Close allies of U.S. President Donald Trump have told a "Free Iran" rally in Paris that the end of the Iranian regime is near and that sanctions against the country will be "greater, greater, and greater."
"We are now realistically being able to see an end to the regime in Iran," legal adviser Rudy Giuliani said on June 30 at the rally, organized by exiled opponents including the former rebel People's Mujahedin, which is banned in Iran.
Giuliani pointed to recent protests that have erupted in Iran amid continued financial hardships following Trump's decision to pull out of the 2015 nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.
"When the greatest economic power stops doing business with you, then you collapse...and the sanctions will become greater, greater and greater," Giuliani said.
Giuliani said he did not support arming the Iranian opposition, saying that Trump should instead slap more sanctions on Tehran to suffocate Iran's "dictatorial ayatollahs."
"Anybody who thinks the ayatollahs are honest people is a fool. They are crooks...," he said, taking aim at U.S. allies that continue to work with Iran, saying they should be "ashamed."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican and strong Trump backer, told the same rally that "the only way to safety in the region is to replace the dictatorship with a democracy and that has to be our goal."
While saying he did not speak for the U.S. administration, he added, "It seems to me there would be a rather happy celebration should regime change occur."
Gingrich, Giuliani, and other hard-line U.S. politicians have in recent years been paid to speak at the annual rally, which was officially sponsored by the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), an umbrella bloc of groups of exiled Iranians opposed to the government in Tehran.
Maryam Rajavi, leader of the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (aka Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization, MKO), told reporters, "Regime change in Iran is within reach as never before, a bright future without execution, torture, discrimination, and suppression.”
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a statement saying that Trump would fail to turn the Iranian people against the government.
"They bring to bear economic pressure to separate the nation from the system...but six U.S. presidents before him tried this and had to give up," he said.
Protests have surfaced in Iran as economic difficulties mount in the wake of Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal and the subsequent pullout of companies worried of facing U.S. sanctions.
Trump had long opposed the landmark nuclear team that was signed by six world powers and Iran during the administration of his predecessor, Barack Obama.
The deal provided Tehran with relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program. But Trump claimed the terms did not sufficiently deter Tehran from continued testing of ballistic missiles and supporting extremists in the region.
Iran denied the allegations and has consistently said its nuclear program was for civilian purposes.