Pompeo and Regime Change in Tehran
Are we going revolutionary again?
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently made an astonishing statement to a small group of journalists, in which he appeared to call for revolution in Iran, and pledge American support for it. Adam Kredo reported it:
Pompeo, speaking to reporters in Riyadh, said that the Trump administration's primary goal is to empower the Iranian people to rein in the ruling regime, which has spent a fortune on foreign wars and terror operations as its own people suffer from a collapsing economy.
While the administration has been careful to avoid characterizing its policy as regime change, it has become clear that it does supports efforts by the Iranian people to end Tehran's expansionist march across the region, particularly in Syria and Yemen. The administration also has stated that it opposes the hardline regime and would offer its support to opposition elements in the country.
"Our effort is to make sure that the Iranian people get control of their capital, and it becomes a nation that is normal and is not conducting terror campaigns that are unrivaled any place else in the world, Pompeo said.
It may well be that the Trump Administration has always maintained it would support opposition elements in Iran, but although I have long favored such support for revolution against the regime, I haven’t seen much evidence of it. Although the president, the vice president, the national security adviser and the secretary of state have been unstinting in their criticism of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his henchmen, it has been difficult to spot concrete signs of their support for regime opponents, or for what would constitute a revolutionary change in Tehran.
Indeed, it’s difficult to find a single public statement from any top American policy-maker before Pompeo’s remarks in Cairo calling for an Iranian revolution against the theocratic dictatorship. Yes, there have been sanctions, which I support, and several speeches condemning the regime’s support for mass murder in Syria by the Revolutionary Guards and Hezbollah, and the ongoing oppression of Iranians, but nothing like a call for the Iranian people to “get control of their capital” and turns into a “normal nation.”
Has there been a change in policy? I have spoken with journalists who have asked this question at both State and the national security council, and they have not been told “yes.” There has not been any public repetition of Pompeo’s revolutionary words, nor has the president said anything of the sort. Nor, for that matter, have leaders of the Iranian opposition referred to Secretary Pompeo’s statement.
What’s going on?
I don’t think Pompeo misspoke. He’s very close to the president, and takes care to reflect Trump’s thinking and impulses. Ergo, I believe his remarks reflect conversations with the president. It doesn’t surprise me that administration officials don’t confirm the policy; they were not privy to the conversations between the president and the secretary of state, and most of the foreign service officers and NSC “experts” want a new deal with Iran, not a change in regime. Unless there were explicit (written) instructions to support an Iranian revolution, the professionals would not endorse it.
If we are going to support the Iranian revolution, it will become clear enough in the near future. Meanwhile, we will continue to pressure our allies to refrain from supporting the mullahs. This seems to be working, as Reuters just reported that the Iranians stormed out of a meeting with European diplomats, who have invariably been fastidiously accommodating in such sessions. This time, however, the Iranians were irked (and note that this was in Tehran).
The French, British, German, Danish, Dutch, and Belgian diplomats in the Iranian foreign ministry room had incensed the officials with a message that Europe could no longer tolerate ballistic missile tests in Iran and assassination plots on European soil, according to four EU diplomats.
This is a real change. Reuters calls it “an extraordinary break with protocol, and I’m sure Pompeo and Trump were plenty pleased.
It is conceivable that the Europeans’ newly-found toughness is related to Pompeo’s revelation that the United States will be working with Iranian dissidents. Some of them are old enough to remember that support for Soviet dissidents led to the collapse of the Soviet Empire, which was a much more challenging enemy than the Tehran mullahcracy is today. Pompeo has been doing a lot of meeting and talking of late, and he might have told the EU diplomats the same thing he told the American reporters. Or Trump may have told them, and urged them to join in the effort.
One thing is certain: when America moves, the world changes. as Gorbachev discovered to his chagrin. Just as Obama’s support for the Islamic Republic strengthened it in the region, support for its internal enemies would likewise change the balance of power in the Middle East and north Africa.
In fact, it would change the whole world. I hope it’s real.