John Kerry, the former secretary of state, has recently echoed the new conventional wisdom that the U.S. government would do best to keep quiet about the demonstrations in Iran. This “wisdom,” writes Reuel Marc Gerecht, is dead wrong:
This reflexive belief that the United States is more apt to do wrong than right in Iran is today reinforced by a palpable anxiety on the American left that any serious support for the pro-democracy demonstrators could slide into new sanctions that could threaten Barack Obama’s nuclear deal. To put it another way, a (temporary) suspension of the clerical regime’s nuclear ambitions is [considered] more important than the possibility that democratic dissidents might win their struggle against Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his religious dictatorship.
Fear for the survival of the nuclear deal dovetails with an entirely mistaken idea about Iran that has driven much American and European policy since the 1990s: that the Islamic Republic can evolve from theocracy to a more traditional, nonthreatening authoritarian regime or even to democracy. This hope reinforces the view that Washington needs to keep its distance from dissidents or risk compromising their position in Iranian society. “Authentic,” politically viable Iranians are thus anti-American since they have to negotiate with and cajole the “hardliners” into accepting reform. . . . But . . . gradual change isn’t in the offing. The demonstrators in the streets of Iran today instinctively know this. . . .
These brave men and women deserve America’s rhetorical and material support. . . . The president’s tweets in support of the protesters were a good start. Washington should also let loose a tsunami of sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards, the linchpin of Iran’s dictatorship.