Is Obama responsible for the Iranian protests?

Close readers of Power Line won’t be completely surprised by the wave of protests in Iran. A few months ago, we reported that the Iranian émigrée communities in the U.S. and France were buzzing about reports of anti-regime protest activity in Iran. Even so, I did not expect protests as intense, widespread and (so far) persistent as the ones that have broken out recently.

It can be argued that, in a strange way, former president Obama is partly responsible for the current protests. His craven nuclear deal with Iran provided a massive transfer of cash to the regime. Iranians expected that this infusion would lead to a meaningful improvement of their economic situation.

The regime had other ideas. The money, it seems, mostly has funded foreign adventurism and mullahs’ bank accounts. The protests can be viewed as the peoples’ response. (It’s possible, of course, that the squeeze of the sanctions might have been enough to spark mass protests, though it hadn’t been. However, the nuclear deal made it difficult to blame Iran’s economic woes on the U.S. and it put the onus squarely on the regime to deliver meaningful improvement in the lives of ordinary Iranians).

I think it is mistake, though, to view the protests in solely economic terms. Throughout the world, lots of economies are in bad shape — many in worse shape than Iran’s — and some of them are failing to meet peoples’ expectations.

It usually takes more than just a disappointingly poor economy to rock an entrenched autocratic regime. The “more” in Iran is, of course, the odiousness of the regime.

It is also a mistake to credit Obama for the uprising. Though his misguided nuclear deal may be at least partly responsible for the protests, it was never his intention to rock the regime. His stated intention was to prevent Iran from breaking out with a nuclear weapon for the next 10 years. He also hoped the deal would cause the regime to moderate its behavior and maybe even help bring stability to the region.

Predictably, the opposite has happened. The protests are, in part, a byproduct of Iran’s unwillingness to behave as Obama foolishly hoped it would.


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