The Iranian people are in the midst of their largest protests since the 2009 Green movement, and many on the Left don’t seem especially thrilled about the prospects of a free Iran. The muted reaction is partly due to a troubling trend of justifying and excusing Islamic fascism in a broader and confused attempt at signaling tolerance. But almost surely an even more powerful factor is the need to protect Barack Obama’s legacy and criticize Donald Trump.
While we don’t know what will happen in Iran, or what we can do about it, it’s clearer than ever that our funding, legitimatizing, and propping up the Iranian regime — one that is now killing peaceful protesters who are demanding economic opportunity, freedom, and secular governance — was morally and politically tragic. (This includes imaginary “moderates” and mullahs alike.) Rather than further isolating and economically stunting the regime, Obama gave it cover.
It’s important to debate, not because we need to re-litigate the past (although why not?), but Democrats still believe the Iran deal was worth it. Rather than unequivocally supporting a movement that demands freedom, the Obama administration’s Echo Chamber, initially silent, has some talking points for you.
Nothing to See Here
The initial coverage of these historic protests—or in some cases, the lack of it—was scandalous. The New York Times’s Thomas Erdbrink, in particular, veered into revolting Walter Duranty territory. Looking back at the paper’s coverage of Iran, it’s unsurprising.
“For many years,” the reporter wrote only last month, “many Iranians were cynical about their leaders, but that is changing thanks to Trump and the Saudi crown prince.” Every unfiltered report from Iran told a different story.
Actually, thanks to Trump, the Times’ coverage swerved unconvincingly from “The protests are only small and and not worth your attention’” to “These protests are about economic woes and have nothing to do with political disputes and are not worth your attention” to the “Violence is the protesters’ fault because they won’t listen to the regime’s calls for calm.” All of this is particularly offputting when you consider how hard some in the media worked to make the Iran deal a reality.
“Be quiet about freedom and oppression” is really the Democratic-liberal foreign-policy mantra right now? Really?
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) January 2, 2018
The first inclination of many liberals was to demand Americans shut up about a movement that demands self-determination and liberalism. Why? Whenever Trump fails to weigh in on a world event, the Left accuses him of implicitly endorsing fascism. Yet when the administration offers a statement condemning the Iranian regime, a long-time committed terror-supporting adversary of the United States, the same folks who daily call out Russian authoritarianism advise the president to ignore those protesting for freedom.
On the first days of the demonstrations, The New York Times ran an op-ed by former Obama administration official Philip Gordon, a long-term proponent of strengthening the regime’s “moderates,” arguing that the best thing Trump could do for the Iranians was to be quiet like Obama had been in 2009. This was repeated by a number of liberals, some claiming we had no moral authority to lecture anyone on freedom, which is, of course, absurd.
The more sophisticated case went something like this: If we encourage the protesters, the regime will begin to blame outsiders for agitating the situation and this will make the protesters look like saboteurs. This might come as a surprise to some people, but the Iranian regime has been blaming imperialists and Zionists for all their troubles for many decades. Yet protesters still chant, “No Syria, no Gaza, we’d die only for Iran.” From what we know, in fact, it seems that one of the key grievances of the demonstrators is that they’re sick of Iranian regime creating enemies around the globe rather than concentrating on their people at home.
What if the protesters don’t want the help? For starters, we don’t know what they want us to do. They may still detest United States, but that doesn’t mean we can’t advocate the cause. Perhaps, and this might sound nuts, they may appreciate others who advocated for their liberty. Perhaps that will win them over? And perhaps one day we can ask them how they felt about Gordon and others in the Obama administration legitimizing the regime that now threatens their lives.
Meanwhile, Obama’s silence did nothing for the Iranian people. The world’s silence does nothing. Just because the United Nations calls for an emergency meeting every time a Jew builds an extension on his bedroom in Jerusalem, doesn’t mean the United States has to follow suit. Sanctions hurt the Iranian regime. And the threat of new U.S. sanctions that target the Revolutionary Guard, which has its hand in much of the economic turmoil and answers only to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has, according to The Wall Street Journal and others, put Iranian government “in a corner.”
