US neoconservatives and liberal interventionists are pushing President Donald Trump to ratchet up pressure on Tehran, as protests sparked by economic stagnation continue for a fifth day in Iran.

New sanctions are possible, US deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran and Iraq, Andrew Peek, told VOA News. Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway confirmed the possibility in a Fox News appearance Tuesday.

Iran is “failing at every level,” Trump tweeted early Monday morning, adding “TIME FOR CHANGE!”

Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018

The White House is “keeping our options open,” Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters at the first briefing of the year Tuesday afternoon. “America longs for the day when Iranians will take their rightful place alongside the free peoples of the world.”

When pressed on whether the US wants regime change in Iran, Sanders said Washington wants to “see the people of Iran given basic human rights, and Iran to stop being a state sponsor of terrorism.”

Sanctions are just part of the US “tool kit,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday. “There are a range of options that we have going forward.”

The implied threats come just weeks before Trump has to decide whether he will certify that Iran is in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal. Despite Iran’s compliance, as verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the Trump administration has already imposed sanctions on Tehran, allegedly over its ballistic missile research. In October, Trump declined to recertify Iran’s compliance and announced additional sanctions.

As the US media fixate on the protests and the White House hints at sanctions, a group of both neoconservative hawks and liberal interventionists are imploring Trump to intervene, behind a veneer of concern for ordinary Iranians.

A joint Politico article penned by Mark Dubowitz of the neoconservative think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and Daniel Shapiro, who served as Israel’s ambassador to the US under the Obama administration, accuses Iran of being “socialist” and “stifling to private entrepreneurship,” and calls for “bipartisan statutes to target the regime for corruption through the Global Magnitsky Act” and “use sections 402 and 403 of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act as an act of “humility.”

The Washington Post’s neoconservative blogger Jennifer Rubin featured a call by former ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman to “make clear that the whole world is watching” and impose “cold war” style “targeted sanctions.” Rubin said Trump’s tweets threatening Iran “hit the right note,” marking probably the first time she has agreed with Trump on anything.

opponents and proponents of the JCPOA should get on the same page, while exercising a degree of humility — and without overestimating the degree to which U.S. actions influence the domestic situation in Iran

— Jennifer Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) January 2, 2018

“What’s more important than public statements are US policies that can inhibit the regime’s coercive capacity and their ability to black out communications,” senior fellow at the Carnegie Foundation, Karim Sadjadpour, wrote in The Atlantic.

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), who was filmed singing “bomb Iran” in 2007, called for an “end to corruption in Iran.”

For too long, the Iranian people have been oppressed by their government, which cares more about sowing instability abroad than its own citizens. The U.S. stands with the brave protesters who yearn for freedom, peace, and an end to corruption in Iran.

— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) December 30, 2017

As many journalists have pointed out, however, the pundits’ claims of concern for the well-being of Iranians appear to be hypocritical.

All of a sudden those who’ve supported draconian sanctions on the country & even ‘joked’ about bombing it (eg J. McCain) are professing their support for ‘the Iranian people’. Do they think we’ve all got brains the size of gnats and memories that only go back a few hours? #Iran

— Neil Clark (@NeilClark66) January 2, 2018

A neocon militant who spends his life lobbying for sanctions to ravage Iran’s economy and wreck the lives of average Iranians is surely sincere in his solidarity with Iranian protesters

— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) December 30, 2017

Also, try to watch ***Bill Kristol*** condescendingly lecture @tparsi about what The Iranian People really want, and what's really driving these protests, without vomiting. How can MSNBC deceive its viewers by presenting Bill Kristol as an authority on what is driving Iranians?

— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 2, 2018

It’s incredible with what speed the disparate group of Iranian protestors that have poppped less than a week ago have already found dozens of representatives in the US who can tell you what exactly what they want.

— Arash Karami (@thekarami) January 2, 2018

Richard Haass, head of the Council on Foreign Relations, wants us to educate Iranians about the cost of their “imperial foreign policy.”

In a 2000 speech called “Imperial America” Haass said the US needed an “imperial foreign policy” & was worried we wouldn’t spend enough on it.

— Jon Schwarz (@schwarz) January 1, 2018

Lol @ politicians who didn’t support the Iran deal, pushed for more sanctions, supported the travel ban, and spouted war-mongering nonsense claiming to care about Iranians. I can’t handle Twitter today.

— Elham Khatami (@ekhatami) December 31, 2017

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