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).

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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. It is so easy to promote support one way or the other to support the uprisings, they started due to extreme economic hardship and government curtailing the individual freedom . The
    Best is for foreigners to stay off and let Iranians decide for themselves .when Shah left a dollar was equal to seven Tuman today is equal to three thousand while incomes have not encreased to that ratio,!

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