By Rep. Ted Poe
Washington Examiner, Jan. 8, 2018 - Cracks are forming in the iron grip of the Iranian regime. The latest wave of protests sweeping Iran demonstrates yet again that dictatorial regimes are inherently doomed because they lack the enduring consent of the people they rule.
Yet just as our forefathers required foreign assistance to finally shed the chains of tyranny, we too must stand with the Iranian people as they defy their oppressors. Utilizing our economic, political, and technological might, rather than armed intervention, the United States should rectify past inaction and amplify the voices of Iranians.
For nearly four decades, the mullahs in Tehran have used brutality and religious zeal to cling to power and steal from the Iranian people. When they seized power in 1979, they were part of a larger, ideologically diverse movement opposed to the monarchical rule of the Shah. The Islamist clerics led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, however, turned on their revolutionary comrades and imposed theocratic rule once the monarchy fell. Thousands of Iranians of different political stripes were executed without trial while many more, such as members of the People’s Mojahedin of Iran, were forced into exile. Whatever promise many Iranians thought would come in 1979 proved to be a mirage that replaced one corrupt dictator with another.
Since then, the theocrats in Tehran have wasted their nation’s vast resources on their violent regional ambitions, sponsoring terrorism and militancy from Lebanon to Yemen. However, it is the Iranian people more than any that have endured the persistent brutality of the supreme leader and his Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps thugs. We witnessed this in 2009, when thousands of Iranians took to the street to reject the rigged election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad . The subsequent crackdown by the regime killed dozens and imprisoned thousands more in an attempt to silence an emerging opposition.
In spite of the blatant savagery by Iran’s rulers, the Obama administration said little. Upon coming to office, President Obama and his national security staff had softened America’s tone towards the extremist government in Tehran as part of broader policy of appeasement that culminated in the Iran nuclear deal. The shameful response by the Obama administration in the face of such savagery was all too reminiscent of American inaction during the Hungarian uprising in 1956 against the Soviet Union. That sad chapter in American leadership crushed the hopes of millions living behind the Iron Curtain. Succeeding Cold War presidents pointedly saw that America could not remain silent to Soviet oppression. Today we must echo the bold leadership of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, who are forever immortalized by their outspoken criticism of the evil empire. Their words emboldened fledgling democratic movements throughout Eastern Europe and ultimately contributed to the peaceful demise of the Soviet empire.
America still holds a unique duty as leader of the free world. For more than two centuries, the United States has been a symbol and protector of liberty around the globe. Our shining example of government of the people, by the people, and for the people has inspired generations to demand more from their rulers. When the American government heeds the call of those in bondage, it provides an immeasurable assurance of hope that they do not suffer in silence.
My congressional colleagues and I are watching the current protests in Iran closely. What started as a protest of the poor economic conditions inside Iran quickly sharpened its focus toward the regime that is responsible for the country’s ills. If there is any silver lining to the misguided nuclear agreement the Obama administration struck with Tehran, it is that the billions of dollars delivered to the mullahs has exposed their corruption. The Iranian people have rightly seen that despite the removal of sanctions, they are no better off because the wealth of their nation is being hoarded by the ayatollah and his IRGC goons to spread terror externally.
Our support can be more than just encouraging words. We can harness the innovation of the U.S. tech industry to allow Iranians the ability to securely communicate with each other and the outside world. Through their bravery, they can document the atrocities of the regime which we can then use to prosecute on the world stage. I welcome President Trump’s leadership on the cause of the Iranian people and urge my colleagues that now is the time that we must act.
Ted Poe, a Republican representing Texas' second congressional district, is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and serves as chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Trade.