Trump Struggles to Navigate Difficult Question of Iran Protesters

Administration wants to back protesters, but has to recognize limits

President Trump, and other top administration officials, want to let Iranian protesters know that they support them. But beyond the occasional supportive Tweet, direct support is something the administration is struggling with.

The administration has repeatedly endorsed protesters in Iran, and sometimes to the very serious detriment of the protesters themselves. In Iran, as elsewhere, US endorsement is eventually spun as US meddling, and protesters branded as part of a US psy-ops campaign. This costs the protests legitimacy, and opens up new means to crack down on them.

When protests started in Iran over the downing of a Ukrainian airliner, President Trump was only too willing to start Tweeting endorsements. At the same time, there is a recognition that what the US can actually do is limited. Too much support, direct funding, for instance, could harm the protesters as it has in the past.

Limited US ties to Iran at all mean that beyond Twitter, there simply are no options for Trump to take that won’t undercut the protesters. This is why doubling down on Twitter continues to be the beginning and the end of it.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.