Protestors have taken to the streets in Iran to call for the end of the current regime, hearkening back to the Green Revolution of 2009.
Mass protests have spread across the country and even extended to the capital city of Tehran, despite a crackdown by the government. The protests have arisen during the nation’s worst drought in 50 years, leaving many without water and causing many to accuse the government of mismanaging water supplies.
One activist, however, said that the protests are not just about the water situation, stating, “There is no end to these protests. I think they will continue tonight, tomorrow, and into the coming days…. Iranian people want peace, democracy, and freedom.”
Reports indicate that as many as eight people have been killed and eighteen activists arrested during the protests.
A protester, identified only as Zohre, said,
“At the beginning, the demonstrations were peaceful and there was no violence on the part of the people. But unfortunately, the regime responded with bullets…. It started with water, but the core problem is the regime itself. The regime cannot solve the real problems of the Iranian people…. We’ve been witnessing for decades the plunder and the exploitation of the wealth of the Iranian people, the crimes of this regime. One might think that it’s only the water problem, but it’s absolutely not.”
In 2019, Iranian security forces killed approximately 1,500 people who were protesting a fuel tax.
The regime claims to support the right of citizens to protest.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said she was “extremely concerned about the deaths and injuries that have occurred over the past week, as well as the widespread arrests and detention.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh called her remarks “interventionist” and blamed U.S. sanctions for worsening the water situation.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, “We support the rights of Iranians to peacefully assemble and to express themselves. Iranians, just like any other people, should enjoy those rights without fear of violence, without fear of arbitrary detention by security forces.”
The protests provide an opportunity for the Biden administration to deviate from the Obama administration’s path in dealing with Iran. In 2009, the Green Revolution began with protests demanding a regime change. The protestors claimed that the election had been stolen to which Obama responded, “The world is watching and inspired by their participation, regardless of what the ultimate outcome of the election was.”
Unfortunately, Obama never actually favored regime change, for as Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon explained in his acclaimed book “The Iran Wars,” Obama’s top priority was to try to reach a nuclear deal with the Mullahs. Solomon’s account is well worth reading as Obama’s pursuit of the Iranian regime impacted much of his foreign policy, including Syria.
With the Green Revolution protests largely ignored, unsupported, and even undermined by the U.S., Obama got his nuclear deal — but at great cost. The Green Movement was crushed after the government ordered security forces to fire on the demonstrators. Among those killed was Neda Agha Soltan, a female protester whose dying moments were caught on film after she had been shot by a sniper.
Biden, who was vice president at the time, is attempting to revive the nuclear deal with Iran after the Trump administration pulled out of it. Yet with protests calling for a regime change ongoing, President Biden has a chance to re-do that missed Obama administration opportunity and actually help the people of Iran.
If Biden chooses, rather than rejoin an extremely flawed nuclear deal, he can support freedom and democracy in Iran. The people of Iran live under a hostile dictatorship bent on the destruction of our greatest ally Israel and the United States. Perhaps it is time for President Biden to stray from the course charted by his Democratic predecessor and cement his own legacy.