President Obama has finally come out unequivocally on the side of the victimized people of Iran, condemning the regime’s violent actions and saying there were “big questions” about the election results. He wisely mentioned the videotaped, tear-jerking death of Neda Soltani, saying, “We have experienced the searing image of a woman bleeding to death on the streets. While this loss is raw and painful, we also know this: those who stand up for justice are always on the right side of history.”
He even went so far as to declare his support for the principles that the Iranians are fighting for, making statements that would be called neoconservative or Wilsonian if done by another man. “The Iranian people have a universal right to assembly and free speech. If the government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect those rights and heed the will of its own people. It must govern through consent, not coercion. That is what Iran’s own people are calling for, and the Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government,” he said. These are words that will resonate with the Iranian people and, if broadcast to the masses, will have results on the streets of Tehran.
President Obama initially refrained from harshly coming out against the Iranian regime, fearing the regime would try to paint its internal conflict as an international one, attributing the instability to an American plot in an attempt to undermine the credibility of the opposition. This line of thinking fails to acknowledge that it is the Iranian regime, not the Iranian people, that has the credibility issue. The word of the government has become bankrupt and no effort to stir up nationalism will make them forgive the transgressions against them. The Iranian government has consistently tried to frame each expression of dissent against it as a Western plot to no avail.
The Green Revolution may succeed on its own, but the U.S. can and must play a role in this struggle with worldwide ramifications. President Obama needs to go beyond making powerful individual statements and launch a sustained political offensive aimed at energizing the Iranian people and placing the world’s attention on them. In short, he needs to go back to the rapid-response, emotion-rousing campaign that made him president.
He needs to specifically and frequently mention the death of Neda, and immediately react to each new crackdown with condemnation and a call for the release of political prisoners and the allowing of dissent. Stories like how the regime has demanded “bullet fees” before handing the dead body of a killed demonstrator to his father need to be loudly broadcast. He needs to make clear to those in the security forces that they have the choice of laying down their arms, choosing not to kill people who look like their sons and daughters for the sake of a failed regime, or engaging in horrific acts that they will each be held personally responsible for at a later time. This sounds simple, and indeed it is, but this overt support can have a dramatic effect.