IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

World Cup puts Iran regime in focus. But beware of hypocrisy.

The big soccer match between the U.S. and Iran has spurred American condemnation of Iranian leadership. But the GOP shares some striking similarities.


The Iranian regime’s brutal crackdown on protesters who’ve grown angry with its repressive, theological governance has ignited calls for international pushback. 

So with the U.S. men’s soccer team match against Iran in the World Cup on Tuesday, it was unsurprising to see many Americans go full-on jingoist and invoke a “good vs. evil” framing.

The U.S. Soccer Federation even got some jabs in, going as far as temporarily altering the Iranian flag on its social media accounts as a show of support for Iranian protesters. 

But as a country, we need to be careful not to let our love for international sports, and our desire to be seen as liberators, lead us to unearned arrogance. Even as we stand against Iran’s repressive regime, it’s worth noting the United States is facing a crisis of conservative religious fundamentalism as well. 

To make this point clear — and to revive a comparison that then-President Barack Obama aptly made in 2015 — let’s play a quick game of “whodunit”: the GOP or the Iranian regime. 

Which group’s de facto leader disparaged human rights protesters and supported military-style violence against them? 

Answer: The GOP and the Iranian regime.

(In 2020, then-President Donald Trump endorsed violence against anti-racist protesters in Minneapolis, whom he decried as thugs, after the police killing of George Floyd. This month, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, vowed that “the evils” protesting in Iran “will be undoubtedly finished.”) 

Which group includes a lawmaker who once floated a conspiracy theory suggesting that Jewish-aligned forces used laser beams to intentionally start wildfires in California?  

Answer: The GOP.

(Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.)

Which group is associated with a nationwide abortion edict that has been denounced by United Nations experts? 

Answer: The GOP and the Iranian regime.

(The conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn federal abortion rights this year was denounced by human rights experts from the United Nations. Last year, Iranian authorities’ severe rescinding of abortion rights was similarly denounced by U.N. experts.) 

Members of which group have downplayed democracy in an effort to shore up their own power? 

Answer: The GOP and the Iranian regime.

(Republicans, like Utah Sen. Mike Lee, have taken to calling the United States a republic — and not a democracy — as the party has used executive powers and conservative-backed courts to oppose public will on everything from abortion to voting rights. Iran’s ayatollah recently said the purpose of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to “invalidate the logic of liberal democracy.”)

Again, the point here is not to condemn Americans who advocate for oppressed Iranians. The country, the most populous in the Persian Gulf, is a hub of human rights violations, including those related to freedom of expression, gender rights, sexuality and imprisonment.

But my hope is that Americans see that the people of Iran are in the midst of a fight eerily similar to ours: a fight to wrest freedom from religious fundamentalists who demand we live by their rules.