Home/Daniel Larison/Trump’s Iran Policy Is Designed to Hurt the Iranian People

Trump’s Iran Policy Is Designed to Hurt the Iranian People

Then-Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-KS, speaking at a rally in 2013. He faces a senate grilling for his secretary of state nomination today.Mark Taylor/Creative Commons

Mike Pompeo made another absurd assertion about the administration’s Iran policy in a recent interview:

We want the Iranian people to be successful. We want this to be a successful country. We want to restore democracy there [bold mine-DL]. We think the Iranian people want that same thing. And so our aim is not to harm the Iranian people, but to change the behavior, the malign activity of this regime.

Since most Iranians reject the demands that Pompeo made earlier this year, it simply isn’t true that the Iranian people want the same thing as the administration. There is no reason why it would be true. Iran hawks are forever projecting their preferences onto the population at the same time that they are harming them with punitive measures. If this administration had the slightest respect for the Iranian people, it would stop claiming to be on their side. No major power is ever acting on behalf of the people of a country that it is dictating terms to, and Americans should stop taking our officials’ statements seriously when they say these things.

If the administration’s aim is “not to harm the Iranian people,” it would never have reimposed sanctions on Iran and would never have reneged on the nuclear deal. Everything that the Trump administration has done in relation to Iran since coming into office has been harmful to the people, whether it has come in the form of banning them from traveling to the U.S. or imposing the sanctions that strangle their economy. You cannot credibly inflict collective punishment on an entire nation and then pretend that this isn’t exactly what you intended to do. The explicit goal of the administration’s Iran policy is to make conditions inside the country terrible, so we can dispense with the nonsense that it is not deliberately targeting the civilian population.

Pompeo’s claim that the administration wants to “restore democracy” may be the most laughable of all. For starters, it is not up to a foreign power to “restore” another nation’s democracy. Trying to coerce a government into yielding to the administration’s demands represents the denial of the other country’s sovereignty and independence, so it is ludicrous to suggest that this policy has anything to do with making Iran more democratic. At the same time, Pompeo’s statement is an admission that the administration is pursuing regime change in all but name.

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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