Day: January 1, 2018


In response to protests in Iran, President Trump is calling for regime change:

The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most….

Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. The world is watching!

He is also suggesting that the United States might do something about oppression:

Big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!

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!

Is this wise?

As regular readers will know, I am an enthusiast for civil resistance. Not only because people have the right to express their views, but also because nonviolent protests are the safest and best way to promote democratic reform. While Iran experts are still debating the character and significance of the last week of protests in Iranian cities, it is clear that at least some of them, while triggered by economic disappointment, are also seeking political change, targeting in particular the Islamic Republic and its Supreme Leader.

Supreme Leader Khamenei has so far been silent. President Rouhani has defended the right to protest but also warned against violence and disorder. The internet has been either blocked or slowed. At least a dozen people have been killed, apparently by the security forces. They could still react more forcefully. The last time widespread protests erupted in Iran, in 2009, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps rolled out the pro-regime paramilitary forces known as the basij, who beat and shot protesters into submission.

Former Obama Administration official Phil Gordon thinks Trump speaking out in favor of the protesters will do more harm than good. I agree. It tars them with an American brush that many Iranians despise: a president whom they perceive as unreliable and reprehensible, because of his opposition to the nuclear deal and his concerted efforts to deny Tehran the benefits of it. In order to be effective, the protests need to have an entirely indigenous flavor. The regime will rejoice if they come to be seen as instruments of American foreign policy, especially if the source for that impression is Trump.

No doubt the President figures he is a winner either way. If the protests succeed and lead to real change in Iran, he’ll claim credit and point to the contrast with President Obama’s restrained reaction in 2009. I can hear the chest thumping already. If they fail, he can complain bitterly about repression and heighten his rhetoric against the Islamic Republic.

But the truth is the President is undermining pillars of democracy at home and abroad by harsh attacks on the US press and independence of the US judiciary as well as his affection for would-be autocrats in Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Russia, and elsewhere. He has no standing at home or abroad for a pro-democracy Twitter campaign that lacks any serious follow-through. Rested from five or six days of golf at one of his own resorts, Trump is starting the New Year with the same lack of wisdom that has characterized his presidency since last January 20.

PS: Vice President Pence has now chimed in:

As long as is POTUS and I am VP, the United States of America will not repeat the shameful mistake of our past when others stood by and ignored the heroic resistance of the Iranian people as they fought against their brutal regime.

The bold and growing resistance of the Iranian people today gives hope and faith to all who struggle for freedom and against tyranny. We must not and we will not let them down.

This certainly implies that Washington will do something more than tweet. What is that? Where is the game plan? How will we not let them down?

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