Trump’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly described the Iranian regime as an enemy of its own people, as well as a major contributor to regional instability. Maryam Rajavi the president-elect of the pro-democracy coalition known as the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), in her response to the speech, called Trump the first American president to ever “underscore the need for regime change in Iran by the Iranian people.” Clearly, she would like the American president to make a commitment to show greater support for the Iranian people in their struggle for freedom against the brutal and oppressive extremist regime that governs their nation.
The Trump administration has already moved away from the policies that led to the Iran nuclear deal, which did not address issues like ballistic missile development or human rights abuses.
In a series of remarks delivered before his decertification of the Iran deal, President Trump said the Tehran regime is at odds with the aspirations of its own people. He also criticized the Iranian regime’s central power network, the Revolutionary Guards, and marked it for potential terrorist designation.
Trump’s U.N. speech emphasized the Iranian people. He said, “…the day will come when the people will face a choice: Will they continue down the path of poverty, bloodshed and terror, or will the Iranian people return to the nation’s proud roots as a center of civilization, culture and wealth, where their people can be happy and prosperous once again?”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told a congressional committee that American policy should include “support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government.” Still, Tillerson has not outlined any means by which this might be done.
“There are some things that we should expect if the Trump administration is serious about following up on its preliminary statements regarding ‘peaceful transition’ and the future choices that the Iranian people will face,” writes Walid Phares, Ph.D., who serves as Middle East and terrorism experts for Fox News and was a foreign policy adviser to Trump when he was a Republican presidential candidate. The U.S. government must be prepared to make more concrete gestures of support for the entire citizenry of that country and, by extension, the opposition movement. In his Fox News article, Phares writes, “Toward that end, perhaps the most imperative such gesture is American leadership in the push for an international inquiry into past Iranian government crimes against the nation’s pro-democracy movement.”
He is referring to the massacre that occurred in Iran in the summer of 1988, when approximately 30,000 Iranian political prisoners were executed. This crime followed in response to a fatwa from Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic. While human rights organizations have long recognized the incident as a crime against humanity, it has been largely ignored in Western media and certainly within Western policy circles.
Phares cites other crimes, such as the Iranian government killings of protesters and opposition figures in Iranian Kurdistan, the Ahwaz province and in Iranian Balushistan, and the brutal repression of the Green Revolution as well as the killing of demonstrators during the June 2009 protests in Tehran and other cities, which also seem to be ignored by the West.
President Trump appears to have already broached the topic of regime change in Iran. Will he also address Iran’s human rights violations? Showing solidarity with the Iranian people gives a reason for optimism about the Trump administration’s intentions, but it remains important to keep up the pressure on the U.S. and its allies to make the necessary changes for the Iranian people.