US President Donald Trump will suffocate Iran's "dictatorial ayatollahs", his close ally Rudy Giuliani said on Saturday, suggesting his move to re-impose sanctions was aimed squarely at regime change.
The former New York mayor who is now Trump's personal lawyer was addressing a conference of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella bloc of groups of exiled Iranians opposed to the Islamic Republic.
"We are now realistically being able to see an end to the regime in Iran," Giuliani said, pointing to recent protests in the country sparked by a currency collapse after Trump pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal. Giuliani added:
When the greatest economic power stops doing business with you then you collapse … and the sanctions will become greater, greater and greater
At the same conference last year, John Bolton, who was appointed Trump's National Security Advisor in April this year, told NCRI members they would be ruling Iran before 2019.
Bolton, who at the time was with the American Enterprise Institute think tank, told Fox News in January: "Our goal should be regime change in Iran."
But, freshly appointed to the Trump administration, he told ABC's "This Week" in May: "That's not the policy of the administration. The policy of the administration is to make sure that Iran never gets close to deliverable nuclear weapons."
European countries which signed the 2015 Iran deal along with the United States, Russia and China, are sticking with it, saying the agreement prevents Iran developing weapons-grade nuclear fuel. But Giuliani said Europe should be "ashamed" of itself.
"This president doesn't intend to turn his back on freedom fighters. The end of appeasement is over," he told the conference of the NCRI, whose main faction is the People's Mujahideen Organisation of Iran (PMOI) once deemed a terrorist group by Washington and Europe.
Maryam Rajavi, who heads the group, told reporters:
Regime change in Iran is within reach as never before … The wheels of change have started turning.
In Tehran, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Trump would fail in any attempt to turn the Iranian people against the ruling system.
"They bring to bear economic pressure to separate the nation from the system … but six US presidents before him (Trump) tried this and had to give up," Khamenei said on his website.