When President Donald Trump withdrew from the catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal his critics said, among other things, that imposing sanctions would have no impact because we could not unilaterally pressure the regime in Tehran.
As with other predictions, such as the price of oil skyrocketing, that analysis has proven inaccurate. The people of Iran are rising up against their autocratic leaders. They are fed up with the declining economy and corruption; the wasteful spending on terrorism and wars in Yemen and Syria; and the human rights abuses at home.
Last Sunday the New York Times ran a front-page story reporting that Iran is now facing the greatest uprising against the regime in its forty-year history. In response, Iran has already murdered at least 180 people and shut down local access to the Internet.
We know the regime is in panic mode as it increases its repression, arresting critics and using deadly force against unarmed protesters. According to Iranian dissidents, the number of protesters killed by Iran’s security forces since the uprising began on November 15 is far in excess of the reported 180, and actually exceeds 600 in more than 187 cities. Hundreds have also been detained.
The mullahs are monsters who stone women to death, hang gays from cranes, and slaughter their own people in the street — as they did before the eyes of the world in the 2009 Green Revolution. It is a regime that lost its legitimacy long ago and has clung to power through terror and violence.
Historians debate how many people were killed by the Shah’s ministers in their last efforts to remain in power in the late 1970s. But the general consensus is about 3000. In the end, the Shah agreed to go into exile, saying that he did not wish to rule at the expense of the blood of his people.
The monstrous mullahs have no such conscience. They will murder at will to keep their kleptocracy in power. One opposition leader said, “The killers of the year 1978 were the representatives of a nonreligious regime and the agents and shooters of November 2019 are the representatives of a religious government.”
This is not the first time the Iranian people have revolted against their oppressors. The Green Revolution created the possibility that the Iranian people would retake their country from their theocratic oppressors. That opportunity was partly sabotaged, however, by President Barack Obama who disgracefully abandoned the Iranian people out of fear it would jeopardize his naïve hope that he could change Iranian policy and cool its nuclear ambitions. He stood by while the revolution was violently suppressed.
In The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Bank Battles, and the Secret Deals That Reshaped the Middle East, Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon documented how Obama overruled advisers who wanted him to support the people fighting for freedom.
The CIA, Solomon reported, “has contingency plans for supporting democratic uprisings anywhere in the world,” which involve “providing dissidents with communications, money, and in extreme cases even arms.” Obama, however, “ordered it to stand down.”
One excuse given for his inaction was the concern that supporting the uprising would discredit the protestors. Eli Lake of Bloomberg later noted, “Iran’s supreme leader blamed [Obama] anyway for fomenting the revolt.”
Lake added:“There is no guarantee that an Obama intervention would have been able to topple Khamenei back in 2009, when his people flooded the streets to protest an election the American president wouldn’t say was stolen,” Lake acknowledged. “But it was worth a try.”
Instead, Obama sent Iran the message that “America wouldn’t aid his citizens when they tried to change the regime that oppresses them to this day,” Lake concluded.
President Trump must not make the same mistake. His “maximum pressure” campaign is working — despite the malign efforts of the Europeans to sabotage his policy. He must give the people of Iran America’s full support to seek a change from the genocidal rule of the religious extremists.
The recent protests were sparked by an unexpected increase in fuel prices, but A.J. Caschetta, writing in The Hill, argued recently that the discontent runs far deeper: “Iranian protesters (and rioters) chanting ‘No to Gaza, no to Lebanon!’ ‘Leave Syria and think of us,’ and even ‘Death to Palestine!’ indicates that something much larger than the price of gas drove their outrage.”
There are strong indications that the regime’s obsession with fomenting terror throughout the world; destabilizing the Middle East; and controlling Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, while neglecting the growing rot at home, has caused the Iranian people to rise up.
We cannot stand by while the goons of the Revolutionary Guards use violence to protect their ill-gotten gains at the expense of the people. The president and his predecessor have said they are not interested in regime change. But one struggles to see how anything but regime change can bring about an end to the forty-year nightmare that the people of Iran have suffered under the Khomeini-Khameini regime.
What is needed is an end to the mullahs’ reign of terror at home and abroad. Of course, the chance of succeeding would be greater if the feckless Europeans put the welfare of the Iranian people ahead of their commercial interests, but what hope is there for leaders who have refused to reimpose sanctions after Iran’s multiple violations of the nuclear agreement?
There is no time to waste.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set the correct tone when he tweeted: “After 40 years of tyranny, the proud Iranian people are not staying silent about their government’s abuses. We will not stay silent either. I have a message for the people of Iran: The United States hears you. The United States supports you. The United States is with you.”
Contrast that to President Obama giving the killers in Tehran $150 billion in unfrozen assets, plus actual cash flown on airplanes to the terrorists in Tehran.
Still, the Trump administration must do more. Public pronouncements of encouragement are critical. But Iran cannot be allowed to snuff out another revolution because of the international community’s timidity.
Rather, the president should issue a blunt warning to the leaders of Iran that if they continue to slaughter their people as they engage in peaceful protest, the mullahs will charged with war crimes by the international community and indicted for murder.
Having “Supreme Leader” Khameini indicted for murder at the International Criminal Court in the Hague — which has jurisdiction for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression — would send a strong message that the mullahs run an outlaw regime. Further indicting Khameini for genocidal incitement against the Jewish people – for which there is overwhelming evidence – would send the message that the words “Never Again” are more than a motto and are an actual international commitment.
President Trump, you have put the genocidal maniacs on the defensive. We are grateful. Do not let them off the hook. Help the people of Iran end the tyranny and forge a democracy that will rejoin the family of nations and cease to be a threat to its neighbors and the West.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is the author of ‘Judaism for Everyone’ and is founder of “The World Values Network. “Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.