Second, let’s be specific about what “support for the Iranian dissidents” (which is increasingly coterminous with “the Iranian people”) means. Krauthammer is certainly right to say “to fail to do everything in our power to support this popular revolt is unforgivable,” and Haass echoes him: “The United States, European governments, and others should shift their Iran policy toward increasing the prospects for political change. Leaders should speak out for the Iranian people and their rights.” But let’s spell it out a bit more.
Kagan hits some of the main points: “With tougher sanctions, public support from Obama and other Western leaders, and programs to provide information and better communications to reformers, the possibility for change in Iran may never be better.” More concretely, we should help the dissidents get good communications hardware, and our leaders should demand the release of political prisoners, equal rights for women, an end to torture and rape in the prisons, and greater freedom of speech, assembly and press. As Takeyh says, “The Obama administration should take a cue from Ronald Reagan and persistently challenge the legitimacy of the theocratic state and highlight its human rights abuses.”
Haass has several good ideas:
Congressmen and senior administration figures should avoid meeting with the regime. Any and all help for Iran’s opposition should be nonviolent. Iran’s opposition should be supported by Western governments, not led…outsiders should refrain from articulating specific political objectives other than support for democracy and an end to violence and unlawful detention.
Notice the comment on Senator Kerry’s proposed jaunt to Tehran. A bad idea. And he’s right to emphasize that the nature and composition of a free Iranian government is up to the Iranians. They are fighting and dying for it, while we are only supporting them as best we can. So to speak. Thus far, it’s only words, but maybe, with all the added intellectual firepower, it might get real.