Since Donald Trump became president, countless pundits and journalists have flocked to the same talking point: his administration's hostile posture toward Iran is pushing the Iranian people toward the Islamist regime and away from the United States. With each new week, it seems, there is another op-ed or panelist on television making this argument. On Wednesday, for example, Rohollah Faghihi, a journalist who has worked for various Iranian media outlets, wrote that the Trump administration's decision to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization "caused [Iranian] citizens to rally around the flag." Earlier this month, Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar, an author and professor at Texas A&M University, argued in the New York Times that, with the election of Trump, followed by his withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, "American policies are effectively empowering the hard-liners and pushing Iranian citizens toward the regime."
These voices either ignore or fail to see reality on the ground in Iran, where nationwide protests against the regime, which erupted in December 2017, continue today. Through their chants and bravery, the Iranian people have made clear that they no longer want to live under the boot of a cruel and oppressive Islamist theocracy. Western commentators also ignore or fail to see that the regime is bringing hardship on the Iranian people. Indeed, the regime is responsible for Iran's economic plight and is the true imperial belligerent—not the United States, not anyone else. The regime in Iran is the Iranian people's worst enemy, bringing a proud, eminently capable nation down to the dregs of civilization through its brutality and incompetence.
Just look at the ongoing floods caused by heavy rain across Iran. In recent weeks, the flooding, which began last month, has killed dozens of people, forced hundreds of thousands more into emergency shelters, and caused an estimated $2.5 billion in damages, according to Iranian officials. The situation is tragic and deserves Tehran's full attention. Yet it has been remarkable to observe, from afar, the regime fail to help suffering Iranians. The incompetence, the indifference, the inanity—how can one advocate the Islamic Republic taking on a greater leadership role in the disaster-ridden Middle East when it cannot respond to natural disasters at home?
For the most part, the regime has ignored the flooding, abandoning the victims. Sure, some government officials have visited areas affected by the flood, but they have done nothing of consequence to assist the Iranians, just taking advantage of photo-ops to appear like they are doing good. To the extent that the government is actually providing assistance, it is miserably mismanaging the process. Perhaps no one should be surprised considering that, according to a review of Iran's national budget, the regime allocates at least 80 times more money to religious propaganda, education, and other religious activities than it does to disaster relief. It is easy to see where the mullahs' priorities are, and where they are not.
To make matters worse, the regime has threatened and arrested those who spread news about the floods on social media. And some were just reporting the facts on the ground, not even opining on how authorities responded. Nonetheless, many Iranians have not been deterred from protesting against the regime's shameful response to the floods. And those protests intensified when, over the weekend, a convoy of vehicles carrying Iraqi Shi'ite militias entered Iran's flood-ravaged western provinces, supposedly to help with the response. Then, this week, members of Lebanese Hezbollah arrived in Iran—again, purportedly to help with the response.
Iranians have expressed outrage over the arrival of militias in their communities. Citizens want to see their government helping them, not foreign militias and terrorist organizations subservient to Tehran acting like an occupying force. If nothing else, the move seems to violate the Islamic Republic's constitution, which does not allow foreign soldiers to step inside Iran without a formal invitation. For a government that supposedly wants to resist outside influence, allowing an invasion of sorts does not make sense—unless, of course, the purpose is to protect the regime. Think about it: what possible good can militiamen be for disaster relief. They are not trained for the task, and Iran has plenty of people in its own country to help. No, the entrance of Hezbollah and Iraqi militias is meant to crush protests in flooded areas, where the Iranian people are making their rage known. Reports have indicated that the Iraqi and Lebanese fighters, working with the Revolutionary Guards, are patrolling the provinces not to help Iranians, but to intimidate and detain them for protesting a regime that cannot, and will not, carry out a government's fundamental task: to protect its citizens' security.
Earlier this year, I wrote that Iran's ruling mullahs are their own worst enemies, bringing hardship on themselves by abusing human rights within Iran and waging unnecessary wars abroad. It seems they are also the Iranian people's worst enemies, too. Not good for the government, not good for the citizenry—it is fair to say that the regime, the Islamic Republic, is Iran's worst enemy. The Iranian people deserve better. Hopefully they will get it soon.