Iran Hawks Embrace Protest Movement But Show Little Concern for Iranian Lives

by Eli Clifton

As the protests across Iran reach the one-week point, Iran hawks are using their echo chamber to claim concern for the wellbeing of Iranian protesters and pushing the Trump administration and policymakers to publicly state their support of the burgeoning protest movement. But these same hawks have a long history of opposing diplomatic efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear program and instead threatening military strikes on Iran. This record belies their stated concern for Iran’s civilian population and raises serious questions about their motivations in embracing the protesters.

A central node in the Iran-hawk echo chamber is the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), whose associates have been quick to call for U.S. support and assistance for the protesters. But according to Former Assistant Secretary of State for the Middle East Philip Gordon in The New York Times last week, such calls would “do more harm than good” and threaten to give Iranians reason to unite against the U.S. instead of expressing long-simmering frustrations with their own government and leaders.

FDD’s Reuel Marc Gerecht also took to the pages of the Times on Wednesday, concluding:

The president’s tweets in support of the protesters were a good start. Washington should also let loose a tsunami of sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards, the linchpin of Iran’s dictatorship. Policy-wise, that would be a good place to start.


Contrary to received wisdom, the absolute worst thing that the United States can do for the Iranian people is to stay silent and do nothing.

Gerecht’s concern for the Iranian people was not so obvious in 2006 when he proposed that “we should make every effort, including repeated military strikes, to thwart the clerics’ quest for [a nuclear weapon].” In 2010 Gerecht quipped that he had “counted up the other day: I’ve written about 25,000 words about bombing Iran. Even my mom thinks I’ve gone too far.”

FDD CEO Mark Dubowitz also expressed solidarity with the Iranian people in a Politico column coauthored by former U.S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro. Dubowitz and Shapiro concluded that “no matter what we say and do, the regime will seek to the blame United States for the protests.” So, among other measures proposed by authors, “officials both current and former should be flooding the airwaves on Persian-language television and radio to express their support for the Iranian people’s human rights and aspirations.”

Like Gerecht, Dubowitz’s supposed concern for the Iranian people has not always been so clear. In 2015 he coauthored a Wall Street Journal oped with Gerecht that appeared to argue that military strikes were the only way to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Moroever, he has a long history of advocating regime change strategies in Iran instead of diplomatic efforts to prevent Iranian nuclear proliferation.

That opposition to the Obama administration’s efforts to constrain Iran’s nuclear program and frequent embrace of military options to destroy Iran’s nuclear program or bring regime change suggests a set of priorities that don’t line up with the domestic political and economic complaints voiced by Iranian protesters. Indeed, FDD’s frequent preference for military threats over diplomacy suggests a fundamental willingness to risk war with Iran to pursue their regime-change goals. Such a policy would undoubtedly put the lives of ordinary Iranians in danger.

Such regime-change enthusiasts are willing to risk undermining the protesters by associating their movement with the U.S. government. Their agenda is to align the U.S. with anything likely to destabilize the Iranian government, regardless the human cost.

An apocalyptic anti-Iran sentiment and lack of concern for the lives of Iranians might trickle down from FDD’s top donors.

Several of FDD’s biggest donors have made their views on Iran well known. Home Depot Founder Bernard Marcus told Fox Business in a 2015 interview, “when you do business with the devil you’re in deep trouble and I think that Iran is the devil” and characterized the JCPOA as a “deadly, deadly treaty.” Marcus contributed $3.25 million to FDD that same year.

Casino billionaire and Trump megadonor Sheldon Adelson contributed at least $1.5 million to FDD by the end of the 2011 tax year and in 2013 told a Yeshiva University audience that U.S. negotiators should launch a nuclear weapon at the Islamic Republic as a negotiating tactic.

Photo: Reuel Marc Gerecht (Center for American Progress via Flickr).

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. The neo-cons that led us to war for non-existent WMD in Iraq are at it again. How do these people still have a voice? Why would any responsible broadcaster or publisher not place the mark of Cain before their names in anything they offer to the public. These men and women led us to war based on lies they knew were lies. They should have no voice in our public affairs at all. Like the sage said, ” this is deja vu all over again “. These people earned our contempt in 2002-2003 by lying to us to support an invasion and regime change. Why would we believe them now about anything other than the date and time?

  2. >Trump (and others): “We must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.”
    >US Constitution: Article 6 of the Constitution makes international treaties, including the United Nations Charter, part of the “supreme law of the land.”
    >UN Charter: All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered. . .All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

  3. Democracy is meaningless without freedom of speech, religion, press and association. We should support the demonstrators if they uphold these values. I have seen little evidence of that, and therefore even if successful they will replace the current regime with a more secular autocracy, perhaps like Assad. What’s the point?

  4. Iran hawks ceaselessly promote hostility toward Iran while encouraging Israel to scr*w the Palestinians harder and harder. Could there be a connection?

  5. The tough question is how is it possible to keep the U.S. president from launching U.S. military action against Iran and possibly pushing that BIG button on his desk. Taking as non-fake news that his foremost interest is himself, how about starting a movement ready to go into the streets to demand his impeachment if he launches a war of choice in the Middle East, this time against Iran? Just an attempt at a constructive suggestion!

Comments are closed.