestors.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo explodes at NPR reporter, asks if she could find Ukraine on a map Huawei endangers Western values The Hill's 12:30 Report: Democrats turn to obstruction charge MORE last week issued a statement of support for Iranian protestors and condemned Tehran’s decision to shut off internet in parts of the country.

— Tess Bonn