Regime Change Will Come to Iran (without U.S. Interference)
Upwards of 3,700 protesters have been arrested thus far, and twenty-one of them have been killed. To further squelch the uprising, as in 2009, the government has sharply curtailed the internet and use of social media. These efforts have succeeded in taking the wind out of the protests––for the moment.
These strong-arm tactics did nothing to resolve the fundamentals that led to the uprising, and in all probability they have succeeded only in temporarily suppressing them. Unless the government grants considerable freedoms and makes meaningful economic changes, the unrest is only going to grow.
Iranian public dissatisfaction was on display after Rouhani made a January 22 television appearance that was intended to soften attitudes towards the government. His efforts backfired. Following the interview, Iranian reformist Sadegh Zibakalam tweeted “I wish Mr. Rouhani could . . . understand that he is insulting people’s intelligence by [focusing on] artificial nonsense and superficial questions and answers instead of addressing serious and real issues and problems in the society.”
Washington must show patience in understanding that movements take time to develop, but most importantly, to acknowledge that this is an internal Iranian issue. Any attempts to externally “solve” it or “help” the protestors will almost certainly backfire.
The best thing that could happen to U.S. interests in the region would be for the government in Tehran to end its support of terrorism, maintain the pledge not to develop nuclear weapons, and usher in a democratic and peaceful regime. Trying to force the matter using military means from Washington will not facilitate this outcome. The United States should therefore give the Iranian people the time necessary to resolve the matter on their own, as they may demand the regime cease supporting military operations abroad, facilitating U.S. national interests in the process.
Daniel L. Davis is a senior fellow for Defense Priorities and a former lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army who retired in 2015 after twenty-one years, including four combat deployments. Follow him @DanielLDavis1.
Image: Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (C) speaks during a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Greg Baker/Pool