President Donald Trump denied a desire for regime change in Iran during his recent visit to Japan saying, “I know so many people from Iran, these are great people, it has a chance to be a great country, with the same leadership.” The denial appears to have annoyed Iranian opposition and affected the United States' perceived reliability.
Although Trump and other U.S. officials previously stated that they do not want regime change, the stress on the words, "with the same leadership," has clearly bothered many Iranian opposition figures who reacted in different ways, generally ruling out the United States' influence and ability to bring about political change in Iran, stressing that change must come from within.
Without mentioning Trump or his remarks, Prince Reza Pahlavi, the heir to the last Shah of Iran, tweeted: "The only determining power in Iran is the power of the nation. No foreign government cares for Iran. They will prefer their own interests over Iran's interests. Nevertheless, no foreign government can determine Iran's fate against the will of its nation."
Arash Sobhani, linked to the royalist opposition group Farashgard, also suggested that the opposition had better focus their energy on creating an all-encompassing unity and asking all those who support change in Iran to forget about their differences and think only of Iran.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Mark Dubowitz, the Chief Executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, tweeted similar sentiments to most Iranian opposition members, "Trump is right: Iranians are a 'great people'. Trump is wrong: the Islamic Republic 'has a chance to be a great country with the same leadership.' The only way for Iran to be a great country is without the Islamic Republic."
London-based former Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani, still a regime supporter despite living in exile, wrote that, "With Trump's remarks, the opposition has understood that they should not rely on foreigners."
A Twitter user tweeting under the alias Revenant, wrote, "If America was our friend, it would not have staged a revolution in Iran in 1979." The tweet added that the U.S. will never topple a regime that facilitates sales of American arms in the region.
Bardia Sepand, founder of the Iranian National Civil Resistance and Disobedience, suggested that “all royalists and republican opposition groups should avoid relying on foreigners," while accusing other groups of dependency on the White House or Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's administration.
Meanwhile, BBC Persian, a TV channel broadcasting to Iran from London, observed in a report that, "Following the United States new military posture in the region, few Iranians expected Trump to make such a remark."
In a tweet promoting the BBC’s report about mixed messages regarding Iran coming from the White House, the popular channel's Twitter account asked whether the Iranian opposition, particularly the part of it that wants a regime change, can still rely on the Trump administration.