• "The Trump administration needs to be prepared and leaning forward and ready to do everything it can to help freedom win and dictatorship lose in the great struggle that is underway in Iran." — Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The new Trump administration in Washington is still grappling with the extent to which it is obligated to uphold the illegitimate Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) -- the nuclear deal that the five members of the UN Security Council plus Germany signed with each other in July 2015, and apparently never signed by Iran. While the Trump administration is saying that military action is not off the table, grassroots efforts by Iranian expatriates to help their brethren inside the Iran to topple their repressive regime have been underway.

These efforts were on full display recently on July 1 in Paris, France, where an estimated 100,000 Iranian dissidents and hundreds of politicians and other world dignitaries attended an annual "Free Iran" rally. The event, titled "Onward with the Iranian Resistance, Regime Change within Reach," expressed the feelings of courageous young people in dozens of Iranian cities, where they braved the menacing presence of members of the regime's intelligence services to show support for the rally in Paris.

Across Tehran, Mashhad, Isfahan, Shiraz, Karaj, Tabriz, Ahwaz and other areas, Iranians expressed their discontent on the walls of buildings. The Iranian people denounced Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and hailed a 10-point plan devised in 2006 by Maryam Rajavi -- co-head of the People's Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) and president-elect of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) -- for the future of their country. They also distributed leaflets in support of the Paris gathering, and shared hundreds of photos and videos on social media. The rally itself was streamed live on the internet and watched by thousands of viewers.

Speaking at the event, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich said:

"The next time there's popular dissent, it will be across the whole country; it will be organized. The Trump administration needs to be prepared and leaning forward and ready to do everything it can to help freedom win and dictatorship lose in the great struggle that is underway in Iran."

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, addresses the "Free Iran" rally on July 1 in Paris, France. (Image source: National Council of Resistance of Iran video screenshot)

Gingrich was alluding to the last time there was an internal attempt to oust the mullah-led regime in Tehran. In the summer of 2009, after the announcement that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had defeated opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, head of the Green Movement, in the presidential election, tens of thousands of people poured into the streets and accused Ahmadinejad of stealing the election.

After going through the motions of investigating this claim, Khamenei declared that the election had been "completely free," and that Ahmadinejad was the legitimate victor.

When Iranians from various sectors took to the streets to protest, the regime's paramilitary Basij militia responded violently, beating and gunning down demonstrators. Thousands of people were arrested and sent to prison, and the regime blocked access to the internet, which had been the vehicle through which protesters shared cellphone videos of their ordeal, and enabled the world to see what was happening to them.

The Obama administration, which was already working with other world powers to negotiate the nuclear deal with Iran, responded by adopting a neutral stance. At a press conference 11 days after the election in Iran, then-U.S. President Barack Obama stated:

"I think it is not too late for the Iranian government to recognize that there is a peaceful path that will lead to stability and legitimacy and prosperity for the Iranian people. We hope they take it."

Of course, the theocratic regime in Tehran did not then, and does not now. It is imperative for members of the Trump administration to heed Gingrich's words, and not repeat the behavior of their predecessor. It is not only the well-being of the Iranian people that is at stake, but the safety and security of the free world.

Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate, specializing in political and economic issues relating to Iran and the Middle East. Twitter: @hassan_mahmou1

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