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Recognizing the Limitations of American Influence in Iran

Andrew Miller, Sahar Nowrouzzadeh

Security, Middle East

An Iranian worker rests in front of a huge portrait of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on a wall near a university during Friday prayers in Tehran February 24, 2012. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl

Many people are falsely assuming that the outcome of the protests is centrally dependent on the United States.

It is unsurprising that we once again observed brave portions of Iran’s citizenry taking to streets and squares across the country to demand accountability and change given that they have spent every day of their lives under the heavy weight of repression, corruption, economic inequality and decades of unaddressed grievances. It’s also unsurprising that the protests were followed by a wave of strong opinions from U.S. politicians and pundits about what the United States should do about them. Vice President Pence asserted in a Washington Post op-ed that “the last administration’s refusal to act ultimately emboldened Iran’s tyrannical rulers to crack down on the dissent.” According to this view, it seems the explanation for the crackdown on the 2009 “Green Movement” protests in Iran can be found in Washington’s actions (or, more precisely, alleged inactions) and, by extension, the fate of this latest round of protests rests with the U.S. government. While U.S. statements and actions and, importantly, the context in which they take place can and do play an important role, many pundits are falsely assuming that the outcome of the protests is centrally dependent on the United States.

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