Home/Daniel Larison/The Hawkish Uses and Abuses of the Green Movement in Iran

The Hawkish Uses and Abuses of the Green Movement in Iran

Michael Gerson pushes some more false claims about Iran:

By all means let’s recall a little history. In 2009, in the aftermath of a disputed presidential election, a Green Revolution raised the possibility of regime change [bold mine-DL] — by popular uprising — in Iran. Obama did nothing to encourage it, for fear of undermining a nuclear deal.

The claim that the Green movement protests created an opportunity for regime change is oneof the most misleading arguments Iran hawks have used over the last six years. It ignores that the Green movement was not a revolutionary one, nor was it a prelude to an uprising. Its leaders and most of its supporters did not seek the overthrow of the regime, but sought instead the recognition of their civil rights and the election of a particular candidate. There was no possibility of regime change through “popular uprising,” so there was no chance to be missed.

More vocal U.S. support would have changed nothing for the better, and would in all likelihood have made the crackdown even harsher than it was. Besides, the Green movement didn’t want the support of the U.S. and understood perfectly well that an endorsement from Washington would be disastrous for their standing in Iran. More to the point, U.S. engagement with Iran was effectively put on hold for the next several years because of the protests. There was no progress on the nuclear issue in 2009 or 2010, and the U.S. slapped down the efforts of Turkey and Brazil to broker a deal. Gerson is recycling a set of talking points about the Green movement that was discredited years ago, and in so doing confirms that he doesn’t understand Iran or its politics very well at all.

Furthermore, it is the Iranian opposition and the Iranian middle class that have suffered significantly as a result of the sanctions imposed on their country. These are the Iranians that stand to gain from the sanctions relief that Iran hawks here in the U.S. so bitterly oppose, and these are the people that will lose out if the deal were to be rejected. That’s something to bear in mind the next time that critics of the deal pretend to take an interest in the well-being of Iranian opponents of the regime.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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