Romney And Santorum Characterize Iranian Opposition As “Insurgents” And “Rebels”

November 14, 2011 5:15 pm ET — Walid Zafar

How do you undermine the Iranian democracy movement that you claim the current administration is doing little to assist? If you're GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, you echo the hardline Iranian government by characterizing the country's democracy movement (commonly known as the Green Movement) as "insurgents" and "rebels" who are working to overthrow the Iranian system of government. You make them look like U.S. agents working for change in Iran not for the sake of ordinary Iranians but to further American interests. This is, of course, the last thing the Green Movement wants, which is the reason that it asked the Obama administration not to publicly embrace it during and after the 2009 Iranian elections.

Here are Romney and Santorum during Saturday night's GOP foreign policy debate doing their part, unintentionally one assumes, to undermine the democracy movement in Iran:

ROMNEY: It's worth working with the insurgents in the company to encourage regime change in the country. ... I will make sure that the sanctions, diplomatic pressure, economic pressure, and support of insurgents within the country help them become dissuaded to get away from their nuclear ambition.


SANTORUM: I've been working on Iran since back in 2004. And I proposed exactly the things that Herman and — and Mitt Romney suggested, which was to give money to the — to the — to the rebel forces there to — to help the pro-democracy movement and to put tough sanctions in place.


The Green Movement is not a "rebel" or "insurgent" force and it definitely is not working to overthrow the regime, as Herman Cain said during the debate. Pro-democracy activists, including prominent figures within the Iranian establishment, are struggling against a government that seeks to undermine them by portraying them not as reformers, but as revolutionaries out to overthrow the current system in favor of what is now essentially the ancien regime.

Of course, the GOP candidates probably do not mean to do this. It's just that, as was obvious on Saturday, they don't know much about what's happening within Iran and they haven't made much of an effort to formulate a coherent foreign policy that goes anywhere beyond bluster.