Ben Evansky, Fox News, 18 October 2017
President Donald Trump followed up his Iran speech announcing that he would not be certifying the Iran nuclear deal by also making clear his administration stood in solidarity with ordinary Iranians. Just two days later, thousands of Iranians marched against the regime over charges of corruption. Some experts say the protesters were newly emboldened by Trump’s speech.
Speaking exclusively to Fox News before the protests, Maryam Rajavi, the head of that country’s most visibly active opposition group, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said that Trump’s new policy toward Iran gives ordinary Iranians hope.
“The Iranian people welcome a new approach by the U.S. government, recognizing the suffering of the Iranian people under the regime, ending years of misguided policy and siding with the Iranian people in their desire for regime change and the establishment of freedom and democracy,” she said in a recorded statement from her exiled headquarters near Paris.
Rajavi is seen by some Iran watchers as one someone the White House should be engaging with on Iran’s future.
Heshmat Alavi, an Iranian political and rights activist said that Rajavi enjoys vast support in Iran.
“Mrs. Rajavi is the voice of a very restive society, described as a ‘powder keg’ by many, seen so vividly in the growing protests by the younger generation, women and most recently by thousands of investors across the country who have trusted their life savings into government institutions, only to be robbed of all their assets,” he said.
Alavi said dissent against the clerical regime is growing especially given recent allegations that the regime took investors for their lifesavings.
“Sunday afternoon Tehran witnessed a demonstration by thousands of people chanting, ‘We don’t want a government of sheikhs,’ expressing their dissent with the ruling regime in its entirety,” he said.
Walid Phares, a Fox News national security and foreign policy expert, said that while the Obama administration abandoned Iranian protesters in 2009, preferring to engage with the regime, President Trump has a different goal.
“This narrative is rekindling hopes among young Iranians that the new administrator is changing the tone. Interestingly President Trump spoke of the Iranian people and how it is oppressed by the regime just few days ago. With satellite TV and social media, millions of Iranians captured the new messaging. Did that influence the several demonstrations that took place over the past weekend in Tehran and other locations — highly possible. Iran civil society is moving again and they know there is a different White House,” Phares said.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a veteran Middle East analyst close to the White House told Fox News that the Trump administration wants the Iranian people to know they are targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) and not the people.
“They know Iran is a rich and ancient civilization and that the Iranian people were the first victims of the regime. They’re not going to make excuses for the IRGC regime like the Obama team did. That was a huge part of President Trump’s speeches at the U.N. and last week.”
Trump also designated the IRGC for its terrorist activities in last week’s speech on Iran.
In her comments to Fox News, Rajavi called for regime change and for governments to recognize her group as a more enlightened replacement to the regime.
“It is imperative that the National Council of Resistance of Iran be recognized as the democratic alternative to the terrorist dictatorship ruling Iran. Such recognition would rectify decades of a misguided U.S. policy regarding the Iranian people,” she continued.
“Dissent has grown significantly among the Iranian people, especially among women and young people. Regime change by the Iranian people and resistance is within reach,” she told Fox News.
So far it is believed that the Trump administration has not reached out to any of the Iranian opposition groups. Most of that outreach ended with the Obama administration because of its intense focus on Obama’s quest to make a deal with the Iranian regime.