The Christian Science Monitor reports on how the Trump administration’s Iran policy is backfiring and aiding the regime:

“What’s striking are these totally insincere and unconvincing professions of how much we support the Iranian people and their aspirations,” says Mr. Limbert, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran and author of the book, “Negotiating with Iran.”

He summed up the Iranian view: “Here is this person [Trump] who says he’s going to kill millions of us, they’re going to strangle our economy… and they are going to support our aspirations for democracy. How stupid do they think we are?” says Limbert.

Sanctions and other pressure tactics to force changes in a targeted country are rarely successful. Punitive measures hurt the population far more than they undermine the regime, and they perversely give the regime a ready-made excuse for deteriorating conditions. Strangling a country’s economy and seeking to isolate it from its trading partners benefit people in the regime and those with connections to it, and meanwhile the rest of the population suffers from the shortages and economic upheaval that these punitive measures cause. Sanctions and blockades typically do not make the people turn against their own rulers, but instead drive the people and the rulers closer together. Economic warfare against an entire country is a guaranteed way to stifle political opposition and snuff out challenges to the status quo.

When the U.S. is acting to suffocate Iranians with sanctions, it cannot credibly claim to be on their side. Our government is proving by its actions that it is not and never has been on their side. The fact that U.S. officials keep making this claim is just insulting to the people on the receiving end of the administration’s hostility. The “totally insincere and unconvincing professions” of support that Limbert rightly criticizes should be dismissed as nothing more than window dressing for a cruel and hostile policy that makes no distinction between the government and the people. The Trump administration treats the Iranian people like an enemy and a target, and they are deluded if they think that the same people they are helping to impoverish will pursue the regime change that Iran hawks desire.

Jonah Shepp recently described the administration’s Iran policy as “regime change on the cheap”:

Yet the administration’s choice to reapply the economic stranglehold of sanctions on Iran also serves a darker purpose. The Trump administration isn’t looking to invade and occupy Iran, but it does have a fairly clear goal of regime change. Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, and other key figures in Trump’s circle, including key Republicans in Congress, are open advocates of overthrowing the Islamic Republic and its effective ruler, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

These hawks’ preferences for war have been stymied by the resistance of the military establishment to starting yet another large-scale war in the Middle East, the true costs of which the real generals understand better than their armchair counterparts. Accordingly, the strategy the administration appears to have settled on is to have the Iranian people do the legwork of overthrowing their government for us.

It won’t succeed for the simple reason that Iranians can see that the U.S. is trying to manipulate and use them, and they won’t be party to outside meddling aimed at destabilizing and harming their country.