The current Iranian “man in the street” uprising provides the United States with a unique opportunity to achieve what should be one of our core vital national security objectives: the removal of the Iranian theocracy from power. Why? Because the Iranian theocracy has been at war with the United States for over 38 years. They have caused the death of thousands of Americans, both civilian and military.
It started with the takeover of our Tehran embassy, Nov. 3, 1979. This act of war was followed by the terrorist bombings of our Beirut, Lebanon embassy in April 1983, and our Beirut U.S. Marine Corps Barracks, Oct. 23, 1983, killing 241 of our finest military personnel. We had proof positive that the orders for the Marine Barracks bombing came directly from Tehran.
Multiple kidnappings and murders of Americans in Lebanon, including the CIA station chief William F. Buckley and the embassy’s defense attache, Col. Richard Higgins, were carried out under Iran’s direction. After Iran’s alliance with al Qaeda in 1990, there followed the terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996, the 1998 East Africa Embassy bombings and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.
Moreover, we should never forget Iran’s involvement in supporting the 9/11 terrorist hijackers. Without Iran’s support, the terrorists would not have been able to carry out their devastating attacks that killed nearly 3,000 innocent Americans who were doing nothing but going to work.
After President Bush’s successful invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the removal of Saddam Hussein, Iran’s mortal enemy, Iran, then proceeded to provide the forerunners of the Islamic State with training, weapons, logistical support and the dreaded improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These IEDs caused the loss of life for more than 2,000 military personnel, and devastating, permanent injuries to thousands more.
Yet with all these acts of war by Iran and its proxies against the U.S. — and it hasn’t mattered whether it was a Democratic or Republican administration — they all failed to respond. As a result, it only has emboldened the Iranian theocracy to push the envelope further toward what appeared to be an unstoppable spreading of the Iranian Crescent.
The surprise uprisings by everyday average Iranians, which began on Sunday, Dec. 24, 2017 in the mostly conservative city of Mashhad, quickly spread to the holy city of Qom, to Isfahan, as well as to many other cities and towns. While at first the uprisings were attributed to poor economic conditions, it is in fact much deeper. Clearly, severe day-to-day living conditions are a key factor; however, the rampant corruption, fraud and money laundering by Iranian regime officials have driven ordinary Iranians to desperation.
The hatred for the corrupt Ayatollah regime is deep. Attacks have been conducted against law enforcement forces, government buildings, the dreaded paramilitary Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Bassij forces and facilities as well as banks. The protesters know that regime officials have spent and confiscated billions of dollars, including pallets of cash from President Obama, on a nuclear program, on support to the Hezbollah terror organization, as well as to prop up the brutal Syrian regime of Bashar Assad.
This time the protesters are demanding nothing less than complete regime change, and to end the rule of the Iranian theocracy. There are voices across the country with cries of “Death to Khamenei,” “Death to the Dictator” and Death to the Mullahs.” Huge street posters of Khamenei and the Quds Force commander, Qassem Suleimani, have been torn down and burned.
In contrast to Mr. Obama’s nonsupport for the protesters in the 2009 uprising, at least Mr. Trump has expressed support for the Iranian people in their desire for freedom and the end of the Iranian theocracy. Regardless of the propaganda put out by the Iranian mullahs that the uprising has been crushed, the situation is far from over. Accordingly, the Trump administration must capitalize on the clear weakness of the ayatollah’s totalitarian regime. An overall strategy should include the following:
• A massive information campaign must be mounted to expose the corruption and money laundering of the Iranian officials. As highlighted in a recent UANI article, under the Iranian Leadership Asset Transparency Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in December, the Treasury Department should disclose the assets and money-laundering activities of sanctioned Iranian officials.
• Immediately revise the Voice of America Farsi, Arabic, and English broadcasts. The Obama holdovers there must be removed. The broadcast must support the Trump administration’s message, and expose the corruption and money laundering by Iranian officials.
• Under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, since anywhere from 20 to 50 protesters have been killed and thousands imprisoned, the U.S. can and should sanction the Iranian officials involved as well as the leadership of the IRGC, Quds Force and the Bassij paramilitary force.
• We need to provide arms directly to the Kurds, as well as support an independent sovereign Kurdistan. This is key to blocking the Iranian objective of establishing a land bridge to the Mediterranean Sea.
• Revive the DEA’s Project Cassandra to kill the Hizballah billion dollar annual drug running operation in the United States that was sanctioned by President Obama.
• Declare the Iran unsigned nuclear agreement null and void. The argument that the president must keep the agreement until it can be properly fixed makes no sense. There is no fix to this disastrous agreement.
These are serious measures that will get Tehran’s attention and demonstrate to the Iranian people that as they stand and fight for their liberty, this time America stands with them.
• James A. Lyons (@JamesALyonsJr), a retired U.S. Navy admiral, was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.