The smartest thing that the Trump administration could do in response to the protests in Iran is nothing, so of course Trump can’t shut up about it:
Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 1, 2018
Trump’s comments can’t do the protesters any good, and will almost certainly be used against them, but that doesn’t fully capture how stupid they are. The striking thing about the president’s latest outburst is how disconnected it is from administration policy except for the usual denunciation of the nuclear deal. Trump wants to keep Iranians from coming to the U.S., so it really doesn’t matter to him if they are “hungry” for freedom. If an Iranian dissident wanted to come to the U.S. right now, he would not be allowed in under Trump’s ridiculous travel ban solely because of his nationality. Trump would like to scrap the nuclear deal and put additional economic pressure on Iran until they make much larger concessions. This is an unrealistic and misguided goal, but it is also completely at odds with any concern for the well-being of the Iranian people, who have suffered for years under sanctions and would bear the extra burden that additional sanctions would impose.
Iran hawks love to present themselves as friends of the Iranian people so long as they think Iranians are prepared to do what they want (i.e., overthrow the regime), but every policy they support is aimed at impoverishing, harming, vilifying, and excluding Iranians. It is just a little too obviously two-faced to fool anyone. It is no surprise that Iranians remember this and have no interest in receiving “support” from the people that otherwise want to bomb them or strangle their country into submission. It isn’t possible to show unremitting hostility to Iran at every turn without inflicting harm on the people of Iran, and Trump’s policies prove that. There is nothing that Trump and his hard-liners can say now that will change this. It is fitting that the hard-line policies that are supposed to bolster U.S. “leadership” and “credibility” in the world are so often the reason why the rest of the world doesn’t believe American leaders and can’t take what they say seriously.