Trump vs. Obama on Iran Protests: 5 Things to Know
While President Donald Trump and his administration have been praised by conservatives for expressing immediate support for the thousands of freedom protesters in the Islamic Republic of Iran, former President Barack Obama is receiving a new round of criticism for his response to peaceful demonstrations in 2009.
Protests have spread across Iran in the past week, with as many as 21 people being killed and hundreds being arrested since the nationwide protest began in Mashhad and spread to other cities last week.
Analysts say that many demonstrators took to the streets to voice their disapproval with declining economic conditions, while others have asserted that many protesters joined out of opposition to the theocratic and oppressive rule of the Iranian regime led by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The demonstrations, which began on Dec. 28, mark the largest uprising in the Shia Republic since millions protested the election results that saw that victory of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.
As Iran ranks as the eighth-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, let's look at important things to keep in mind about Trump and Obama's responses to uprisings in the oppressive Middle Eastern nation.
1. Trump's response
Trump, who has not made secret his disgust with the previous administration's dealings with Iran and the Iranian nuclear deal, took a proactive role when it came to ensuring protesters in Iran that they have the support of the United States government.
Like he frequently does, the president also took to Twitter to voice his thoughts on the matter.
Trump posted a series of tweets about Iran over the last week.
"Big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism," Trump wrote on Dec. 31. "Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!"
In a later tweet that day, Trump asserted that Iran is the number one sponsor of terror with "numerous violations of Human Rights occurring on an hourly basis." Trump's tweet also condemned the Iranian government for disrupting internet service during the protests.
"Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration," Trump tweeted again on New Year's Day. "The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!"
"The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime. All of the money that President Obama so foolishly gave them went into terrorism and into their 'pockets,' Trump added in a tweet on Jan. 2. "The people have little food, big inflation and no human rights. The U.S. is watching!"
In a tweet Wednesday, Trump stated that he has "[s]uch respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government."
"You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!" Trump vowed.
2. Trump administration's response
The Trump administration has been upfront with its concern about the situation in Iran.
On Dec. 29, the U.S. State Department released a statement explaining that "Iran's leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos."
The State Department strongly condemned the arrest of peaceful protesters and urged all nations to stand with the Iranian people in their time of need.
United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday called on the United Nations to hold emergency sessions about the situation.
"In the days ahead, we will be calling for an emergency session both here in New York and at the Human Rights Council in Geneva," Haley said. "We must not be silent. The people of Iran are crying out for freedom."
Vice President Mike Pence wrote an op-ed that was published by The Washington Post on Wednesday, titled "Unlike Obama, Trump Will Not Be Silent on Iran."
Pence praised Trump and claimed that the president predicted in September that the "days of the Iranian regime were numbered."
"The good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, Iran's people are what their leaders fear the most," Trump said during his United Nations speech in September.
Pence assured that "our administration will continue to support the protesters in their calls for freedom and demand that Iran's leaders cease their dangerous and destabilizing actions at home and abroad."
He also stated that the administration has issued new sanctions on Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Furthermore, Pence said that the president is "weighing additional actions to punish the regime for its belligerent behavior and assault on its own citizens."
On Thursday, the State Department released another statement that indicated that over 1,000 Iranians have been arrested because of the protests.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms the deaths to date and the arrests of at least one thousand Iranians," the statement reads. "We have ample authorities to hold accountable those who commit violence against protestors, contribute to censorship, or steal from the people of Iran."
"To the regime's victims, we say: You will not be forgotten," the statement concluded.
3. Obama's response in 2009
Obama, who pushed heavily for the Iranian nuclear deal adopted in the last years of his second term, has been accused of staying "silent" during the 2009 protests, which called for a recount in that year's Iranian presidential election.
Thousands were arrested during the uprising, which is called the "Green Revolution," and dozens were killed.
Several conservative commentators, such as the Washington Examiner editorial board, argue that the recent uprising in Iran "throws a glaring light" on Obama's inaction and failure to take a strong stance in support of the protesters during the Green Revolution.
