Trump’s relationship with Iran has been nothing less than turbulent, what with the U.S. pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and the recent harshly worded exchange of threats from both sides.
Despite the recent harsh threats made over Twitter, President Trump said that he would be willing to meet Iranian President Rouhani without any preconditions. “It’s good for the country, good for them, good for us and good for the world. No preconditions. If they want to meet, I’ll meet,” he said. “I do believe that they will probably end up wanting to meet,” he added. “And I’m ready to meet any time they want to. And I don’t do that from strength or from weakness. I think it’s an appropriate thing to do.”
As predicted by LN’s Onar Åm, Trump’s established negotiating technique dictated that he follow his Twitter threats by offering an olive branch, but will the formula work in this case?
Trump and his Administration on Iran
The president seems capable of a spontaneity that is rarely seen in today’s highly managed political messaging. His tweeting habits no doubt send his staff into as much of a tizzy as his opponents, and his unscripted statements at rallies and press conferences usually cause a stir, with real possibility for world change… until his administration officials step in to bring matters back under control.
Unlike Trump’s aggressive tweet, which was openly supported by officials, including National Security Adviser and notorious war hawk John Bolton, Trump’s offer of a meeting was barely out of his mouth when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo popped up to reel the situation back to the established state position. While Pompeo said he would support Trump meeting with the Iranian president, he immediately listed a series of preconditions that would be required before it could happen:
If the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to make fundamental changes in how they treat their own people – reduce their maligned behavior, can agree that it’s worthwhile to– enter in a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation, then the president said he’s prepared to sit down and have a conversation with him.
Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the president’s National Security Council and a Bolton acolyte, also chimed in and said the U.S. would not lift any sanctions or re-establish relations until “there are tangible, demonstrated, and sustained shifts in Tehran’s policies.” He added, “The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course.”
While Trump himself may be willing to make spontaneous statements, that certainly doesn’t mean that his administration is going to support these overtures. A similar pattern was seen after the president’s seemingly impulsive April comment that the U.S. troops would be leaving Syria “very soon,” when White House officials, including Secretary of Defense General Mattis, immediately congregated to persuade Trump to stick to the existing plan of keeping a military presence in Syria indefinitely. Of course, this was shortly before the chemical attack attributed to Assad that renewed Trump’s vigor on Syrian military action.
Can the U.S. Really Help the Iranian People?
The state department has hinted at a regime change in Iran for months. In his first public address, held at the Heritage Foundation, Pompeo announced a dozen demands that Iran would need to meet before the U.S. would lift sanctions on the regime. He announced, “Unlike the previous administration, we are looking for outcomes that benefit the Iranian people, not just the regime.”
He further hinted at a change in leadership during a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. “The level of corruption and wealth among regime leaders shows that Iran is run by something that resembles the mafia more than a government,” he said. A recent tweet stated that he and the Trump administration “supports Iranians yearning for freedom… after nearly 40 years of oppression.”
Last week I spoke to the Iranian-American community to let them know that the Trump Administration supports Iranians yearning for freedom. Here are a few voices expressing their hopes for the proud people of #Iran after nearly 40 years of oppression. pic.twitter.com/LnSTDu7DZ9
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) July 31, 2018
At the recent pro-Trump rally in London, Liberty Nation witnessed some Iranian Trump supporters carrying a banner that thanked the president for siding with the Iranian people. The president and Pompeo have indeed made it a point to express solidarity with Iranians who may be suffering under the current government, and there is no doubt that modern day Iran is a repressive place to live, with an authoritarian regime, links to terrorists, and many human rights violations. But has Western interference ever managed to help Iranians in the past? History tells us that the answer is no.
The Lessons of History
It is well established that the CIA and MI6 organized a 1953 coup to reinstate Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as the monarch of Iran after he was exiled by the more or less democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh. The U.K. was unhappy with Mosaddegh’s plan to nationalize Iran’s oil industry, which was at that point controlled by British interests. The U.K. and the U.S. used Operation Boot and Operation Ajax, respectively, to put the Shah back in power, where he pursued a pro-Western agenda, partially due to his clandestine Western patrons and partially following the path of modernization started by his father in the 1920s.
In 2013, the CIA admitted its role in the 1953 coup and the ensuing regime, and today, the common narrative is that Shah was a U.S. puppet who was overthrown during Khomeini’s 1979 Islamic revolution – to the shock and horror of the West. But is this true?
Although the U.S. government maintains that it stood by the Shah during the revolution, declassified documents reveal that officials had extensive contact with Khomeini in the run-up to the revolution, according to the BBC. The revolutionary leader asked the U.S. for assistance. Although the Carter administration initially refused to entertain the notion, officials came to see the Shah’s regime as doomed and Carter reportedly paved the way for the new government by instructing him to “leave promptly.” The U.S. allegedly then began talks with Khomeini, albeit reluctantly, hoping for a military coup rather than a theocratic one. The degree and impact of U.S. involvement in the transition of power is yet unknown.
Israeli journalist and author Ronen Bergman claims in his book, The Secret War with Iran, that the U.K. was involved in supporting Khomeini’s rise to power, allowing him to broadcast propaganda on the BBC Persian Service. At the time, one British broadcaster, Lord George Brown, criticized the “BBC Overseas Services” for “broadcasting Ayatollah Khomeini’s instructions to the people.” The Shah is also quoted as calling the BBC his “number one enemy” in the years leading up to the revolution, according to one research paper.
Pompeo may well talk about 40 years of oppression since the 1979 Islamic revolution, but Western involvement did nothing to hinder the installation of this oppressive regime and may even have aided it. Will Pompeo’s goal of regime change yield better outcomes?
John Bolton and Rudy Giuliani have expressed support for the anti-government Iranian group Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK), which was listed by the U.S. as a terrorist group until 2012. Will replacing the current regime with MeK really do anything to help the Iranian people, or the U.S., in the long term? As Einstein famously said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.”
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