We can only hope that the administration’s response to the uprising in Iran will follow the same pattern as our war against ISIS, which we quietly won while the president was tweeting about other things. We won against ISIS because we had competent strategists in top national security positions who were focused on the issue and not distracted, even by their own commander in chief. Let’s hope they can maintain their focus on Iran, too, because there are a lot of things the United States can do.
One of the measures, as Eli Lake points out, is to publicize the names of dissidents and protesters who are arrested, and to make all Western relations with Iran—both diplomatic and economic—dependent on their treatment. “The model here is the late-Cold War diplomacy with the Soviet Union, when US envoys made the treatment of dissidents there a feature of every other encounter with this dictatorship of the proletariat.” To the extent that the West can use this kind of publicity to shield dissidents from the worst forms of retaliation, we can help break down the Iranian people’s fear of the regime.
Helen Raleigh provides some more substantive suggestions, including giving protesters and dissidents material support, whether overtly or covertly, particularly focusing on technology that will help them communicate and get around the regime’s crackdown on the Internet, social media, and messaging apps.