"Obama took taxpayers' dollars, loaded them on to pallets, and sent them to the mullahs to supplement the sanctions relief he also secured for them," a Wednesday Washington Examiner op-ed argues. "He helped buy the bullets that have killed some protesters and terrorized others."
Analysis from CNN's White House correspondent Stephen Collinson argues that Obama didn't necessarily stay silent on the Green Revolution but merely acted in a cautious manner as to not make it seem that the U.S. was meddling in an Iranian issue.
However, Obama did eventually end his "silence." In late June of 2009, Obama warned the Iranian government that the "world is watching" and called on the Iranian government to "stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people."
Additionally, on June 15, 2009, Obama provided a detailed answer when asked by a reporter about the situation in Iran, saying that it's up to the Iranians "to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be" and added that "we respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran."
"[W]ith respect to the United States and our interactions with Iran, I've always believed that as odious as I consider some of President Ahmadinejad's statements, as deep as the differences that exist between the United States and Iran on a range of core issues, that the use of tough, hard-headed diplomacy, diplomacy with no illusions about Iran and the nature of the differences between our two countries, is critical when it comes to pursuing a core set of our national security interests, specifically, making sure that we are not seeing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East triggered by Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon, making sure that Iran is not exporting terrorist activity," Obama said.
"Those are core interests not just to the United States, but, I think, to a peaceful world in general."
Although Obama's responses might have come a bit late for some Republicans, Collinson noted that many "Republican assessments not only ignore Obama's progression toward a tougher line on the protests, but also fail to take into account that less than two months after they erupted, he led the leaders of France and Britain in exposing a secret Iranian nuclear fuel plant when they met at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh."
4. Obama administration's response
Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen, who served under Obama until 2011, told ABC News "This Week" that the Obama administration could have been more "supportive" of the Iranian protests in 2009.
"I think we chose to not be as supportive as we could have been then," Mullen said. "And I hope we can be right now so that Iran can continue to evolve."
"They have an incredibly young population," Mullen, who began serving as chairman in 2007 under former President George W. Bush, said. "They look to a future that they cannot see. They've been promised change and a healthier economy by the current government. And I think the protests represent the inability to deliver that so far.
"So I think support of them and their people is absolutely the right thing to do."
Dennis Ross, who served as a National Security Council official under Obama, admitted to CNN on Monday that the Obama administration's initial caution to speak about the protests was a "mistake" even though it was a decision was based on requests from Green Revolution leaders so that the Iranian government can pin the protest on interference from the U.S. and other countries.
The criticism of the Obama administration comes as it was also accused in a lengthy Politico report last month of halting a federal law enforcement investigation into the illegal drug and laundering operations of the Iranian-backed terror group Hezbollah.
The investigation that the Obama administration reportedly halted tracked a trail of "dirty cash" and "traced what investigators believed to be the innermost circle of Hezbollah and its state sponsors in Iran."
5. Iran's response
As some analysts say that Obama's calculated hesitance in response to the Iranian protests in 2009 was to prevent any possible U.S. intervention in the matter from becoming a "rallying cause for the clerical regime," Iran is now arguing that tweets from Trump and Pence about the Iran protests are tantamount to tampering in Iranian affairs.
In a letter sent Thursday to the United Nations, Tehran accused Trump and Pence of inciting protests and accused the U.S. of "grotesque" meddling in Iranian affairs, CNN reported.
The letter also accused the State Department of communicating with protesters and encouraging them to protest.
"The President and vice president of the United States, in their numerous absurd tweets, incited Iranians to engage in disruptive acts," the letter reads. "The U.S. Department of State went so far as admitting that the U.S. government wants to encourage protesters in Iran to change their government, admitting that the U.S. is engaged in interfering with the internal affairs of Iran through Facebook and Twitter."
Earlier this week, Khamenei blamed the protests on Iran's "enemies" and called out Western influences.
"The enemy is always looking for an opportunity & any crevice to infiltrate &strike the Iranian nation," the Supreme Leader tweeted.
This article was originally posted here
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