Following large anti-government protests in Iran, everyone from Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton came out in support of the protesters. “Big protests in Iran. The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen squandered on terrorism,” Trump tweeted. “The Iranian people, especially the young, are protesting for the freedom and future they deserve,” Clinton tweeted.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, tweeted: “I wish the Iranian people success in their noble quest for freedom.” Never-Trump neoconservatives like Bill Kristol, John McCain, and others joined with some pro-Trump conservatives like Jack Posobiec and Mike Cernovich to praise the Iranian protests as well.
Many of these public figures are undoubtedly laying the foundation for future U.S. intervention in Iran.
Only one person, a candidate for Congress, stood out from the crowd championing the protests in Iran: Paul Nehlen. “I say let’s focus on the heroin and other drugs and human smuggling coming across our undefended Southern border and let Iranian Protests play out,” Nehlen tweeted. In another tweet, Nehlen questioned our knowledge of who is actually behind the Iranian protests and said “how many more Americans must we sacrifice at the altar of globalism?”
Judging by what happened in previous U.S. interventions in the region, Nehlen has a point here.
After the U.S. government demanded free and fair elections in Egypt the people democratically elected Mohammad Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, as President. Soon after the U.S. government backed a military coup that removed Morsi from power.
In Syria and Libya the U.S. government supported anti-government protests, sparking civil wars that became a hotbed for arms deals and training and inspiring terrorists worldwide. In Syria, this led to the rise of ISIS. In Libya, this promoted general anarchy and the rise of slave-trading markets.
Afghanistan and Iraq became failed states after the U.S. destroyed the governments there, still suffering from terrorism and fractured governments despite a decade of U.S. funding and soldiers fighting to support the American-backed factions there.
Given Iran’s past history there’s reason to doubt their ability to replace their current government with something better. The current Iranian theocracy was created after similar such protests, after all. The Iranian protests in the 1970s that led to the theocracy were perceived as liberal back then too – but they were easily hijacked by the more powerful theocratic movement when the Iranian Shah was forced out of power.
There’s no reason to believe that the current protests will lead to a more enlightened and liberal society. It’s possible that the recent protests could be taken over by a better armed, better organized, and more ruthless force than the seemingly pro-democracy protesters – like, for example, the Maoist Communist Party of Iran.
Alternatively, given Iran’s ethnic divisions, any type of successful revolution could lead to civil war split along ethnic lines. Kurdish communist groups, for example, have a long history of fighting Iran’s government. If Kurdish communists were successful in Iran, it would have long-ranging effects on the Middle East – not just in Kurdish Iran, but also in the Kurdish Iraq, Turkey, and Syria – causing massive instability across the region. Baluch separatists in Southeastern Iran could also rise up, causing instability not just in Iran but also in neighboring Pakistan, where many Baluchis live. Sunni Arab extremists in the Southwestern Iranian province of Khuzestan could also demand independence and possibly revive the largely defeated forces of the Islamic State. There are other ethnic groups in Iran, such as the Azerbaijanis and Turkmen, who could also use Iranian instability as a pretext for separation or independence.
Point being Iran could easily fall apart and Balkanize similar to Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Iraq, and other multiethnic states that have crashed in the past. If this were to happen, Iran would almost certainly become a much larger and worse disaster than any of our previous interventions, as rivalling factions would take up arms and receive funding from various foreign backers. Worryingly, given the powder keg that modern day Iran is, any civil war would become a hotbed for international terrorism, arms deals, and other illicit activities that could spread instability throughout the world.
So Nehlen, in showing support for a restrained foreign policy toward Iran, demonstrates a much better understanding of the situation than most.