Why the US Should Support Iran Protesters

Reuters – In recent weeks, Iran has again been in the throes of an uprising. Signs of the regime change America had long hoped to see are on the horizon. In the unlikeliest cities — once the strongholds of the conservatives — Iranians have taken to the streets, demanding, not just reform, but a referendum.

A nationwide referendum in March 1979, in which over 90 percent of Iranians marked Islamic Republic as their choice of government, gave legitimacy to the current regime. Many Iranians now hope for a second referendum, which could give them a chance to undo the government they chose nearly 40 years ago. The restraint that the United States showed in refraining from military action against Iran was the right course when the threat of war loomed between the two nations. But while we must continue to avoid war at all costs, now that defenseless Iranians have taken to the streets, cautious silence is no longer the right approach.

A chorus of experts has been calling for the United States to do nothing. They argue that U.S. support for Iranian protests would weaken the hand of the reformists. These experts are out of step with the protesters, who have been chanting, “Reformists! Hardliners! The game’s over!” In other words, Washington still has its heart set on a possibility that Iranians have given up on.

This is not the first time Washington has been slow to grasp the reality on Iran’s streets. In December 1977, as the embers of an imminent revolution were beginning to burn, President Jimmy Carter made a toast to Iran’s monarch with these words, “Iran, because of the great leadership of the Shah, is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.”

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