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Posted at 10:15 AM ET, 03/ 2/2011

Meanwhile, Iran runs roughshod over its citizens

By Jennifer Rubin

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.

By Jennifer Rubin  | March 2, 2011; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  Iran  
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Comments

"American influence to promote democracy and revolutionary change in the Middle East."

Any conservatives listening?

Revolutionary Change != Conservatism
Forced Revolutionary Change = neoconservatism
Transfering U.S. wealth to force revolution abroad = neoconservatism + socialism

How we let these people take over our party I'll never know.

Posted by: mfray | March 2, 2011 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer,
Believe me, if u can sleep with a couple of mosquitoes in the room, then so can the Mullahs live with the Green Movement..
Until Velayati becomes President...

Posted by: Kinesics | March 2, 2011 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Jennifer:

These two so called opposition figure were part of the current regime for years. Mossavi was PM under Khamenie for years. They both have very shity records. They didn't do a damn thing about freedom or democracy when they were part of the government. Mossavi is a socialist, islamist person with no vision, no direction. They both are opportunitist who jump from branch to branch depending how the wind blows. The gree movement support these two lost individuals, because there is no one else. As they say in in Iran, the Lack of Gentlemen have kept these two names around. nothing else.

Now, when middle east is in turmoil, IUsrael is busy rounding up Palestanian and killing civilians and continuing occupying their land. It seems the plight of Palestanian is forgotten when some of the issues in ME is rooted to Israeli occupation of Palestanian land.

Try to be even handed and state the cruelty of Israeli treatment of poor Palestanian, if not too much a trouble for you.

Posted by: abraham3 | March 2, 2011 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Bad mouthing Iran, her revolution­, the people in charge there. For our officials It is so easy to criticize the government of Iran. Come up with all sorts of conspiracy theories of their nuclear program, how they treat their citizens. But, no one can speak a word about the corruption that we witnessed during the last decade here. These people have no realistic solution for anything, our own problems but they are obsessed with Iran. They are only pushing blames around. These people are out of touch with reality in our own country and they want to tell us about Iran's situation. We want them to fail!! We are not helping them!!

Here, Millions of people lost their jobs, homes, their families fail apart as the result of the shameful events during the Bush administra­tion real state market scams, "bankruptc­ies" and bail outs etc. We have not seen a single individual to go to jail, found guilty or charged with any of it!! NOW imagine if that had happened in Iran!! What these people would have said about that government or complained about the people in charge there? Fanned the fire of second revolution even more!! We call this democratic and free market and just!? We need a revolution in this country. We should stop being arrogant with what is going on in Iran and look at ourselves some. Do you think this would have gone unpunished in Iran?! Or it would have happened there in the first place?! I doubt that very much.

So, come down from your high horses and stick a pin in yourselves first then stick a needle in to the others.

Get real. Where is the justice!!?

Posted by: Esther_Haman | March 2, 2011 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Is the administration even sympathetic to the Green movement? Has the administration ever lifted a finger to help them? Has the administration even given them more than very tepid moral support? No. The administration has a hostile policy toward dictators who support our foreign policy objectives and a policy of "engagement" toward those who are trying to kill us. Our friends fear us, but our enemies do not.

Posted by: eoniii | March 2, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

"The administration has a hostile policy toward dictators who support our foreign policy objectives and a policy of "engagement" toward those who are trying to kill us."

Right, like how arch-neo/non-con GW Bush walked holding hands with the Saudi king? Holding hands with the country that attacked us on 9/11. Nice....

Posted by: mfray | March 2, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

"The only durable solution to Iran's nuclear conundrum was always empowerment of the Green Movement."

The real game changer could have been a strong, democratic, Iraq, closely allied with the U.S. -- if closing that window of opportunity and dealing unilaterally with Iran hadn't been the centerpiece of Obama's "foreign policy."

It is beyond belief to me that virtually no one seems to realize that influence between Iraq and Iran can flow both ways!

Posted by: Fithian | March 2, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

To Kinesics:

You described Mossavi and aroubi perfectly. They are truly nothing more than mosquitoes. It is ironic that you use these term, because in Iran mosquitoes also are refered to as "blood brothers". They suck your blood and become your brothers, which is exactly what these two did when they were part of this regime. Another one is x-president Khatami (smily mullah), he was in president for 8 years and did nothing other than obey the masters. Now, he is out he is in so called opposition camp. The sad part is, there is no real opposition, until then the mullahs can sleep well with or without mosquitoes net.

Posted by: abraham3 | March 2, 2011 1:43 PM | Report abuse

abraham3, former regime insiders Mousavi and Karroubi were the opposition in the 2009 rigged election because all candidates had to be approved by the mullahs. Sure, it would be better to have less tainted opposition leaders, but those are mostly dead or in prison. I admire Mousavi and Karroubi for breaking with the regime and speaking out against it. They're probably not long for this world.

Posted by: eoniii | March 2, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

To eoniii: I do respect your view, but a Lesser evil is not what Iran needs. In my opinion it is better to have none than a louzy opposition that is a ball and chain on your ankle. Believe me, neither these guys are popular amongst intellectual Green Movement. Many view them as distraction for their cause, and I tend to agree with them. Some in Green Movement claim these two are set up by the government to distract their movement. Do not ever under estimate mullahs and their evil desire to stay in power.
There is a expression in Iran that goes "when you give a penny to Mullah, it would be impossible to get it back". Now these mullahs are sitting on pot of gold, and a vast oil money, try to get it back. Good luck. These mullahs in order to stay in power will sacrifice millions, if they have to. They did it during 8 years of war with Iraq, under the name of protecting Iran.
Iranian opposition need a credible leader who can galvanize the people, right now, it is in short supply. And the ones who live outside have no credibility amongst people inside Iran.

What Mossavi and Karoubi are offering is like passing a dilloted poisons water to a thirsty person.

Posted by: abraham3 | March 2, 2011 6:50 PM | Report abuse

One has to ask, why is an unabashed supporter of Israel's ruffianism so concerned about political opposition in Iran, to the point of obsession? Here is why, it is all said in this quote from the above nonsense:

"(The language was less harsh than that used by United Nations ambassador Susan Rice last week in reference to Israel's settlements.)" A resolution that was vetoed by the US!!!

Translation: Israel comes first in my book. Israel wants Iran destroyed and I will not stop at anything in supporting them, I will even demean president of the US to achieve what my masters in Israel demand.

Posted by: mbintampa | March 2, 2011 9:08 PM | Report abuse

To mbitampa:

You said it so perfectly, I admire your courage and wisdom.

Posted by: abraham3 | March 2, 2011 10:28 PM | Report abuse

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