“Will President Obama Speak For Freedom and for Human Rights?”
My new Townhall.com column asks: “How hard should it be for President Obama to declare unequivocally and with specificity that the Khamenei/Ahmadinejad regime should not murder its opponents, should not fire into crowds, should not sweep through the university campus and drag away suspected student leaders?”
It is crucial that the president and Secretary of State Clinton both issue strong statements about the necessity of the regime refusing to fire on its own people. This isn’t meddling in the internal affairs of a nation, but simply the reiteration of a long-standing global norm, the violation of which is an act of voluntary self-exile from the community of civilized nations. The president cannot ultimately stop the mullahs from acting as tyrants, but his statements will be read and analyzed at the highest levels in Tehran, and perhaps at least induce some caution in some minds.
The Guardian Council has invited talks with the opposition, but the demonstrations will continue again today. The Assembly of Experts –a competing source of authority in the very convoluted system of government in Iran, has stayed silent thus far. (A BBC chart of how the regime is “organized is below. More background is available from the transcript of my extended interview with Amir Taheri from April 30.)
If the international community led by the U.S. keeps up an intense focus on the street demonstrations and every report of arrest and violence, the protection for those demonstrators increases and the pressure on the Supreme Leader to restrain the reactionaries will grow.
President Obama can find a way to speak to the crisis every day, and could devote his Saturday media address to support for the protestors’ right to be free to demonstrate without fear or fact of violence against them by the regime. Sorrowful words after a slaughter will be no use at all, and silence right now is a signal to the worst elements of the Khamenei/Ahmadienjad faction that the U.S. will not react negatively to a crack-down, no matter how bloody.
Powerline’s Scott Johnson, citing James Taranto, is pessimistic about President Obama’s willingness to demonstrate support for the demonstrators. But the president is nothing if not sensitive to public opinion shifts, and the American people are watching and cheering the protestors. The cable networks have begun to figure out that this story has a huge audience, and increasing coverage means increasing attention from the politicos in the West Wing. The American voter does not reward indifference to slaughter on the part of its leaders. There are many reasons for the president to begin to use the rhetorical powers of his office, and very few to remain as ambiguous and silent as he has been to date.