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Amid violent protests, President Trump's opining on Iran unwelcome by some

In this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, a university student attends a protest inside Tehran University while a smoke grenade is thrown by anti-riot Iranian police, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. A wave of spontaneous protests over Iran's weak economy swept into Tehran on Saturday, with college students and others chanting against the government just hours after hard-liners held their own rally in support of the Islamic Republic's clerical establishment. (AP Photo)

Widespread protests are underway in Iran and in many cases, have turned violent.

A growing number of people have been killed and hundreds arrested in what are being called the largest demonstrations against the government in years.

President Donald Trump is throwing his support behind protesters, calling Iran a state sponsor of terror and violator of human rights.

Calling for the death of Iran’s president and its supreme leader, protesters spread in towns around the country have created a firestorm in more than one way.

Iran says Trump is adding gasoline. His recent tweets supporting demonstrators say it’s “time for change” and criticize the Obama administration for “foolishly” returning money to the regime by lifting sanctions from the nuclear deal. Either way, there’s a shift in the air.

Iranian expert Peter Clawson said that while the protests could dissipate, they do expose a weakness.

“The regime is discovering it doesn’t have the automatic support of the people who, in the past, it could count on,” Clawson said. “The Iranian government is presenting itself as the great power in the region, and it’s just not true.”

Though the government funds religious institutions, unemployment is high – as much as 25 percent among young people, according to some.

In the Arab Spring of 2011, similar concerns lead to change in Egypt and Libya, but in many ways, are still unstable. And in Iran even tougher leaders could take over.

“Many in the Iranian political elite have concluded that it would be a mistake to have some dramatic overthrow,” Clawson said. “However, what we’re seeing from the protesters is they’re now willing to put up with that; they want change faster than that.”

As President Trump waits to see if other allies will join him, his tweets aren’t sitting well with Iran’s leaders-- who already blame the United States for many of their problems, including the president’s travel ban.

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