Washington, DC - The ruling mullahs of Iran may be able to silence anti-government protestors but they cannot win their hearts and minds. The people want an Iranian Republic, not an Islamic Republic. And you can make book on the fact that the latest unrest that rocked that nation over the New Year's weekend will continue, notwithstanding the brutality of the country's security forces.
In 2009, pro-democracy demonstrators took to the streets of the capital city of Tehran. An estimated 3 million protestors took part in the hope of igniting a Green Revolution, according to the United States Institute of Peace. But hundreds of them were killed, maimed and jailed and the uprising was put down. For the next eight years limited anti-government activities continued. But, the latest protests are significant because they were countrywide with citizens taking part in big cities and smaller municipalities throughout Iran.
President Obama essentially ignored the 2009 protests and he was widely criticized for doing so on both the right and the left. Many experts say he was concerned that if he took any kind of stand, it would upset negotiations for a nuclear deal with Iran.
But, President Trump appears to be taking the opposite approach. He has already been busy tweeting support for the protestors. And, he has a variety of choices for next steps.
For example, Michael Singh, managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, says that just making statements of support doesn't cut it. "The United States and its allies should, through public statements, private messages, U.N. resolutions and whatever other vehicles are available, clearly express their support for Iranians' right to protest. They should also warn authorities in Iran against any violent suppression of the demonstrations, whether such violence takes place on the streets or - as occurred after the 2009 protests - later on in homes and prisons, out of the public eye. Both the regime and demonstrators should be made constantly aware that the world's attention is fixed on them."
Nurturing the spirit of democracy in Iran has a variety of near-term and long-term benefits. For one thing, it could eventually lead to the establishment of an Iranian government that is more interested in peace and prosperity for its people and less absorbed with supporting terrorism, nuclear conquest and the destruction of the state of Israel.