In stark contrast to Obama, Trump looks to foment revolution in Iran
In 2009, when millions took to the streets in Iran to protest a rigged election, President Obama remained relatively silent, refusing to encourage the protesters and giving tacit approval to the subsequent brutal crackdown by Iranian authorities. Many on the left applauded this policy of non-interference, claiming that because Iranians hated the U.S. so much, any support to the protests given by an American president would be counterproductive.
Donald Trump is receiving some of the same advice today. The underlying assumption of American policy for more than 30 years has been that the Iranian revolution and the theocratic regime are permanent and the U.S. must accept the extremist Islamists currently in power.
Trump has rejected that longstanding policy, and in addition to his strong support for the demonstrators being cut down in the streets, his administration is keeping a close eye on the progress of protesters, looking to take advantage of any opportunity to support revolution.
The protests, which began last week, have mostly centered on economic frustrations among Iranian citizens who feel [that] the ruling regime has failed to invest in the country. While Iran has spent billions of the cash windfalls it received from the landmark nuclear deal on a massive military buildup, it seems little of that money has been reinvested in the Iranian economy, which remains in shambles following years of economic sanctions by the West.
The Trump administration is not seeking to repeat what it described as the Obama administration's failure to support demonstrators who could eventually topple the clerical ruling regime of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
"While Obama administration officials continue to double down on [the Obama administration's] failed, passive approach to past freedom uprisings in Iran, President Trump and Vice President Pence are making clear to the world that they will not turn their backs on the freedom-seeking protesters," one senior administration official told the Free Beacon on Tuesday, after reports claimed [that] another nine protesters were killed and at least 450 arrested.
"The Trump administration's strong and vocal support for the demonstrators is a 180 from the Obama administration's approach and it's signaling to Tehran that this will not be a repeat of the 2009 demonstrations," the administration official said.
Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, have criticized Trump and Pence for using social media to support the protesters.
"Overt and covert support of the U.S., the Zionist regime[,] and Saudi Arabia for the rioters and vandals helped the Iranian people differentiate between the peaceful protesters and the foreign-stimulated rioters," General Ramezan Sharif, spokesman for Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, or IRGC, said in a statement carried by the country's state-controlled press.
Pence has been particularly vocal about ensuring [that] the White House takes steps to help incubate protests that could lead to revolution.
"As long as [Trump] is [president] and I am [vice president], 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," Pence tweeted on Monday.
There is an inherent risk in the U.S. backing a revolution in Iran as opposed to supporting reform of the current regime. The situation could devolve into a bloody mess, with Iran and most of the world blaming the U.S. instead of the government. That probably doesn't concern Trump as much as the reality that support we give for revolution raises a fundamental question: what can we realistically do to help?
Aside from rhetorical support and perhaps some clandestine assistance, there is no decisive way for the U.S. to intervene and assist in the overthrow of the regime. We could go to the U.N. and get the Security Council to condemn any government crackdown, but that would be of no use to the revolutionaries. We might look to arm the revolutionaries through third parties, but against tanks and a trained army, all that would do is raise the body count.
There is something important to be said for giving all the moral support we can to the Iranian protesters. Even if the protests fail this time, you can pretty much guarantee that the next round of demonstrations won't take nine years to percolate. If we look at an Iranian revolution as a long-term project, the regime will eventually hang itself with its own oppression of the people.
To those who think there is no chance ever for protesters to overthrow the powerful mullahs, one need only look at the 1979 revolution, where the Shah had the backing of the army and secret police, but demonstrators were able to lever him out of power.