Unlike his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, President Donald Trump did not hesitate to take a leadership position to stand up for Iranian citizens protesting the terror-supporting, extremist regime of Iran. The same day Iranians took to the streets Friday in the largest anti-regime demonstrations since 2009, Trump put out the following statement on Twitter:
Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching! #IranProtests.
On Saturday, Trump was even clearer when he then tweeted:
The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most….
Trump’s quick and forceful reactions contrast with Obama’s silence and then soft-pedaling when pro-Democracy protesters were risking their lives and were being violently subdued by regime forces for protesting the Shiite fundamentalist Iranian government. By not strongly backing anti-extremist demonstrators, Obama failed to take advantage of a rare opportunity to support grassroots opposition to one of the most destabilizing regimes in the world.
The 2009 protests were launched on June 14 of that year, one day after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad purportedly won reelection in a landslide victory amid widespread allegations of voting irregularities and violations. Obama was silent the first day of the anti-regime protests.
One day later, when Iran citizens held the largest anti-regime protest since the country’s 1979 revolution, Obama finally gave a muted response, saying that it was “up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran’s leaders will be” and that “we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran.” Obama followed that up with a statement that he was “deeply troubled by the violence that [he had] been seeing on television,” but he fell short of strongly condemning Iran’s terror-supporting government.
Obama waited eight days to make another comment following an escalation in the protests, some of which resulted in violence against the pro-democracy protesters. “The United States and the international community have been appalled and outraged by the threats, beatings and imprisonments of the last few days,” he said. Obama made those comments following calls from lawmakers, including future Vice President Mike Pence, then a Republican congressman, for a stronger response.
Obama was later asked about his tepid reaction to the Iran protest movement. He replied, “I think that we don’t know yet how this thing is going to play out. I know everybody here is on a 24-hour news cycle. I’m not.”
What Obama left out was that, according to reports, his surrogates had already secretly reached out to Iran, beginning a dialogue that would eventually lead to the U.S.-led international nuclear deal with the Iranian regime.
In August 2014, Michael Ledeen, a former consultant to the National Security Council and U.S. Defense Department, penned a column at PJ Media stating Obama opened a back channel to Iran during the 2008 presidential campaign. Ledeen said the back channel went through retired Ambassador William G. Miller, who also led the 1979 negotiating mission during the Iran hostage crisis. Ladeen wrote that Miller confirmed his back channel involvement to him.
Ledeen wrote (emphasis added):
The actual strategy is detente first, and then a full alliance with Iran throughout the Middle East and North Africa. It has been on display since before the beginning of the Obama administration. During his first presidential campaign in 2008, Mr. Obama used a secret back channel to Tehran to assure the mullahs that he was a friend of the Islamic Republic, and that they would be very happy with his policies. The secret channel was Ambassador William G. Miller, who served in Iran during the shah’s rule, as chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and as ambassador to Ukraine. Ambassador Miller has confirmed to me his conversations with Iranian leaders during the 2008 campaign.
An August 2016 piece at Bloomberg by columnist and reporter Eli Lake is titled “Why Obama Let Iran’s Green Revolution Fail.” The subtitle of Lake’s piece sums up his analysis: “The president wanted a nuclear deal, not regime change.”
Obama’s subdued reaction to the 2009 Iran protests became a point of controversy during the 2012 presidential election. Candidate Mitt Romney lobbed the following accusation: “When millions of Iranians took to the streets in June of 2009, when they demanded freedom from a cruel regime that threatens the world, when they cried out, ‘Are you with us, or are you with them?’ — the American president was silent.”
Trump, on the other hand, made opposition to Iran’s fanatical regime a central platform of his successful 2016 presidential bid, repeatedly threatening to rip up the controversial nuclear agreement.
Last October, Trump refused to re-certify the Iran deal, a process mandated by a law requiring the U.S. president to certify every 90 days that Iran is keeping its side of the agreement and that the deal continues to be “vital to the national security interests of the United States.” In keeping with that decision, it was reported last week that the U.S. and Israel quietly reached an agreement to work together to counter the Iran threat.