After their 2009 presidential elections, Iranians throughout the country protested against the electoral fraud that enabled Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to remain in office. All three of the opposition candidates alleged that the election was rigged.
Despite the relatively peaceful nature of the protests, Iranian police and military enforced a violent crackdown against the protesters. Thousands were arrested and tortured in prisons around the country, with inmates alleging the mass rape of men, women and children by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. An estimated 4,000 protestors were arrested by the regime, with a death toll in the hundreds.
And where was then-U.S. President Barack Obama? The Nobel Peace Prize laureate was cementing his legacy as the best friend the Islamic Republic ever had in the White House.
“When protests in Iran erupted in 2009 and millions of Iranians took to the streets, they singularly called Obama by his name and asked if he was with them or not,” recalled Shabnam Assadollahi, an award-winning human rights advocate of Iranian descent who was imprisoned in Iran’s notorious Evin prison at the age of 16. Ms. Assadollahi advocates for the emancipation of women and minority religious communities throughout the world.
“If Obama, as a world leader and distinguished Nobel Prize winner, had shown his support for freedom, democracy and human rights for Iran,” said Assadollahi, “that would have helped accelerate the end of Islamic tyranny in Iran.”
But the rights and safety of minorities in the Middle East were not Obama’s concern. Under Obama’s State Department, Iraqi and Syrian Christians were forced to join the Popular Mobilization Force in order to qualify for American aid. The PMF is an Iranian proxy that is both anti-America and anti-Israel.
In order to survive, Christians needed to join this Obama-approved militia, thereby forcing Middle Eastern Christians to hold positions that are anti-Western, anti-democratic and inimical to their own interests.
The consequences of Obama’s foreign policy were not limited to the Middle East. According to a recent investigation by Politico, the Obama administration derailed an important DEA campaign against the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, as it was funneling cocaine into the United States. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that thousands of Americans die from cocaine overdose every year, out of 1.5 million people who consume the drug.
Rather than push for regime change, Obama wanted to consummate his nuclear deal with Iran at all costs. Ironically, this has guaranteed that Iran will become a nuclear threshold state. Even The Washington Post, an icon of left-wing advocacy, criticized the deal for effectively allowing Iran’s nuclear infrastructure to remain intact. None of Iran’s nuclear facilities will be closed and not one of the country’s 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled.
Obama’s nuclear deal also provided Iran with a huge economic boost that will allow it to sponsor its proxy wars throughout the Middle East. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, $100-$150 billion in funds have been released by the U.S. to Iran under the deal.
But none of this money has reached the people of Iran. Iranians will no longer stand for a theocratic dictatorship that funds death and terrorism throughout the world at the expense of its own people’s welfare.
Chanting “Death to Hezbollah,” protestors in the Iranian city of Qom have called for the exile of Ayatollah Khamenei. In Takestan, protesters burned down a seminary where Shi’a Muslim clerics are trained. Crowds in Rasht called for the death of the IRGC, while an IRGC-affiliated bank was destroyed. At Tehran University, students chanted, “Not Gaza, not Lebanon — We will give our lives to Iran.”
The ongoing protests in Iran present pro-Western and pro-democratic forces with a second chance. President Trump must undo his predecessor’s legacy and follow up his vocal support for the Iranian people with concrete action. Only then will Iran realize its full potential as a free and prosperous nation. It’s all in a day’s work for a president who is determined to make America great again.
Bradley Martin is a Senior Fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center and Deputy Editor for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research