As the Islamic Republic continues its brutal crackdown on its own people—not to mention its material support for Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine—Americans and Europeans should position themselves on the side of freedom. Doing so is no luxury, argue Elliott Abrams and David J. Kramer, but instead a tool of American statecraft:
The way regimes treat their own people is often indicative of how they will act beyond their borders—and the regime in Tehran has abused the fundamental human rights of Iranians since coming to power in 1979. . . . Neither Washington nor Brussels should let faint hopes of a new nuclear agreement get in the way of a proper and needed response. While Iran is supplying deadly weapons to Putin to use against Ukrainian civilians and that nation’s infrastructure, a nuclear agreement that would enrich Iran’s leaders with tens of billions of dollars in new revenue would reward such behavior.
For the last few decades, human rights issues in Iran have taken a back seat to nuclear and other “realpolitik” arguments. Support for the Iranian people was often viewed as a marginal issue—one that might interfere with far more serious concerns. During the Green Movement protests of 2009, the United States remained passive, leading demonstrators to hold up signs, in English, asking which side we were on. Former President Obama recently called his reaction at the time “a mistake.”
Indeed, it was. Nothing about Iran can be more “serious” than the Iranian people’s desire to rid themselves of their repressive regime. Moreover, compromises with the regime cannot resolve the dangers from Iran’s nuclear program, its support for terrorism, and, most recently, its military support for Putin.
We should not leave today’s protestors in any doubt that we stand with them against their brutal oppressors. . . . This means the United States should be seeking all practical and peaceful means of helping the Iranian people. . . . The goals of U.S. foreign policy in Iran will only be achieved when that hated regime is replaced by a government that reflects the Iranian people’s desire for peace, freedom, and prosperity.