Former Iranian president Ahmadinejad says embattled Rouhani must step aside

Add Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the growing list of Iranians who believe Hassan Rouhani must go.

Following days of protests across the Islamic Republic, the former president took to his Telegram social media account Thursday to blast his successor, casting Rouhani as someone untrustworthy and unfit to lead.

“Your continued presence is at the expense of the country,” Ahmadinejad said in a video, according to a translation by the Associated Press.

On Wednesday, Iranian lawmakers already voted to sack Rouhani’s labor minister. And uncertainty resulting from the U.S. pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal has led Iran’s already sluggish economy to worsen.

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Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran from 2005 to 2013, was blocked from running in last year’s presidential election. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had urged Ahmadinejad not to run and a clerical council tasked with vetting candidates later disqualified him, Al Jazeera reported.

The comments Thursday from Ahmadinejad comes amidst a turbulent period for Iran in which analysts have been left wondering if a regime change is on the horizon.

Videos circulating on social media purportedly taken from inside Iran in recent days show thousands of protesters marching through the streets. In one video, crowds leaving a soccer match are heard yelling “death to the dictator! Death to Khamenei! Death to Rouhani!” and “Islamic regime must get lost!” according to a translation tweeted by a Middle East analyst.

Another video said to be taken in Tehran shows idle buses lined up as far as the eye can see, with the same analyst reporting Iran’s government has refused to pay back its debts to a contractor that gives the drivers fuel, leaving them – and the thousands of Iranians they would have been transporting – stranded.

President Trump signed an executive order on Monday to restore some of the sanctions that were lifted under the 2015 nuclear deal during the Obama administration, targeting transactions that involve U.S. dollars, as well as the country’s automotive sector, the purchase of commercial planes and metals including gold.

A senior Trump administration official told Fox News earlier this week that the reintroduced sanctions are designed to constrict the revenue Tehran uses to fund “terrorists, dictators, proxy militias, and the regime’s own cronies.”

The uncertainty caused by the re-imposition of the sanctions have proved devastating for the Iranian economy, which was already weakened by decades of previous sanctions and mismanagement and theft by high-ranking officials. Iran’s rial now trades over double its government-set rate to the U.S. dollar, the Associated Press reported, and has lost nearly 80 percent of its value compared to last year at this time, according to the New York Times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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