Obama, Nowruz, Greens & Israel


I thought that President Obama’s Nowruz message to Iranians was — like last year — excellent. I think that this kind of public diplomacy is enormously important in reaching out for the prospects of change — even if the Iran government is recalcitrant.
Here is a clip from the transcript:

I said, last year, that the choice for a better future was in the hands of Iran’s leaders. That remains true today. Together with the international community, the United States acknowledges your right to peaceful nuclear energy – we insist only that you adhere to the same responsibilities that apply to other nations. We are familiar with your grievances from the past – we have our own grievances as well, but we are prepared to move forward. We know what you’re against; now tell us what you’re for.
For reasons known only to them, the leaders of Iran have shown themselves unable to answer that question. You have refused good faith proposals from the international community. They have turned their backs on a pathway that would bring more opportunity to all Iranians, and allow a great civilization to take its rightful place in the community of nations. Faced with an extended hand, Iran’s leaders have shown only a clenched fist.
Last June, the world watched with admiration, as Iranians sought to exercise their universal right to be heard. But tragically, the aspirations of the Iranian people were also met with a clenched fist, as people marching silently were beaten with batons; political prisoners were rounded up and abused; absurd and false accusations were leveled against the United States and the West; and people everywhere were horrified by the video of a young woman killed in the street.
The United States does not meddle in Iran’s internal affairs. Our commitment – our responsibility – is to stand up for those rights that should be universal to all human beings. That includes the right to speak freely, to assemble without fear; the right to the equal administration of justice, and to express your views without facing retribution against you or your families.
I want the Iranian people to know what my country stands for. The United States believes in the dignity of every human being, and an international order that bends the arc of history in the direction of justice – a future where Iranians can exercise their rights, to participate fully in the global economy, and enrich the world through educational and cultural exchanges beyond Iran’s borders. That is the future that we seek. That is what America is for.

Interestingly, a report has just surfaced that Neda’s fiance, Caspian Makan, who became a voice and face of the opposition movement in Iran has visited Israel and may meet Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Suffice it to say that his stock value as a leader of Iran’s opposition has just declined as Iran’s government will be able to point to the optics of collaboration and support from Israel. This may just be one of those accidents or errors in judgment that people thrown quickly into the international spotlight experience.
I think we need to work toward a day when Persians, Arabs, Jews, and others can travel freely throughout the region without having to play a shell game about passport stamps and not fear the consequences of people of any persuasion entering any of the countries in the Middle East.
But regrettably, Israel and Iran aren’t there yet — and Caspian’s trip to Israel unfortunately taints the optics — though I don’t think the substance — of the Green Movement’s legitimacy.
— Steve Clemons


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