One section of Trump’s recent Iran statement stood out as remarkably disingenuous:

We are also supporting the brave Iranian citizens who are demanding change from a corrupt regime that wastes the Iranian people’s money on weapons systems at home and terrorism abroad. And crucially, we are calling on all nations to lend similar support to the Iranian people, who are suffering under a regime that is stifling basic freedoms and denying its citizens the opportunity to build better lives for their families—an opportunity that is every human being’s God-given right.

I doubt that there are many Iranians that want the Trump administration’s support, but it is important to appreciate that there is no substance behind this claim of support. Yes, Trump and other administration officials are mistakenly offering rhetorical backing to protesters there, but every other policy related to Iran demonstrates their unwavering hostility to both the regime and the Iranian people. An administration that was worried about the suffering of Iranians wouldn’t bar them from coming to the U.S., but of course Trump’s expression of concern in this context is little more than trolling. It is Trump’s policy that penalizes Iranian-Americans and their relatives solely because of their nationality, so it is a bad joke for him to pretend to care about their rights.

It takes considerable gall to boast about supporting “brave Iranian citizens” in one breath while threatening to reimpose sanctions aimed at strangling their economy in the next. Iran hawks often feign support for the people whom their policies punish, but it isn’t credible to pretend to be the friend of a nation that you simultaneously want to isolate and penalize. Commerce and engagement may not necessarily liberalize or democratize another country, but sanctions and impoverishment certainly won’t. If Trump and other Iran hawks were remotely serious in their desire for a better future for Iranians, they would not be so determined to ruin their economy and deprive them of opportunities to do business with the outside world. Trump’s “support” for the people of Iran is shown to be empty by all of his administration’s other actions and statements.