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Persian Letters

To Help Or Not: Iranian Opposition Figures React To Clinton Remarks

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
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A debate about whether the United States should actively support Iran’s opposition movement appears to have been reignited following recent comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The country's top diplomat said earlier this week that Iranian opposition members should openly seek outside support as did rebels in Libya. 

In reaction to the comments, Amir Ardeshir Arjomand, a close adviser to opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi, rejected foreign interference and said the Iranian people can achieve democracy without outside help.

In her October 26 interview with BBC’s Persian TV, Clinton suggested that it may have been a mistake for the opposition inside Iran to not have appealed for international support in the state crackdown that followed the disputed reelection of Mahmud Ahmadinejad in 2009. 

The interviewer said that some of the BBC’s audience had criticized the U.S. for being slow to support the opposition movement. Others, however, had said that Washington's potential support would have given the Iranian establishment an excuse to pressure it. 

“Why has the U.S. not supported [the] Green Movement in Iran?” asked an Iranian refugee in Turkey who had left Iran following the 2009 vote. 

Clinton said the U.S. was torn at the time:
 
I will tell you it was a very tough time for us, because we wanted to be full-hearted in favor of what was going on inside Iran, and we kept being cautioned that we would put people’s lives in danger, we would discredit the movement, we would undermine their aspirations. I think if something were to happen again, it would be smart for the Green Movement or some other movement inside Iran to say, "We want the voices of the world. We want the support of the world behind us."

That’s what the Libyan opposition figures did, as you remember. When they began their struggle against Qaddafi, and it seemed like such a hopeless uphill climb, they, from the very beginning said, "We want all the support we can get from the outside world. We want our Arab brothers, we want the region, and we want the United Nations, and we want everybody to help us." And I think that maybe in retrospect it was an unfortunate mutual decision on the part of the leaders of the Green Movement and the supporters inside Iran and those of us on the outside, who very much hoped that that would spark reform.
 
In reaction to Clinton’s comments, Arjomand said that it is up to Iranian citizens to mobilize and fight the authoritarian force. Arjomand said he is expressing the position of the leaders of the Green Movement, Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi, who have both been under house arrest for more than seven months. 

He described the independence of the Green Movement as its strength. “Intervention by foreign powers is not a viable solution for domestic issues and affairs of a sovereign nation,” he said in an interview with the BBC. Arjomand added that Iran is a proud nation and has always sought to resolve its problems independently. 

(Although according to cables leaked by WikiLeaks, in January 2010 Arjomand asked U.S. diplomats in Turkey for help after fleeing Iran. He apparently didn’t get the help he had asked for.) 

While Arjomand, who is based in France, made it clear that the U.S. should stay away from the Iranian opposition movement, another opposition figure Mojatab Vahedi -- a close adviser to Karrubi -- said there are things the U.S. can do to help opposition members.   

In a YouTube video from Washington, D.C. where he is based, Vahedi said the Obama administration owes the Iranian opposition movement for two major reasons. 
 
 
“Right when the Green Movement was in full swing, [U.S. President Obama] said his country is ready to talk with the [Islamic Republic]. By doing so Washington morally supported the Iranian government, [which] was very fearful of domestic and international conditions,” Vahedi said.

Vahedi added that in his view the U.S. also owes the Iranian opposition movement for not pressuring allies that supported Iran in its crackdown, This support included providing Tehran with surveillance technology.  

Vahedi said there is no need for U.S. support if it can rectify these “mistakes.”
He said Karrubi had said in an interview two years ago that Western governments should help so that the voice of the Iranian people is heard by the world's nations. Vahedi added this remains the demand of the opposition movement. 

He also called on the United States to ask former President Jimmy Carter to travel to Iran to monitor the March 2012 parliamentary elections. He suggested the move would put the Iranian government in a difficult position. He noted that Tehran has expressed support and approval for Carter's supervision of the Palestinian and Tunisian votes. 
 
-- Golnaz Esfandiari
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Comment Sorting
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by: Muhammad from: India
October 29, 2011 10:37
Ask Clinton to support Paletine Nation Bid & Vote in favour of Palestine on u.s get then we trust u.s is really think about humanity

by: Ali Mostofi from: UK
October 29, 2011 11:30
Golnaz

The Hezbollah Party in Iran is responsible for taking the political descisions, thatvhave put Iran in this quandry. You need to change your syntax.

by: SmithGoesWashington from: London
October 29, 2011 11:44
Sirs,
There is no news in the UK and Europe media, about “Occupy Movement” now happening in the US. We are completely left in the dark about those matters. They all the time talk about whether the heir to the throne of England could be a female too, in an unknown future. May I ask, "Voice of America" provides some news regarding “Occupy Movement” for us, please?
Best Regards
Joseph

by: Ben
October 29, 2011 17:44
Everybody see as the"Arab spring" turnes into " Islamist autumn". That`s why Obama seeks for explanations of the lack of Iranian dissidents` help while all anti-Israel`s ME regimes get American armor supply.

by: Maryam
October 29, 2011 17:45
Mrs. Clinton, please have a listen to what Mojtaba Vahedi has to say.

