Trump strays out of bounds with misguided Iran tweets

By: Rachel Marsden

Coming out of the holiday season after catching up with family and friends, many of us had the opportunity to practice butting out of other people's domestic affairs. When a difficult situation doesn't directly involve us, the proper response is a supportive hand on the shoulder and the words, "I really hope that you can work it out." U.S. President Donald Trump should have taken this approach instead of barging in on a domestic dispute on the other side of the planet.

"Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime's corruption & its squandering of the nation's wealth to fund terrorism abroad," Trump tweeted. "Iranian govt should respect their people's rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching! #IranProtests."

Meanwhile, images out of Iran depicted protests that were anything but peaceful, with reports of attacks on police and military installations. If similar events were taking place in America, would Trump be as critical of the authorities?

Of all the advice that Trump has been fed by his team on various issues, perhaps the most questionable has been the intel regarding the Middle East, and specifically Iran. There is virtually zero diversity of opinion or dispassionate objectivity on Iran within the ranks of U.S. elites.

When Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in June, he was asked a loaded question about whether the Trump administration supported Iran as is, or if regime change was preferred. (Which is like asking, "Would you like a poison apple, or would you prefer this delicious cupcake?") Tillerson replied, "Our policy toward Iran is to push back on this hegemony, contain their ability to develop obviously nuclear weapons, and to work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of that government."

A secretary of state who doesn't sing the Iranian regime-change refrain on cue might be seen as a weirdo. Suggesting that Iran is just a country like any other and should be treated as such is the political equivalent of admitting that you don't actually own a TV. People look at you sideways and wonder what your major malfunction is.

Tillerson himself seemed interested in doing business with Iran back in 2016, when he was CEO of oil giant Exxon.

"U.S. companies like ours are still unable to conduct business in Iran," Tillerson said in an interview with CNBC. "A lot of our European competitors are in, working actively. ... We'll wait and see if things open up for U.S. companies. We would certainly take a look because it's a huge resource-owning country."

So Tillerson didn't seem too concerned about Iranian regime change back when a giant oil supply was blocking his view of the situation.

Iran's moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, has responded to the protests in a measured tone.

"People are absolutely free to criticize the government and protest, but their protests should be in such a way as to improve the situation in the country and their life," Rouhani said. "Criticism is different from violence and damaging public properties."

And no, this Iranian activism isn't about women being tired of wearing hijabs. (Tehran's police chief announced last week that women won't be arrested for failing to wear one in public.) The unrest is reportedly due to economic conditions -- not exactly a shock for a country that is still reeling from years of U.S.-led sanctions. Maybe if America would join Europe in engaging Iran in business activities and treating it like any other global market, the Iranians would have less to complain about.

Here in France, there are protests on a near-weekly basis, and they don't result in Trump or other world leaders calling for regime change or suggesting that France stop sending its armed forces abroad in defense of its national interests. No one has said that the French authorities have no right to respond to violence. No French protests have elicited comments suggesting that the country's leadership is under a microscope.

It's really not in the best interests of Trump, America or Europe to encourage the destabilization of a Middle Eastern power, particularly one whose armed forces played a critical role in eradicating Islamic State terrorists. You don't think that those same terrorists would love to get their hands on power in Iran now, much like they've managed to fill power vacuums after regime changes in other nations in the region?

If the people of Iran want to assemble and demonstrate in an attempt to shape the policies of a moderate president re-elected just last year, they should be able to do so without other countries butting in with yet another pretext for potential global security and migratory chaos.

How about we give regime change a rest already?