So, instead of resorting to false narratives and personal attacks, we should cultivate our Iran policy — because there still isn’t a coherent one — the old-fashioned way: by making real arguments, backing them up with actual evidence and prioritizing real people over the tactics of manipulation and fraud preferred by authoritarians.
Rezaian is absolutely right that this is how our Iran policy and all of our government’s policies should be formulated, so it is worth considering why the Iran policy debate is so unlike this. Why are there so many false claims and malicious trolls, and why are they entirely on the hawkish side of the debate? Supporters of “maximum pressure” and regime change typically resort to fabrications, distortions, and misrepresentations of the evidence because both their assessment of the threat from Iran’s government and their response to it are divorced from reality. They massively inflate the threat from Iran, and then they propose heavy-handed, cruel policies to answer the threat they just exaggerated beyond recognition. Iran hawks rely on mobilizing armies of bots and trolls online so often because there are so few people here or in Iran that actually support a policy of collective punishment against an entire nation. When Iran hawks’ claims are placed under scrutiny, their arguments fall apart right away because they are based on fantasies and lies.
Iran hawks typically argue in bad faith. They will deny that they seek regime change in Iran when there is nothing else that they could be seeking. They feign concern for the Iranian people while imposing more and more destructive sanctions on them. They claim not to want war, but agitate for increasingly aggressive and provocative actions designed to foment conflict. Iran hawks pretend to worry about nuclear proliferation in Iran while actively seeking the destruction of one of the most successful and comprehensive nonproliferation agreements ever negotiated. They assert that Iran seeks nuclear weapons when Iran’s compliance with the same deal that they want to wreck proves that isn’t happening. These same hard-liners cannot rely on “actual evidence” to support their preferred policies because the evidence confirms that they just make things up and twist the facts to suit their purpose. Iran hawks can’t win the argument on the merits, and so they have to turn to underhanded tactics and smears.