The significant demonstrations within Iran highlight the human rights shortcomings of former President Obama’s Mideast policy, which was centered around wooing Iran. Tragically, that strategy neither softened Tehran’s hatred of America, nor its intent to destroy U.S. allies in the region. Iran continues to support international terrorism and develop missiles capable of delivering nuclear or biological weapons of mass destruction.
The demonstrations appear to be widespread both geographically and in terms of popular support, even extending to the ruling Mullahs’ most significant regions of backing. Protests have occurred in cities such as Qom, which was the epicenter of the 1979 Islamist revolution and the base from which the current regime’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, destroyed Iran’s secular government in 1979.
The new perspective, openly critical of Iran’s leadership, brought about by the Trump Administration should not be overlooked in terms of its relevance to the confidence displayed by the Iranian protesters, who have been active in a half-dozen cities throughout the Islamist state.
The current U.S. State Department has been explicit in his comments about the Tehran regime for several months. In December, the State Department noted that “Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. As President Trump has said, the longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are Iran’s own people. The United States strongly condemns the arrest of peaceful protesters. We urge all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption.”
This was a follow-up to comments made by Secretary Tillerson to Congress last June, which, in a sharp departure from the Obama approach, noted: “The regime in Iran continues activities and interventions that destabilize the Middle East: support for the brutal Assad regime, funding militias and foreign fighters in Iraq and Yemen that 2 undermine legitimate governments, and arming terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threaten our ally Israel…” Tillerson also supported those within Iran seeking change: ‘those elements inside of Iran…would lead to a peaceful transition of government. Those elements are there, certainly as we know.’”
The Iran Project reports that Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi has criticized the Trump Administration’s description of the Tehran regime as a “terrorist nation.”
The Obama Administration essentially traded away support for Iranian reformers and turned a blind eye towards Iranian financing of terrorists in return for negotiations leading up to the eventual nuclear deal with Tehran, an agreement which has come under considerable criticism due to its failure to restrain that nation’s current missile program or its eventual atomic arms buildup. Rep. Robert Pittinger (R-NC), Vice Chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance, and Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism, believes that Obama’s “misguided agreement gives Iran a working path to continue developing nuclear weapons in just a few short years, while currently allowing Iran to continue development of long-range ballistic missiles that could reach anywhere in the world.”
Writing for the Jerusalem Post, Gil Hoffman reports that “Obama chose not to support the 2009 Iranian Green Protest Movement because he hoped to reach a deal with Iran on its nuclear weapons that he signed six years later, [Israel’s former ambassador to the U.S.] Deputy Minister Michael Oren … said…Obama’s failure to help Iranian protesters has been [criticized] …by Jewish Agency chairman and former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, who has called it the biggest failure to help human rights in modern history. … Oren notes that ‘The Obama administration’s lack of support for the Green Revolution was part of a pattern in which it did not hold Iran accountable for any provocation. It would seem it was part of a general approach that began in Obama’s first week in office in 2009 of wanting to reach a deal with Iran at pretty much any cost.’ Among the Iranian provocations ignored by the Obama administration, Oren listed the crackdown on the protesters, the kidnapping of Americans, having their missile boats provocatively approach American destroyers, trying to assassinate him and his Saudi counterpart in downtown Washington, the failure to follow through on a red line Obama imposed on Syrian dictator Bashar Assad using chemical weapons and Iranian-backed Hezbollah smuggling massive amounts of cocaine into the US.”
There is rising hope that real change could occur in Iran, bringing with it an entirely new dynamic in the Middle East.