As thousands of Iranians protest to express their disgust towards the downing of a civilian airliner by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Unit, US President Donald Trump warned the Tehran regime on Sunday, January 12, against killing of demonstrators.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper announced the president has left the door open to talks with Iran without preconditions.
“To the leaders of Iran – DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS,” Trump tweeted, warning that the world and “more importantly, the USA is watching.”
Trump’s salvo came as Iran’s Islamic regime faced a challenge from angry street protests, having come to the brink of war with the US after a series of tit-for-tat confrontations.
In an interview just before the tweet, Esper said Trump was still willing to hold talks with Iran’s leaders.
“We’re willing to sit down and discuss without precondition a new way forward, a series of steps by which Iran becomes a more normal country,” Esper said on CBS’s “Face the Nation”.
And if something happened to the protesters? Esper replied: “The president has drawn no preconditions other than to say we’re willing to meet with the Iranian government.”
Meanwhile, Teheran’s police chief said in a statement carried by the state broadcaster’s website on Monday that police in the Iranian capital did not fire on protesters and officers have been under orders to show restraint.
“At protests, police absolutely did not shoot because the capital’s police officers have been given orders to show restraint,” said Hossein Rahimi, head of the Tehran police.
However, videos on social media, posted late on Sunday, had recorded gunshots fired in the vicinity of protests and showed pools of blood.They also showed images of wounded people being carried by others.
It is known that it is not only the police who carries firearms and maintain law and order in the streets of Iran, as guard units and revolutionary militia loyal to the mullahs also implement their own brand of justice.
Long-standing US-Iran tensions have soared since Jan 3 when missiles fired from a US drone killed a top Iranian commander, Qasem Soleimani, near Baghdad’s airport.
Iran responded with a barrage of missiles at two US bases in Iraq, inflicting no casualties in what was seen as an attempt to prevent a spiral of escalation.
But hours later, an Iranian Revolutionary Guard unit shot down a Ukrainian passenger jet shortly after takeoff from Tehran airport.
The death of all 176 people aboard and Iran’s belated admission its forces mistook the plane for a cruise missile has set off angry protests against the regime. (Source: The Straits Times)