It’s About Them, Not Us
The Iranian people are rightfully demanding dignity, less corruption, more opportunity, and greater control over their lives. In looking at US twitter, it seems lost on too many that this is about what Iranians want for Iran, and not about us.
— Ben Rhodes (@brhodes) December 31, 2017
The Echo Chamber likes to make the Iranian protest sound like the Women’s March. Well, some of the Iranian protesters — the bravest of them — are also demanding freedom from theocracy, something Ben Rhodes will likely never mention. Nor John Kerry, nor Samantha Power, nor Hillary Clinton, nor anyone who tweeted out this talking point. Americans, they say, shouldn’t make this about themselves, but rather the aspirations of the Iranian people (which they misrepresent).
Fortunately, most human beings have the capacity to concern themselves with multiple events. How we react is important because Democrats constantly peddled what we now know is a false choice: war or the Iran deal. There is a restive population in that nation demanding freedom. We knew this in 2009, when we were told that the uprising was merely about voting irregularities, and we know it know.
A free Iran would be one of the most momentous events in the past 20 years. Yet, rather than tighten economic sanctions and undermine the regime, Democrats did everything they could to strengthen it. This includes the Obama administration ignoring the uprisings of 2009, releasing Iranian spies, slow-walking and shutting down investigations into Iranian criminality, and paying ransoms. These are political decisions made by a party that seeks to regain power here in the United States.
So why isn’t every supporter of the Iran deal being asked why he voted to fund Hassan Rouhani and the mullahs?
Well, We Didn’t Fund the Protest-killing, Terror-supporting Islamists, We Were Just Unfreezing Their Assets
I am wondering how many folks are aware that the money the US sent Iran as part of nuclear deal was actually Iran’s assets to begin with. It was their own money we returned. It wasn’t tax payer money.
— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) January 1, 2018
For 30 years, both Democrat and Republican administrations managed to freeze funds that we procured in a dispute over a failed arms deal signed before the 1979 Islamic revolution that deposed the shah. Until, that is, the Obama administration decided to secretly send more than a billion dollars in various foreign currencies in unmarked planes as ransom for American hostages. Between those two events, Iran held 52 American citizens hostage for 444 days, was likely responsible for the death of another 500 American servicemen fighting in Iraq, and her proxy killed 220 Marines and 21 other service personnel in Lebanon.
None of this takes into account Iran’s attacks on allies, support of our enemies, funding of terrorism, and suppression of its own people. We don’t owe this iteration of Iran, a nation that has ignored international agreements for decades, anything. On what moral grounds does Dowd believe unfreezing the assets of a group that funds terror acceptable? The truth is, this talking point is simply meant to rationalize the tragic underpinning of the Iran deal.
We stand with the Iranian people so much that we won’t let them come here. https://t.co/fzbv8idiiJ
— Samantha Power (@SamanthaJPower) January 1, 2018
Many echo-chamberists, who only a few days earlier were arguing that we should concentrate on the Iranian people or just shut up, attacked Trump’s support of Iranian protesters as a vacuous since he supported a travel ban for a number of suspected terror-supporting states, including the Islamic Republic.
It should be pointed out that none of these people, Power included, ever said anything as tough about Iranian fascists the Obama administration coddled for eight years. But Iran in fact offers a great example of why travel bans may be necessary. The Iranians refuse to cooperate with the United States on terror and security risks, because they are the security risk. Iranian nationals have not only been sent here to spy (the Obama administration released or slow-walked investigations into 14 of them, at least) and to create criminal enterprises through their terror proxies (the previous administration shut down those investigations), but to recruit other Iranians to assassinate ambassadors and blow up embassies.
Now, though we shouldn’t overestimate our ability to help the protesters, one wonders how this situation would look if Power and others hadn’t been so accommodating to Iran. Once the regime is gone, surely we can have open travel like we do with most other peaceful nations.