by Atousa Pilger
It was recently announced that John Bolton will assume the position of National Security Advisor. Bolton is a fierce critic of authoritarian regimes, and this move is believed to be further indication that the White House is embracing a more assertive U.S. posture toward the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The shift from a policy of outreach and appeasement, to a policy that challenges the continuation of the regime, is a step in the right direction, according to many Iran analysts.
While campaigning for the presidency, Trump announced “a new foreign policy direction for our country, one that replaces randomness with purpose, ideology with strategy, and chaos with peace.” As a candidate, Trump promised that it was “time to invite new voices and new visions into the fold.”
Once in office, Trump put Tehran “on notice” over destabilizing activities in the broader Middle East. He declared support for the Iranian people’s demands for regime change.
As Trump’s second year in office loomed, a series of demonstrations kicked off across in Iran. People chanted against both “reformists” and “hardliners,” and declared their frustration with their rulers by shouting “the game is over.”
Following so closely upon this major uprising, Trump’s selection of Bolton might be interpreted as a fulfillment of a campaign pledge to shift from the longstanding policies that have not seemed productive. In fact, Bolton’s place in the administration signals serious consequences for the regime in Tehran for any malign activities.
It appears that the administration’s strong rhetoric has already been successful in ending the harassment by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of American ships in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. Navy reports that in there have been no incidents since August, after dozens of close encounters with IRGC fast attack vessels over the previous two years. Many believe that this contradicts the Iranian regime’s claim that it is unwilling to negotiate, and is set to retaliate against U.S. policies that undermine the nuclear agreement or punish Tehran for its support of international terrorism.
Bold action, which Bolton is comfortable with, can also leverage the discontent of ordinary Iranians. The massive anti-regime uprising is a unique opportunity for the administration. While the protests initially focused on the worsening economic conditions inside Iran, they quickly took on a political tone. Protesters risked arrest, and even capital punishment, by denouncing the supreme leader and calling for an end to the regime.
The Iranian opposition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), whose largest constituent group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) has been repeatedly blamed by Tehran for serving as the architects of the the most substantial threat to the Iranian regime since the 2009 protests. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei publicly acknowledged that the nationwide uprising was the result of organized efforts by the PMOI/MEK.
Maryam Rajavi, the president of the NCRI, spoke at the Nowruz holiday, calling for a “year full of uprisings” which aims to establish a democratic government in place of the clerical regime. With continued labor strikes following on the recent uprising, their goal may be within reach. However, U.S. officials must continue their pressure, or Tehran will expand its repressive activities. John Bolton’s presence in the White House will ensure that the pressure continues.
The new National Security Advisor can support the ongoing rebellion by the Iranian people, and support from the White House for the Iranian people may finally achieve a new system of government that embraces democracy, as well as civil, political, religious and cultural liberty for all Iranians.