The "green movement" protesters at the center of unrest in Iran are seen as liberal, pro-democracy and friendly to
America and the West. As protests and the Iranian government's backlash
continue to escalate
many in the U.S. are searching for how America can best help the
protesters in their cause. Iran's leadership, Grand Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, have been the target of
much pressure from the West, which seeks to halt Iran's growing nuclear
program. Sanctions have been under discussion
since the discovery
of an Iranian nuclear weapons program in September. But leaders of
Iran's green movement still join with Khamenei in protesting sanctions.
Is there anything the U.S. can do?
- U.S. Intervention Harms Protesters The Washington Note's Steve Clemons cautions, "The United States needs to be very cautious -- and not do anything on
the ground in Iran that would allow the incumbent government to to
evade "the death to the dictator" chants directed at it by distracting
the country with evidence of credible external interventions."
- Only Finely Targeted Sanctions Would Work
Spencer Ackerman reports the White House's growing fear that sanctions
could hurt the protesters. "Green leaders like Mir-Hossein Mousavi and
Mehdi Kerroubi have staked
out an even more nationalistic stance than President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad, urging him to reject a deal offered by the Obama
administration that would tamp down international tensions over Iran’s
nuclear program." Ackerman notes that sanctions limited to the Iranian
Revolutionary Guard Corps are considered more viable. "The Obama
administration has yet to decide on a sanctions package, and
accordingly has not secured international support for any specific
sanctions. But the administration is looking at targeting the IRGC
specifically — although a knowledgeable U.S. official said that
unintended effects of sanctions on the Greens were a real concern."
- 'The Case For Doing Nothing' Foreign Policy's Stephen Walt makes it.
"First, we do not know enough about
internal dynamics in Iran to intervene intelligently, and trying to
or support the Green Movement is as likely to hurt them as to help
them," he writes. "Second, this is an especially foolish time to be
sabers and threatening military action. Threatening or using force is
precisely the sort of
external interference that might give the current regime a new lease on
life. If you’d like to see a
new government in Tehran, in short, we should say relatively little and
If you’re looking for a useful historical analogy, think
back to the "velvet revolutions" in Eastern Europe. [...] In fact, the velvet revolutions were a triumph of slow and
patient engagement from a position of strength. The upheavals in Eastern Europe were an indigenous phenomenon
and the product of containment, diplomatic engagement, and the slow-but-steady
spread of democratic ideals through the Helsinki process and other
mechanisms. And the first Bush administration was smart
enough to keep its hands off until the demise of communism was irreversible,
which is precisely the approach we ought to take toward Iran today.
- Inaction Not An Option Jules Crittenden explains. "Even the hawks that
everyone is using as strawmen know we're not going to be invading Iran,
and this would be a particularly bad time to launch air strikes on
Iranian nuclear facilities. That said, signaling that you’re ready to
deal with the thugs once their crackdown is done, so that they can
continue thumbing their nose at you, is ridiculous," he writes. "What [Obama] needs to
develop is what everyone thought he had when they voted for him. Moral
courage. His Afghanistan move was a halting step in that direction. [...] So he needs to figure out
the right balance of covert action, direct and indirect pressure, and
public condemnation. It’s his job. And it's 3 a.m. wakeup time again."
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