Yossi Kuperwasser
Brig.-Gen. (res.)
Featured Post

Who cares about the Iranian people? 

Where's the outcry over the ongoing slaughter of innocent people fighting for free and democratic elections in their countries?
Iranian students gather for a demonstration over the downing of a Ukrainian airliner at Tehran University on January 14, 2020. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)
Iranian students gather for a demonstration over the downing of a Ukrainian airliner at Tehran University on January 14, 2020. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

While the peoples under the rule of the Islamic regime in Iran are showing unprecedented courage and resolve in their effort to get rid of their oppressor and gain their freedom in Iran itself and in Iraq and Lebanon, Europe and Japan ignore them. In fact, they’ve continued to support the reactionary and destabilizing Islamic regime, even after their dream of saving the Iran nuclear deal (the JCPOA) became a fata morgana when the Iranians declared they were not going to abide anymore by any of the deal’s limitations on the nuclear activities. The maltreatment of the British ambassador in Iran last week and the Iranian lies about the downing of the Ukrainian plane had no apparent impact on the European attitude.

Reuters‘ exclusive report about the Iranian supreme leader Khamenei ordering his security apparatus to put down at all cost the protest that engulfed Iran in November 2019, which led to the killing of 1500 demonstrators and the injuring and arrests of thousands, also made no impression on the European Union or on its member states. Japan went on courting Iran, and while establishing a force to protect its vessels sailing in the Persian Gulf and hosted Iranian President Rouhani in an attempt to bolster trade in spite of the American sanctions and never mentioned his responsibility to these calamities.

The United States under Trump – unlike the Obama administration in 2009 – has expressed sympathy with the Iranian people’s struggle (much less with the Iraqi and Lebanese people) but does not support their goal in overthrowing the regime, and stops at adopting sanctions against a few leading performers of human rights crimes, as was enunciated in the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s address on human rights in Iran. President Trump himself initially ignored the issue until the Iranian sponsored Iraqi militias attacked the American embassy in Baghdad, after which he first spoke in favor of the Iraqi anti-Iran demonstrators. In the wake of the Iranian lies about the plane, he finally came out loud and clear in favor of the protestors and criticized the Islamic regime, but in his address after the Iranian attack on the US bases in Iran he emphasized that the US does is not aiming for regime change.

The UN obviously pays no attention to the suffering of these peoples, and the International Criminal Court is busy promoting investigations against Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East.

So how come the liberal democracies, who pretend to hold the moral high ground, are ready to be complicit in this repression? Why do they want the regime in Iran to succeed and survive the growing challenges it faces? How come there is no outcry from liberal circles – the noble guardians of human rights – about the ongoing slaughter of innocent people trying to have their voices heard and their vote count in free and democratic elections in their countries? It is really difficult to understand, but here are some possible explanations:

First, the Europeans (much like quite a few representatives of the Democratic party in the US) hate Trump so much that they are ready to do anything to make him fail. I could stop here, but this was their attitude even before Trump, so there is more to it.

Second, they are afraid of confronting anyone who threatens them and at the same time they are extremely cynical and do not care at all about the fate of the people living under the repressive Iranian regime. All they care about is economic gains. Any instability – so they think – may be harmful to their economic interests. Pressure on the Iranian regime may encourage it to escalate even more than what it has already done and cause a war, which is the ultimate nightmare the liberal democracies try to prevent and avoid.

Third, they try to save the Iran Nuclear Deal to avoid the need to admit that it was a huge mistake.

Fourth, they don’t consider Iran as a real immediate danger since very few Shiites live in the West and are involved in terror activities against Westerners.

Fifth, they are aware of the weaknesses of the opposition movements in Iran and in Iraq and Lebanon so they prefer the devil they know to a potential chaos. Sixth, they clearly side with the realistic radical Moslems like Rouhani and the Moslem Brotherhood in the struggle over the dominance of the Middle East against their rivals, the pragmatic Moslems, and it is those pragmatic Moslems who are out in the streets demonstrating against the Iranian Mullahs and their surrogates. Finally, and this would probably be their answer if any journalist asked their leaders a question about the logic of their policy, they are allegedly committed to a “Rule Based World Order” according to which they are not allowed to interfere in the domestic affairs of a sovereign state. This could have made sense if Iran kept this rule and did not publicly and proudly interfere in the domestic affairs of almost every country in the Middle East and beyond. It could have made sense if the international community had not decided several years ago that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s treatment of its citizens justifies the nomination by the UN of a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran. And it could have made sense if these liberal democracies were not so deeply involved in attempts to impact the election results in other places such as Israel.

A few of these explanations are relevant to the United States as well. But the American story is different. The US administration believes that the sanctions will work and either force Iran to come back to the negotiation table and accept a significantly different nuclear deal or bring the collapse of the Islamic Republic once millions of Iranians, and not just hundreds of thousands, demonstrate in the streets chanting, “Down with the Supreme Leader.”

Under this assumption, there is no need for material support for the protestors in Iran, beyond loud sympathy and biting sanctions. Once Iran changes course, Lebanon and Iraq will follow suit without American intervention. Meanwhile, the United States has to be careful when it comes to expressing support for the protestors in Lebanon and Iraq as it has close relations with the governments in both countries and would like to convince the Iraqi government not to demand the withdrawal of American forces as Iran is demanding.

Is the American attitude wishful thinking, or will it prove to be true? So far it seems that President Trump’s strategy is working, to the dismay of all his critics who were warning of its inevitable failure and the high probability that it will lead to war. The patronizing manner in which the critics tried to belittle Trump as ignorant of the way policy is crafted, inexperienced and unsophisticated backfired, since their own policy reaped nothing but failure and a strengthened and emboldened Iranian regime, while his policy seems successful. Yet, to increase the probability that this strategy will produce the required results, the United States has to make its support for the protestors a permanent component of its policy towards Iran and supplement it with tangible measures such as more sanctions against the violators of the law in Iran and Iraq, while continuing to wave the big stick that forced Iran to choose a measured military response to the elimination of Qasem Soleimani, the symbol of the regime’s raison d’etre, namely the export of the Islamic revolution, and to clarify, as Trump did several times in recent days, that trying to rush to a nuclear bomb will not be tolerated.

About the Author
Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is an Israeli intelligence and security expert. Formerly, Kuperwasser served as the head of the research division in the Israel Defence Force Military Intelligence division and Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs. Kuperwasser is currently a Senior Project Manager at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs specializing in the security dimensions of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.