I've never been a big fan of Hillary Clinton's Foreign Policy. I thought she was a war-monger during the campaign just a couple clicks toward sanity compared to McCain and his "Bomb, bomb, bomb, Iran." I wish that Obama would have found a position for her on the domestic policy side of the cabinet. She is at State to stay, however, and in the wake of the most significant protests in Iran since December of 2009, the US should just keep quiet.
Ever since the election fiasco of June 2009, the current government has been saying that protesters are directed by foreign agents etc. There is a history there (1953) that does not exist for Tunisia or Egypt. The language that Secretary Clinton is now using only reinforces this view, and I'm sure that Iranian opposition leadership do not like it. She's not helping. On some days--I think that's the intent.
“What we see happening in Iran today is a testament to the courage of the Iranian people and an indictment of the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, a regime which over the last three weeks has constantly hailed what went on in Egypt..” Secretary ClintonThere is some truth to this. The current wave of unrest has riled the discontent that was successfully bottled by the Iranian Regime in 2010. However, even if this is true, the US and its' representatives are the last people who should be making a point of it. First there was our decades long support for the Shah, a petty dictator and torturer. Then, when the Shah fell, we doubled our Embassy staff in 1979 and tried to establish as many connections as possible with the new moderate Bazargan-led government. In the 80s we supported Saddam's invasion with weapons and satellite photos of Iranian troop positions. More recently, Bush brazenly and publicly advertised $400 Million in expenditure for "Regime Change" in Iran. That money was spent somewhere--most likely it found it's way to MEK lunatics and Jundallah--the Baluch separatist group that has successfully terror bombed inside Iran on numerous occasions in the last few years. Do you have any idea the domestic political gold that was for the ruling clique? They have been using it to this day to brand any dissent as purchased by America. If the US really wants to help the Green Movement we should not say anything about what is going on there right now.
Will these protests lead anywhere? At this point, I doubt it. The largest protests by far and the most widespread throughout the country were after the 2009 election mess. The Ashura protests of December 2009 were larger than this recent outburst as well. Iran is not Egypt. The current authoritarian regime is not US backed--it is home grown. It is not really a dictatorship. Power flows from numerous, and in many cases, unseen sources and institutions like the Revolutionary Guard and the ancillary Basiji. These groups involve millions of people. In a worst-case scenario the Ahmadinejad/Khamenei coalition still has substantial support. I do not want to re-hash the election debate, but this coalition garners the support of at least a third of the country. It is likely larger, because the Islamic Republic has done a great deal to provide education and higher living standards for all. The successive regimes, Khatami excepted, have done a great job of playing the poor against the middle to maintain support. They have combined this economic populism with an intense regional nationalism to maintain their hold on power. It has worked, and bellicose US rhetoric, lecturing and actions have only helped them continue to pose as defenders of Iranian independence.
If we really want to see change in Iran, we need to significantly alter our approach.
Update: I wrote this mostly last night. I finished it early this morning. I see now that Obama is saying the same things, and things are also getting worse in Iran. A contingent within Iran's Parliament--the Majlis has called for the arrest, trial and execution of the opposition leaders Mousavi, Karroubi and Khatami. There is no way to know how this particular chapter is going to turn out, but serious repression looks to be in the works. Since 2009, the ruling clique in Iran has grown less tolerant of dissent, and they managed to keep a lid on things for pretty much all of 2010. If the administration really wants to help, they might try getting Turkey involved--a neighbor to which the current regime might actually pay heed. I don't think that further public statements of condemnation from the US will help much here. It is impossible to predict how this might turn out, but a great deal of force still remains in the hands of the government. This could go on for some time.