Admiral Mike Mullen: Obama Not As Supportive of Iranian Protesters As He Could Have Been

By Susan Jones | January 2, 2018 | 7:04 AM EST

Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen (Photo: Screen grab/ABC's "This Week")

( - Former Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen -- no fan of Donald Trump -- nevertheless agrees with President Trump's support for the Iranian people who are protesting against their hardline rulers.

Mullen, who served under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, told ABC's "This Week" on Sunday that President Obama was not as supportive as he could have been in 2009, when the Iranian people waged similar anti-government protests.

"Well, I think that the 2009 timeframe is very instructive," Mullen said. "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," Mullen continued. "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."

Mullen said the Iranian people are struggling because the economic growth they were promised when the U.S. lifted sanctions on Iran has not materialized.

He also said he's not sure "how much of a backlash" the protests will produce from Iran's rulers.

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

At a news conference in June 2009, then-President Obama said the U.S. would not interfere in Iran's affairs, but he also deplored the violence against innocent civilians demanding reforms.

"The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech," Obama said. "If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent and not coercion."

In response to questions at the same news conference, Obama described the situation in Iran as "profound." "And we're still waiting to see how it plays itself out. My position coming into this office has been that the United States has core national security interests in making sure that Iran doesn't possess a nuclear weapon and it stops exporting terrorism outside of its borders."

Obama said he would "monitor" the protests in Iran "and see how this plays itself out before we make any judgments about how we proceed."

Obama ultimately went for the Iran nuclear deal that President Trump has threatened to scrap.

In a series of tweets after Christmas, Trump sided with the Iranian protesters and said it's "time for change" in the Islamic Republic:

"Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching!" Trump tweeted on Dec. 29.

"The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most....Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. The world is watching!" Trump tweeted a day later, on Dec. 30.

In two tweets on Dec. 31, Trump noted, "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!"

And: "Iran, the Number One State of Sponsored Terror with numerous violations of Human Rights occurring on an hourly basis, has now closed down the Internet so that peaceful demonstrators cannot communicate. Not good!"

On Jan. 1, Trump tweeted: "Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration. The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!"

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