By Joseph Klein, Special for USDR
On March 19, 2015, President Barack Obama delivered his Nowruz (Persian New Year) address to the Iranian people and the leaders of Iran. It is doubtful that many ordinary Iranians actually got to hear or read President Obama’s message. After all, Iran is a tightly controlled dictatorship run by the Ayatollah Khamenei, his clerical clique and his enforcers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The “elected” president, Hassan Rouhani, is little more than a figurehead.
When the Iranian people did rise up in June of 2009 to protest the fraudulent re-election of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, they were brutally suppressed. Gross human rights abuses have continued during the so-called “moderate” Rouhani’s presidency. Journalists, students, women’s rights advocates and members of civil society languish in jail. Executions have increased.
Thus, President Obama should not hold his breath waiting for a candid response to his message from the Iranian people suffering under their regime’s tyrannical rule. However, if they could write him a letter, perhaps it would read something like the following:
Thank you, President Obama, for your Nowruz wishes. However, for us it is a bittersweet New Year. We cannot celebrate the holiday while we live under a tyrannical regime that suffocates us every day.
You send us your “hopes for progress between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the International community, including the United States.” We would rather you send us your hopes for an Iran in which we can live, work, pray, speak and think as we wish.
Our government is illegitimate. Our leaders despise and hold down any of us who yearn for freedom. And they hate America as much as they hate Israel. Didn’t you hear what our “Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Khamenei exclaimed to his loyal followers recently? He said “Death to America, of course.”
As you know, Ayatollah Khamenei has the final word on all matters of state, including what Iran is willing to accept in any nuclear agreement. Do you seriously think you can believe a word he says? We don’t. But apparently you do, given your reference in your Nowruz message to a so-called fatwa that Ayatollah Khamenei supposedly issued against the development of nuclear weapons. No actual fatwa text issued by Khamenei that unconditionally prohibits the development or production of a nuclear weapon has ever been published, as far as we know. He did once say in a speech that “using such weapons are a great sin,” but that statement alone – even if it can be believed – does not rise to the level of an official fatwa, nor does it preclude the development of such weapons for intimidation purposes.
You also tell us in your Nowruz message that our leaders have complied with the commitments they made in the preliminary nuclear agreement currently in effect. “Iran has halted progress on its nuclear program and even rolled it back in some areas,” you claim. Sorry to burst your bubble, Mr. President, but the UN inspectors continue to complain that they are denied answers to their questions about certain military aspects of our government’s nuclear program. And the National Council of Resistance of Iran – yes, there is still popular resistance to the regime you are negotiating with – has reported very recently of yet another secret nuclear facility.
Lifting the sanctions could provide us some limited relief, but it will keep the oppressive regime in place. We know for sure that our leaders will use the freed up monies and resources to expand the regime’s empire in the Middle East and North Africa, and develop its nuclear arms arsenal. They are already doing just that, while we continue to suffer economically in our daily lives.
Nothing has changed since June of 2009 when so many of us who risked our lives protesting in the streets of Tehran and other cities pleaded for your support. One of our student protesters tried to communicate with you and the American people directly back then. He pleaded in a television broadcast:
“I’m addressing President Obama directly – how can a government that doesn’t recognize its people’s rights and represses them brutally and mercilessly have nuclear activities? This government is a huge threat to global peace. Will a wise man give a sharp dagger to an insane person? We need your help international community. Don’t leave us alone.”
You left us alone to fend for ourselves, while protesters were being shot, beaten, imprisoned and tortured. Sure, you denounced the violence against peaceful protesters, but you legitimized the tyrannical regime by saying that “We respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran.” You are doing the same thing today.
Your State Department’s spokesperson at the time, Ian Kelly, explained why you ignored our aspirations: “We have to look at our own national interest too—nonproliferation is a very important priority in this administration.”
We were expendable then in pursuit of your fool’s mission to negotiate a deal with an untrustworthy, repressive regime. You are still treating as pawns today. If only you had shown the same concern for the Iranian people protesting in the streets of Tehran that you did for the Egyptian people protesting in the streets of Cairo during the Arab Spring, when you appeared on television pressuring Egyptian President Mubarak, a U.S. ally, to step down.
You closed your Nowruz message by telling us that “it is up to all of us, Iranians and Americans, to seize this moment and the possibilities that can bloom in this new season.”
There can be no “new season” – no springtime of hope – as long as the repressive regime you are willing to legitimize remains in place.