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Former Obama Official: US 'Chose to Not Be as Supportive' of 2009 Iranian Protesters

Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen appeared on ABC News “This Week” where he voiced concern that President Barack Obama was not as supportive of anti-government Iranian protesters as he should have been in 2009. He told ABC News that he hopes President Donald J. Trump is “supportive of more freedoms in that country.”

Host Martha Raddatz asked Mullen his opinion regarding President Trump’s response to the recent Iranian protests. Mullen was supportive and made key distinctions between how President Obama handled the situation in 2009 and how President Trump is in present day.

RADDATZ: And let me talk about Iran, because that's in the news this morning. There are protesters out on the street. President Trump is tweeting this morning about those protests in Iran. Big protests in Iran, the people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations.

Is that the right response from President Trump as far as you're concerned?

MULLEN: Well, I think the focus there is incredibly important. Many of us have spoken for years about the oppression that occurs in the Middle East by many, many governments, and certainly, we have great disagreements with Iran who still supports terrorism, obviously oppresses their own people. They're struggling right now with the growth in their economy that they were promised once the sanctions were lifted and so I think that's the real struggle.

What isn't very clear to me at this point is how much of a backlash this will create from those who are -- who really run that government -- the Supreme Leader as well as the IRGC, and how hard they'll come down on their people.

We certainly should be on guard for human rights violations. And I think we should be supportive of more freedoms in that country”

Raddatz continued, asking Mullen what difference in tactics will occur from the United States compared to 2009. 

RADDATZ: And that didn't work in 2009. Might it work this time? What would be differen

MULLEN: Well, I think that the 2009 timeframe is very instructive. I think we chose to not be as supportive as we could have been then. And I hope we can be right now so that Iran can continue to evolve.

They have an incredibly young population. They look to a future that they cannot see. They've been promised change and a healthier economy by the current government. And I think the protests represent the inability to deliver that so far.

So, I think support of them and their people is absolutely the right thing to do.” (emphasis added)

Mullen began his tenure as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in October 2007 under President George W. Bush and continued under President Obama until Sept 2011.

In 2012, GOP candidate Mitt Romney harangued President Obama’s tepid response at the time to the 2009 Iranian protests.

Romney gave a blistering speech against President Obama saying, "When millions of Iranians took to the streets in June of 2009, when they demanded freedom from a cruel regime that threatens the world, when they cried out, 'Are you with us, or are you with them?' -- the American president was silent," Romney said.

In the 2009 protests, known as the Green Revolution, Barack Obama was silent during the first few days they occurred. It was not until increasing pressure from American media as well as obvious signs of oppression from the Iranian government that President Obama issued support for the anti-government demonstrators.  

The non-partisan Council on Foreign Relations said that "While Obama initially opted for a muted response, the Iranian regime's violent crackdown of opposition supporters complicated his administration's attempt to balance outreach with its defense of human rights."

President Donald Trump’s administration issued support for the Iranian people on Friday night, less than 48 hours after the initial protests began.


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