Trump administration must differentiate between the regime and the Iranian people

An essay by Robert Jordan and Darab Ganji of SMU's John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies.

By Robert Jordan and Darab Ganji

Next week, the mullah regime in Iran will yet again stage its well-choreographed celebration of the 38th anniversary of the "Islamic" Revolution. It will certainly, as always, be commemorated with massive, staged observances replete with pro-regime and anti-American banners and chants of a few million people throughout the country. 

The pro-government demonstrators are primarily those receiving government subsidies combined with agents and lackeys of the regime. What will not be as obvious are the many more millions of people, primarily young Iranians, who, if they were not prohibited from gathering, would instead be overwhelmingly voicing pro-freedom and anti-regime slogans.

More than 70 percent of the Iranian population of 80 million is under 35 and more than 50 percent is under the age of 25. These young people desperately seek freedom, equality, human rights, economic opportunity, modernity and a better life -- all of which they realize the mullah regime is incapable of delivering.

The mullah regime came to power claiming to champion freedom, independence and self-sufficiency, promising paradise on earth. Today it is one of the most repressive regimes in the world with an economy in shambles.

Since the Islamic Republic's inception in 1979, the ruling mullahs have killed countless thousands of their opponents and have jailed several million without any due process. Torture and mistreatment are prevalent in prisons as documented by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and other reputable human rights organizations. A system of apartheid has been instituted against Iranian women as well as religious minorities.

The regime also has broken practically every rule of civilized international conduct and for decades has been the primary instigator of terrorism and anti-American hatred around the world. Over this period, the ruling mullahs have turned Iran into a fertile breeding ground for militant Islamic fundamentalism and international terrorism. They repeatedly use terror as an instrument of policy, both foreign and domestic.

They support international terrorist activities in numerous ways, including the teaching of radical Islamic militant ideology and propaganda that incites martyrdom and violence. Their most direct means of involvement in this regard is providing sophisticated training as well as ideological, operational, logistical and financial support.

In most cases they have engaged in deniable terrorist acts, which they have mastered largely by their skills in using proxies, primarily nationals of other countries, as has been exemplified in terrorist acts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Lebanon and Argentina -- also alliances with other terrorist regimes such as Syria.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration's appeasement policies towards the Iranian regime throughout the past eight years only emboldened the mullahs in advancing their criminal nature. Earlier this week, the regime carried out a medium-range ballistic missile test in violation of United Nations resolution.

Today, the ruling mullahs know that the principal threat to their survivability is the increasing discontent of the Iranian people, especially the youth.

In order for the United States and the world community to avoid bad alternatives (the continuation of the mullah regime in Iran or even worse), it is critical for the new U.S. administration to formulate policies that would support and encourage further development of the credible homegrown freedom movement in Iran while concurrently imposing strict, targeted sanctions on government officials, their agents and the Revolutionary Guards.

In this process, it is as critical for the Trump administration to clearly and publicly differentiate between the mullah regime and the people of Iran. As Saadi, the influential Persian Poet of the 13th Century, eloquently said:

The Children of Adam are members of a body whole related,
for of a single essence are they each and all created;
When one member of this body is hurt sorely,
surely the other members cannot stand securely;
Oh you who in the name of others troubles turn away your face,
it is not befitting to bestow the name of human being upon you.

The success for the Iranian people's freedom movement would certainly become a powerful stabilizing force for the Middle East region and beyond.

For Iran, the time has come to marginalize the mullah regime and to supply oxygen to those who yearn for freedom.

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