Will Obama blow it twice on Iran?



Washington Post (blog)--By Jennifer Rubin
The Post reported:

Crowds of demonstrators battled security forces armed with tear gas and batons during a surprisingly large anti-government protest in the Iranian capital Monday that drew inspiration from the recent popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.

Dodging clouds of tear gas fired by police and pro-government militiamen, the protesters marched down a central boulevard and shouted slogans such as "Death to the dictator," "We are all together" and "Down with Taliban, in Cairo and Tehran." . . .The gathering in Tehran appeared to be the most significant anti-government protest here since security forces cracked down on a series of massive demonstrations in 2009. The size of the crowd was difficult to estimate. Some witnesses said they believed it exceeded 200,000. The Associated Press said tens of thousands of people demonstrated.

Having been virtually mute when the Green Movement erupted in June 2009 and having been slow and half-hearted in his support for the Egyptian Revolution, did Obama make any effort to get out ahead on the Iran protests? Well, no. The president was busy yesterday trying to sell his budget as fiscally responsible. And his new press secretary must have been at an undisclosed location (there was no presser yesterday).

And what did the Secretary of State have to say? Hillary Clinton  answered this way in response to a reporter's question on the Iran protests and reports of phone jamming by the regime:

Well, first, let me very clearly and directly support the aspirations of the people who are in the streets in Iran today. All through the crisis in Egypt, we had three very consistent messages: We were against violence, and we stated it often and we communicated it directly to Egyptian authorities. Secondly, we supported the universal human rights of the Egyptian people. And third, we stood for political change that would result in positive outcomes that would give the Egyptian people a better economic and political future.

We believe the same for Iran. We are against violence, and we would call to account the Iranian Government that is, once again, using its security forces and resorting to violence to prevent the free expression of ideas from their own people. Secondly, we support the universal human rights of the Iranian people. They deserve to have the same rights that they saw being played out in Egypt and that are part of their own birthright. And thirdly, we think that there needs to be a commitment to open up the political system in Iran, to hear the voices of the opposition and civil society.

And I would add that what we see happening in Iran today is a testament to the courage of the Iranian people and an indictment of the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, a regime which over the last three weeks has constantly hailed what went on in Egypt, and now, when given the opportunity to afford their people the same rights as they called for on behalf of the Egyptian people, once again illustrate their true nature. So our message has been consistent and it remains the same, and we wish the opposition and the brave people in the streets across cities in Iran the same opportunity that they saw their Egyptian counterparts seize in the last week.

In other words, she wishes them all the best. But what will the U.S. do? That she doesn't say, and that lack of affirmative action is also consistent with the administration's track record. There is no call for regime change and there is no indication we are planning any increased assistance for the opposition.

That didn't sit well with the House Foreign Affairs chairwoman, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), who issued this statement:

"The regime's oppression of the Iranian people has only grown since the rigged elections and suppressed demonstrations of 2009. The U.S. made a mistake then by not voicing full and vigorous support for Iranians demanding freedom and democracy. We cannot make that mistake again.

One way in which we can and must support the Iranian people is to use every tool at our disposal to sanction the Iranian regime officials responsible for human rights violations. The U.S. and other responsible nations must extend the present travel ban on high-ranking Iranian regime officials to include all in the regime responsible for repressing the Iranian people.

I further call on the Administration to impose all available sanctions against those in the regime who trample the human rights of the Iranian people, from the so-called Supreme Leader and Ahmadinejad, to the Revolutionary Guards Corps, and further on down."

Perhaps some oversight hearings are in order. The chairwoman and her committee should probe whether besides tweeting in Farsi the administration is offering anything more than lip service to the protesters.

By Jennifer Rubin  | February 15, 2011; 8:30 AM ET


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