VOA Persian interviewed Mike Pompeo recently, and among other obnoxious things he said this:
So it’s not about – you asked about regime change. It’s not about changing the regime. It’s about changing the behavior of the leadership in Iran to comport with what the Iranian people really want them to do [bold mine-DL].
It is remarkably convenient that the things Pompeo says “the Iranian people really want them to do” line up 100% with what the Trump administration wants Iran to do. Of course, Pompeo’s assertion is wrong. It is risible and insulting that a member of the current administration claims to be speaking on behalf of the people of Iran after Trump has barred Iranians from coming to the U.S., reimposed punishing sanctions on their country, and reneged on a nuclear agreement that most of them supported. It is profoundly arrogant for our government to presume to know the preferences of the Iranian people better than they do, and this is all the more ridiculous when we realize how poorly this administration understands Iran or any foreign country.
In fact, most Iranians don’t support Pompeo’s demands or the administration’s goals for Iran according to the best information that we have. On the contrary, the January 2018 survey conducted by the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and IranPoll found broad Iranian public support for many of the things that Pompeo insists that the Iranian government stop doing. According to the survey, 51% of Iranians disagree that the “government should spend less money in places like Syria and Iraq.” 61% disagree with the statement “Iran’s current level of involvement in Iraq and Syria is not in Iran’s national interests.” 75% disagree with the statement “Iran’s political system needs to undergo fundamental change.” 64% disagree that the “military should spend less much money on developing missiles,” and 70% said that “Iran should not agree to stop developing advanced missiles.” 73% think it is very important for Iran to develop missiles. 56% said that Iran should continue missile testing and should consider this issue to be non-negotiable.
75% also said that it was very important for Iran to develop its nuclear program, and 54% still approved of the JCPOA as of four months ago. 64% said that “Iran should not agree to increase the duration of the limits it has accepted under the JCPOA under any circumstances.” It doesn’t sound as if most Iranians are eager for their government to capitulate on these points. If the Iranian government agreed to any of Pompeo’s demands on the nuclear issue, missiles, or Iranian foreign policy, it would be taking unpopular actions to mollify a deeply disliked and distrusted foreign government. That’s obviously not happening.
Unsurprisingly, most Iranians don’t favor having their government abandon its allies, disarm, and dismantle their nuclear program. It is also not surprising that this administration doesn’t know or care about any of this, and their feigned interest in what the Iranian people want is just a way of disguising their unremitting hostility. That hostility is hard to miss, and 69% of respondents characterized the Trump administration’s policies towards Iran as “completely hostile” and another 15% saw them at least somewhat hostile. Less than 2% of Iranians thought that the administration’s policies were in any way friendly. Iranians aren’t buying that a government that bans, sanctions, and threatens them is on their side, and there is no reason why they would. That’s why a staggering 93% of Iranians hold an unfavorable view of the U.S. government.
The Trump administration isn’t really interested in helping the people of Iran, and the vast majority wouldn’t want our government’s help in any case. The administration’s efforts to dictate terms to Iran have nothing to do with trying to benefit the people of Iran, and most Iranians oppose those efforts.