WASHINGTON – For the past several years, the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, has drawn short and simple statements of warm springtime greetings from the US government. Not so this year from the Trump administration.

Addressing the Iranian people, US President Donald Trump said that citizens of the proud nation of Iran today face “rulers who serve themselves instead of serving the people” – a government that “brutalizes and steals” from its citizens and fundamentally corrupts and mismanages the country.

“Twenty-five centuries ago, Darius the Great asked God to protect Iran from three dangers: hostile armies, drought and falsehood,” Trump said. “Today, the Iranian regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps represents all three.

“Since 2012, the IRGC has spent more than $16 billion of Iran’s wealth to prop up the Assad regime and support militants and terrorists in Syria, Iraq and Yemen,” the statement continues. “Meanwhile, the average Iranian family is 15% poorer today than it was 10 years ago, and nearly 30% of Iran’s youth are unemployed.

Ordinary Iranians struggle economically and find it difficult to celebrate holidays like Nowruz.”

Trump reiterated his support for protesters who came to the streets at the start of the year with economic woes, saying they “are fighting to reclaim their rights.

“They long for a springtime of hope, and the United States stands with the Iranian people in their aspirations to connect to the wider world and have a responsible and accountable government that truly serves their nation’s interests,” he said.

The State Department issued a shorter, less sharpened statement, wishing Iranians – as well as those celebrating throughout Central Asia – “best wishes as they gather around the Haftsin [arrangement of seven symbolic items traditionally displayed at Nowruz], cooking, feasting, dancing, singing, and spending time with family and friends.”

Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, used his Nowruz messages to appeal to the Iranian people for better relations, and after brokering a nuclear deal with Tehran and international powers in 2015, to laud the agreement.

The current president is weighing whether to scrap the agreement in May.