On October 7, 2017, Newsweek published an opinion piece by Tom Ridge, former Secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. The article attempted to explain why the U.S. is correct to pursue regime change in Iran. According to Ridge, the U.S. doesn’t merely want regime change in Iran, it needs it.
Working our way backward, Ridge’s concluding paragraph states that:
“In setting policy toward Iran, it is important not only to fight political battles against the Islamic Republic, but building relationships with people and groups…whose goal is to bring freedom and democracy to Iran and make the Middle East safer, more tolerant and more secure.” [emphasis added]
Not once in Ridge’s article does he acknowledge that Iran already had its own notion of freedom and democracy before the CIA actively destroyed it in 1953 when it initiated a coup to overthrow the country’s democratically elected leader, Mohammed Mossadegh. Ridge also fails to explain that it was because of the U.S. and the U.K.’s decision to interfere in its internal politics and its support for a brutal dictator, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, that Iran came to harbor such blatant discontent for the West. Despite these historical factors, Ridge is supporting the reinstitution of the same strategy that brought us to this juncture and doesn’t find it appropriate to mention any of this at all.
Ridge also fails to mention how disastrous U.S-led regime change operations have been in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and even Ukraine, to name just a few. Iran is different though – and will be different – war hawks continue to argue.
Ridge’s argument opens with an ambitious:
“President Trump has been very clear about his strong commitment to combat the global scourge of terrorism and to combat those nations that support and enable it.”
It is not clear why one should even read past that line considering it is objectively false. We know with some degree of certainty that Saudi Arabia funds all manner of terror groups, including ISIS; exports the same Wahhabist ideology ISIS subscribes to; had a significant role in the 9/11 attacks; and is committing war crimes and genocide in neighboring Yemen. And yet, not long after taking office, Donald Trump bowed down (or curtsied, rather) to Saudi Arabia before trying his hand at signing a monumental arms deal the White House claimed was worth nearly $110 billion.
Iran is not exacting anything close to the level of terrorism that Saudi Arabia is. In fact, Iran is one of the most heavily engaged countries currently fighting ISIS — certainly not sponsoring it. Regardless, in the eyes of people like Ridge, Saudi Arabia is one of “our traditional Arab allies.”
In order to achieve this regime change, Ridge asserts there is a “meaningful partnership to be built with an Iranian democratic resistance group” — the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI). Ridge conveniently decided not to mention that the U.S. already once designated the NCRI as a foreign terrorist organization, and it was only formally removed by Hillary Clinton – the same woman who refused to designate Boko Haram in Nigeria as a terror group even after repeated requests from the CIA.
One also has to wonder why the U.S. needs to promote democratic groups in Iran — a country whose government is to some extent already democratically elected — and not inside a brutal theocracy like Saudi Arabia, where voting is non-existent beyond the municipal level.
Ridge draws on Donald Trump’s philosophy to bolster his argument, quoting just one of Trump’s many anti-Iranian speeches:
“The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change…And, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most. This is what causes the regime to restrict Internet access, tear down satellite dishes, shoot unarmed student protesters, and imprison political reformers.”
The “good people of Iran” were so good in Trump’s eyes that he decided to put every single one of them on a nonsensical travel ban list that prevented Iranian scientists and the like from continuing their life-saving work in the United States. Iran’s crackdown on its own people is a valid concern, though would only be valid if the U.S. and its allies didn’t take part in this very activity. Saudi Arabia is also doing something similar to its dissident population, brutally and violently oppressing entire residential areas. Are these double standards justifiable — especially if we pretend to be concerned with human rights violations and democracy?
Ridge even applauded the “depth of the president’s understanding of the nature and the condemnation of the Iranian government,” perhaps one of the most ludicrous sentences ever written. Whatever qualities the president has, depth is certainly not one of them. Candidate Donald Trump once implied Saudi Arabia committed the 9/11 attacks. President Trump is now arming and enabling them to commit a thousand 9/11 events inside Yemen.
Right now, Iran is one of the most stable countries in the entire region. Therefore, any policy under which other countries illegally interfere within another sovereign nation needs to have a uniquely justifiable basis. Claiming Iran’s radical leadership is undemocratic and restricts basic human rights and freedoms is completely meaningless if we give our “traditional” allies a free pass to do the same.
If this is the best argument for regime change in Iran the mainstream media and establishment hacks can offer, then it can be safely concluded that there is no valid reason for backing an illegal regime change operation in Iran. Since Donald Trump was elected, the world has seen countless incidents of resistance movements pop up. There are millions of people who strongly oppose Trump within America, there are millions of people across the globe who fear Donald Trump’s potential use of nuclear weapons, and there are already thousands of civilians who are being buried by his military in a number of countries – but does this justify foreign-backed regime change in the U.S.? Would Iran or Russia be justified in backing a coup to overthrow Donald Trump, who, according to America’s so-called vision of democracy, was democratically elected by the American people?
A simple understanding of Iran’s history combined with the horrific outcome of regime change operations across the Middle East and beyond tells us that this tried and true regime change strategy would not benefit the Iranian people.