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Opinion
Eli Lake

Iran’s Reform Movement Died 20 Years Ago

Today’s “moderate” president was part of a deadly crackdown on student protesters in the summer of 1999.

Two decades later, no change.

Two decades later, no change.

Photographer: ATTA KENARE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

One of the comforting illusions promoted by many critics of President Trump’s Iran policy is that his actions have alienated and weakened the regime’s moderates.

You hear this line from time to time, with the usual caveat that “moderate” and “reformer” in the context of Iran are quite different than what they mean in the West. It is nonetheless the basis of a dream pursued by most of Washington’s foreign-policy establishment: If you treat Iran’s regime with respect it will bolster those who seek to reform it.