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Iranian students protest at the University of Tehran during a demonstration driven by anger over economic problems, in the capital Tehran on December 30, 2017. Students protested in a third day of demonstrations sparked by anger over Iran's economic problems, videos on social media showed, but were outnumbered by counter-demonstrators. / AFP PHOTO / STR (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
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An Iranian woman walks past a mural depicting the Statue of Liberty with a dead face, painted on the wall of the former US embassy in the capital Tehran on August 7, 2018 - US President Donald Trump warned countries against doing business with Iran today as he hailed the "most biting sanctions ever imposed", triggering a mix of anger, fear and defiance in Tehran. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)
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Story highlights

Trump was apparently referring to deals negotiated in the wake of the Iran nuclear agreement

The US State Department lists Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism

CNN —  

President Donald Trump said Tuesday the US is watching the “brutal and corrupt Iranian regime” amid deadly protests in the country, continuing his public support for anti-government demonstrations.

“The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime,” Trump tweeted. “All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their ‘pockets.’ The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!”

Trump was apparently referring to the Obama administration’s unfreezing of certain Iranian assets and payment of a cash settlement related to a legal claim on those assets that was negotiated in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal. The money was Iranian money that had been frozen by the US following the revolution.

While there’s no evidence to suggest Iran used that money directly to fund terrorism, the US State Department lists Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. There is no evidence the money was used to enrich government officials.

Trump has voiced criticism of the Iranian regime since protests broke out in the country several days ago, earning a rebuke from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who said Monday the US President has no right to sympathize with Iran because he has called the Iranian people “terrorists,” according to Iran’s semi-official Tasnim News Agency.

On Sunday, state television broadcast Rouhani saying that Trump is “constantly creating problems” for Iranians, including with regard to visas and financial issues.

And on Tuesday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed Iran’s “enemies” for stirring up unrest in the country, though he didn’t mention Trump by name.

The leaders’ tit-for-tat follows a weekend of escalating rhetoric in response to the protests and violence in Iran, with Trump warning Sunday that the United States is watching Tehran’s treatment of protesters for human rights violations after anti-government protests turned deadly.

Iran’s government on Saturday warned its citizens against holding “illegal” public gatherings, following rare anti-government protests that spread to a number of cities.

The protests – described as the largest public display of discontent since the 2009 Green Movement in Iran – have emerged against a backdrop of rising food and gasoline prices.

CNN’s Laura Koran, Daniella Diaz and Dan Merica contributed to this report.