In the early hours and days of the current round of Iranian protests, much of the focus was on why most mainstream media outlets weren’t really covering them. Or, if they were, they seemed to focus on the “counter-protests” in support of the government. But later, as the situation developed into what was obviously more than a brief flare-up and protesters began dying, the inevitable question became what, if anything, the United States could or should do about it. One of the most recent statements from the President came out on Twitter only today, but it didn’t contain any specifics.
Does that mean there’s nothing going on at the White House on this front? Probably not. It’s more likely that anything this volatile is being held close to the vest for now. But we’re seeing some hints, and whatever plans may be in place could easily involve the Vice President. Mike Pence has been sending out his own signals, essentially in keeping with Trump’s comments, and he’s clearly keeping his hand in the game.
(2/2)…The bold and growing resistance of the Iranian people today gives hope and faith to all who struggle for freedom and against tyranny. We must not and we will not let them down. #IranProtests
— Vice President Mike Pence Archived (@VP45) January 1, 2018
It would be easy enough to write that off as just a “support the boss” social media posting, but keep in mind that Pence has a bit of history here. The last time the Iranians were taking to the streets during the early days of the Obama administration, Pence cosponsored a bipartisan resolution expressing support for “all Iranian citizens who embrace the values of freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and rule of law.” That was an early example of the GOP getting out ahead of Obama in terms of doing the right thing for moderates in Iran who might be in the mood for a change.
In June of that same year, Pence was the one who went out to do the media tour and called out Barack Obama for “drawing a line” at not “meddling” in Iranian affairs.
“I appreciate the fact that the president said the protesters have a right to be heard and represented, and I appreciate the fact that he said he is troubled,” Pence said in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on the Situation Room. “But I respectfully disagree with the administration’s decision to essentially draw the line at not meddling and not interfering.”
Pence, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced a resolution in the House that he said would “speak a word of support for the people of Iran.” He said he didn’t think the United States should endorse the opposition candidate, but should instead show support for the protesters who are “risking their lives for free and fair elections.”
Pence said showing support could lead to a “fresh start” with the citizens of Iran.
So is Pence the one working in the background with Trump on a strategy moving forward? It wouldn’t be the first time that a President has tasked the Veep with such matters, keeping his distance as the situation plays out. Pence has certainly traveled enough and knows most of the players who would be involved, as well as having a history of dealing with this troubled part of the world.
Keep an eye on the Veep’s twitter account in the coming days. If these protests have legs and there’s a real possibility of significant movement, you might catch him pulling some strings for the President.