Meanwhile, Iran runs roughshod over its citizens
The civil war in Libya and the uprisings in the Middle East continue to dominate the news. But we shouldn't lose track of Mehdi Karroubi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the two Iranian oppositon figures jailed by the Iranian regime. The BBC ominously reported:
Both Mr Mousavi and Mr Karroubi have called for demonstrations in Iran in the light of the recent uprisings in Tunisia and in Egypt. Earlier this month the two men, along with their wives, were detained in their respective homes in Tehran as protests were staged on the streets of the capital.
On Monday one of Mr Karroubi's sons told BBC Persian service he had been told his father had been "taken by security forces to an unspecified location".
Mr Mousavi's Kaleme website reported that the men and their wives "have been arrested and were transferred to the Heshmatiyeh prison of Tehran".
The White House used its usual tepid language. Spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Monday, "We obviously find the detention of opposition leaders to be unacceptable. And we call [for] them to be treated well and released." (The language was less harsh than that used by United Nations ambassador Susan Rice last week in reference to Israel's settlements.)
On Monday at the U.N. Human Rights Council, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a generic statement on Iranian human rights without mentioning the two opposition figures by name:
Iran, for example, has consistently pursued policies of violence abroad and tyranny at home. In Tehran, security forces have beaten, detained, and in several recent cases killed peaceful protesters even as Iran's president has made a show of denouncing the violence in Libya. Iranian authorities have targeted human rights defenders and political activists, ex-government officials and their families, clerics and their children, student leaders and their professors, as well as journalists and bloggers.
Last night, State Department spokesman PJ Crowley gave me this take: "The Iranian government is doing everything it can to survive. It is hypocrisy to encourage the Egyptian protesters but jail the Iranian opposition."
This is an improvement over past episodes in which Iran's human rights atrocities were largely unremarked upon by the U.S. government. But it also highlights perhaps the greatest failing of the Obama administration: its failure to seize the moment and provide support (rhetorical and otherwise) to the Green Movement in 2009.
Our options and influence are more limited now, but that does not mean we should do less. On the contrary, having missed the first window of opportunity, the administration has another chance to facilitate regime change. Ray Takeyh wrote in The Post last month:
The only durable solution to Iran's nuclear conundrum was always empowerment of the Green Movement. Tehran's callous leadership, indifferent to the financial penalties of its nuclear truculence, was hardly prone to make cost-benefit assessments and constructively participate in negotiations. Although it has been customary since the disputed presidential election of 2009 for the Washington establishment to pronounce the demise of the Green Movement, the battered Iranian opposition has succeeded in de-legitimizing the theocratic regime and enticing a significant portion of the population to contemplate life beyond the parameters of clerical despotism. Citizens' disenchantment was mirrored by the steady stream of defecting regime loyalists, who have forsaken their revolutionary patrimony. The breakdown of ideological controls in Iran is bound to affect the cohesion and solidarity of its security services. Deprived of popular credibility or a convincing dogma, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may not even be able to enforce his rule through fear.
The key challenge for the United States is to find ways to connect with the Green Movement. As important as social media or rhetorical declarations may be, such measures are limited. The model of Eastern Europe is instructive, as the West managed to covertly use a range of institutions, such as the Catholic Church and labor unions, to funnel assistance to dissidents. Several parts of Iranian civil society - labor syndicates, savvy youth, clerical dissidents, liberal protesters and universities - exist in a state of perpetual rebellion; they deserve to be beneficiaries of American advice and assistance. Whether motivated by idealism or a desire to advance practical security concerns, the West must recognize that the only thing standing between the mullahs and the bomb is the Green Movement.
Now, that sounds like an actual policy. We can only hope someone in the administration is listening and can overcome this president's obvious reluctance to use American influence to promote democracy and revolutionary change in the Middle East.
Posted by: mfray | March 2, 2011 11:11 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Kinesics | March 2, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: abraham3 | March 2, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Esther_Haman | March 2, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: eoniii | March 2, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mfray | March 2, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Fithian | March 2, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: abraham3 | March 2, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: eoniii | March 2, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: abraham3 | March 2, 2011 6:50 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mbintampa | March 2, 2011 9:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: abraham3 | March 2, 2011 10:28 PM | Report abuse