When President Donald Trump announced the United States was exiting the Iran nuclear deal last month, the focus on internal Iranian politics was intense. It was as if the American political establishment thought of little else but how important Iran is to our overall foreign policy.
Fast forward seven weeks and it’s like Iran isn’t even on anyone’s radar anymore. North Korea, immigration, and the Supreme Court are just a few of the stories that have nudged Iran off the homepages, front pages, and every page of the major newspapers and news sites.
That’s a big shame.
Because what’s continued to happen inside Iran since we exited the nuclear deal is nothing short of astounding. Almost as astounding is the way some Western leaders are wisely choosing to respond to developments in Iran.
What’s happening is that contrary to the many “experts” who insisted our exit from the deal would embolden anti-American forces within Iran, the anti-regime protest movement has continued to pick up steam.
Some of the evidence of that rise in opposition to the mullahs is breathtaking and includes:
- Chants of “Death to the Dictator.”
- Videos of Iranian people scuffling with government troops.
- Footage of more women removing their legally required head coverings.
- Video and audio of crowds yelling “Death to Palestine,” as a way of protesting the regime’s growing financial support of Hamas instead of keeping the money at home.
Again, these protests have been growing in size and in the number of cities where they’re taking place. It’s really nothing but a straight line from the renewed protests that began in Iran in December 2017. It’s just that the politicians and the Western news media haven’t been paying much attention.
There’s also been scant attention paid to the way President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have acted in the days since the deal was nixed.
President Trump has been pursuing the “stick” part of the “carrot and stick” method. His administration has been focusing on preparing new sanctions and informing other nations and private corporations what they need to expect when it comes to doing business with Iran in the coming months. Just this week, the Trump team informed the major oil companies that they have until November to stop buying Iranian oil. Even before that announcement, trade analysts began to report a significant drop in the amount of shipping traffic at Iranian ports. In other words, the financial world is already anticipating the sanctions before they’re even enacted.
President Trump’s decision to exit the nuclear deal and now turn the screws harder on the Iranian regime are good decisions strategically and ethically. They aren’t the reasons for the growing Iranian protests, but they are the appropriate response to them as opposed to President Barack Obama’s decision to ignore the pro-democracy movement’s last major uprising in 2009. Little did we know back then that the Obama team was ignoring that encouraging protest wave in order to solidify a cozier relationship with the murderous Iranian regime. Even before he took office, we now know Obama staffers from the transition team started to make contacts with Iranian officials in the weeks before the first Obama inauguration.
Unlike longtime enemies like Cuba, American and European sanctions on Iran have often resulted in real popular protests against the mullahs in Tehran. Taking the pressure off Iran’s leaders both in 2009 and with the 2015 Iran deal will stand as two of the most inexcusable actions of the Obama administration and its many enablers in Congress and the news media.
But it’s not all about getting tough. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s approach has been the “carrot” in the equation. And it’s been fascinating and entertaining to watch.
Netanyahu posted videos with messages of peace directly to the Iranian people once or twice before the Iran deal exit. But since the U.S. nixed the deal, Netanyahu has been taking this approach up a big notch.
First, he posted this video expressing concern for the growing drought problems throughout Iran. While pouring and drinking a delicious-looking glass of water, Bibi then presented the Iranian people with a tremendous gift: Israel’s cutting edge water preservation and irrigation technology! Netanyahu even had all of the keys to that technology loaded onto a website in Farsi and showed the address for all to see. It was an extraordinary moment of generosity.
Second, he posted another video right after Iran’s impressive draw with Portugal in the World Cup soccer tournament. Knowing that the Iranian people would be swelling with pride in the moment, he congratulated them on the difficult feat of earning the tie and then insisted that the people should also be congratulated for doing something even harder: standing up to their repressive regime.
Unlike the Tokyo Rose or Axis Sally broadcasts pumped into the U.S. and to American troops abroad during World War II, these messages from Netanyahu were meant to make Iranians feel good about themselves and convince them that they have a better choice forged from hope and not shame.
All of this puts the lie to the oft-repeated and loaded argument that the only alternative to the flawed Iran deal was to go to war. By the way, that point was almost always made by people who insinuated that the Iraq War was also greatly the fault of Israel and Jewish supporters of Israel here in the U.S. Their goal was clearly to hitch a ride on the anti-Semitic express train in hopes that might stop President Trump from exiting the deal. Thankfully, that didn’t work.
It’s not clear yet if a real revolution will take hold in Iran and lead to the overthrow of that terrible regime. But the winds are beginning to blow in that direction. More importantly, the U.S. and Israel are encouraging to good guys to make it happen. Two years ago, Iranians who wanted real change for the better were much more alone.
Jake Novak has been a TV news producer and editorial columnist for more than 25 years, with expertise in political, economic, religious, and cultural issues. He has produced shows at CNBC, CNN, FOX, and several local stations across the country. Novak is a graduate of the Yeshivah of Flatbush, has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University, and a master’s degree from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny and watch out for future columns on 5TJT.com.