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The “Missed Opportunity” in Iran That Wasn’t

Mona Charen recycles the old complaint that the administration didn’t do enough for the Green movement:

The fall of that regime would be the greatest victory imaginable against worldwide terror (to say nothing of what it would do for Iranians). Yet when the regime was rocked by weeks of protests, Obama let the opportunity to support the demonstrators (and possibly affect the outcome) slip through his fingers.

It’s not clear what the opportunity was that Obama missed. For the sake of argument, let’s grant that the U.S. could have “possibly affected the outcome” of the election protests by showing more public support for the protesters. Further, let’s assume that the effect of U.S. support for the Green movement would not have been counterproductive, but would have made the Green movement more successful than it was. This last point is almost certainly false, but let’s accept it for the moment. It still doesn’t follow that the current Iranian leadership would have been replaced, and it is even less likely that the entire regime would have fallen, so there never was an opportunity to be exploited. What we can know with some certainty is that the leadership of the Green movement did not differ greatly from the current leadership on disputed issues concerning Iran’s nuclear program and its support for proxies outside Iran, so we would have no reason to expect changed regime behavior had the Green movement had prevailed and Mousavi had been accepted as the new president.

Back in the real world, we know that the Green movement was not a revolutionary movement dedicated to regime change, but was focused overwhelmingly on domestic political grievances within the existing political system. We also know that the Green movement did not wantforeign backing. The standard complaint about the U.S. response to the 2009-10 protests in Iran is that the U.S. failed to provide the protesters with support they didn’t want that would have changed nothing in the hopes of achieving something (i.e., regime change) that the opposition wasn’t seeking.

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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