U.S. President Donald Trump used an annual message to Iranians celebrating their New Year's holiday known as Norouz to attack Iran's government and powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Norouz is Iran's biggest national holiday and is celebrated with family gatherings, vacations, and gift-giving. It is also celebrated in nations bordering Iran and elsewhere around the world.
"I wish a beautiful and blessed Norouz to the millions of people around the world who are celebrating the arrival of spring," Trump said in his message late on March 19.
But he added that he believes the Iranian people are burdened by "rulers who serve themselves instead of serving the people."
Trump called the Revolutionary Guards, in particular, "a hostile army that brutalizes and steals from the Iranian people to fund terrorism abroad."
Trump said the Guards have spent more than $16 billion to prop up Syria's government and support militant Shi'ite groups in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.
He also accused the Guards of impoverishing Iran's people, damaging its environment, and suppressing civil rights.
The harsh language contrasted with Trump's Norouz statement last year, which made no mention of politics.
The U.S. State Department on March 19 issued a more traditional Norouz greeting while using the occasion to praise Iranians who earlier this year staged street protests against the government that fizzled out after being suppressed by authorities.
"In the past year, I have drawn inspiration from the Iranian people who are making their voices heard by protesting for freedom, dignity, and respect for human rights," said Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.
"The United States supports those seeking to reclaim their fundamental freedoms of expression, religion, and peaceful assembly," he said.
"Norouz is a time to reflect on our hopes for the future. May the coming year bring peace, freedom, and prosperity to all," Sullivan said.
Sullivan said he extended Norouz greetings not only to Iranians but to "all of the communities here in the United States, as well as in Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and around the globe as they gather around the Haftsin, cooking, feasting, dancing, singing, and spending time with family and friends."