by: Ali from: Tehran
October 29, 2011 19:52
America should stay away from the Green Movement. We don't need your 'bombs'. Iran will become a democratic country without your help.

by: Esther haman from: DC
October 30, 2011 03:54
"MKO, PMO, PMS etc" or what ever else they call themselves today, "Chameleon" is more fitting for them! This bunch should be moved to "GetMo" under security for good. They are the one who have killed Americans and Europeans in Iran during the Shah and they have not confessed to it and we still don't know who the culprit was. They are the one who took our embassy as hostage in in Iran for 444 days and they are the one who sided with Saddam Hussein of Iraq to do his killing for him. Now we want to protect them?! NO, they are a bunch of killers with no remorse. They are the one who were our SWORN ENEMY until now, and out of a sudden they want to be our friend and do our dirty work for us?! How CONVENIENT for them.

Get real.

by: erwin from: USA
October 30, 2011 04:09
@ joseph

The occupy movement is spreading across the country. It even got violent in Oakland california.

by: Azar from: Tehran
October 30, 2011 07:26
IWikileaks show Mr.Arjomand asked US for help for himself and his family. So the conclusion is Mr.Arjomand can ask for help for himself and his family but not for the people of Iran. Arjomand is just another dinasour of another era which doesnlt understand not all help from outside is bad

by: Aghrab from: US
October 30, 2011 08:53
The situation about the Green Movement in Iran is not entirely a Genuine Opposition Movement. Especially if you look at it a bit closer and you see the real intentions of the Green Movement Leaders like Hasheni, Khatami, Karroubi or Mousavi …
The real intention is not a fundamental change in the regime’s direction, it is rather ; “only” a desire to change the guards in this big prison called “Islamic republic of Iran”.
The so called Green Movement Leaders are merely interested in their own power situation within the regime’s leadership structure hence they don’t want the WEST to help them at all. The fact is that they have bitterly lost their power (and its associated benefits) to another New Fraction of the same Islamic regime.
These so called Green Movement Leaders just want to use the potential power of the Iranian people , going back and securing all the strong-posts once more for themselves. They have started exposing the New Fraction in the regime by bringing up all the past crimes of the regime and attaching them only to the New Fraction. Hence creating this interesting mud-fights .
At the same time the genuine oppressed people in Iran (who were/are sick of them all) found a small window of opportunity to rock the boat with the hope to remove the Islamic regime completely once and for good.
Nevertheless, these so called Green Movement Leaders very cleverly took that opportunity right away from the genuine people in Iran, by telling the West; NO, DO NOT interfere with the Green Movement. The reason is that, these Leaders are also afraid of a real/ genuine uprising movement that can lead to a successful and real regime removal.
When you look at the situation a bit closer you’ll clearly see these so called Green Movement Leaders and the New Fraction are only playing a Good Cop Bad Cop game with both the Iranian people and the West.
Just take a quick look and you’ll see what the Islamic Regime has achieved so far. Two big achievements ; Stopping a genuine regime change by the people in Iran and also buying more time from the West to further develop their own Military and Nuclear capabilities.
It is amazing how cleverly the Islamic Regime has managed to fool even the most seasoned Western politicians around the globe so far , making them wait for a potential people driven regime change in Iran. ( This is impossible)
The West should go back and look at the history once more and realise that not many regimes have changed without the West’s assistance in one way or another.
In Response

by: eric d from: ABQ New Mexzico USA
November 04, 2011 17:57
@ aghrab:

I'm just a poor un-informed no-nothing American. But I wonder why, if Mousavi & Karroubi are stooges of the Amadinejad/Khameni regime, they spend so much time on house arrest & getting roughed up by Basijis?

Like others, I wish the US, the UN, & the international community could support the Green Movement. But whenever there's the slightest hint of "Western" interference in Iranian affairs, the regime screams that the Iranian Revolution is betrayed & the Greens are selling out to "the West."
Which, of course, brings a reactionary backlash...

So I ask sincerely: What can the US actually do to help democracy in Iran?

Surely you don't propose a US (Israeli?!?) military strike? Or even limited action like Libya? (Which would only guarantee that the Iranian people would hate "US" & 'The West" for perpetuity...)

Much as I despise & abhor the Amadinejad regime, as long as Amadinejad can portray himself as the defender of the Iranian Revolution against "the West" (the US etc.), he can mobilize support to crush the Greens & keep the theocratic regime in power. So I'm afraid the 2nd Iranian Revlution has to wait until the Iranian people rise against the regime. And only then could the US & international community really help.

(I agree, though. We missed an opportunity last year, when the Iranian people did rise... And were crushed by the regime.)

In Response

by: Aghrab from: US
November 07, 2011 03:33
You have nailed it right on the head. The Iranian people should get to the required/ acceptable maturity level to understand that they and only they can get up and fight with their teeth and nails to achieve their own freedom. AND the first step towards that maturity would be “to acknowledge that any religious driven freedom-movement in Iran is an absolute false and doomed to failure/ corruption”….
Thanks for your comments

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Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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