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The Iranian Opposition Movement: A Green Opportunity

With the recent public discovery of an Iranian nuclear facility in Qom, the Obama administration has taken a stance of pushing sanctions with international support. If the Obama administration can garner the support it needs from Russia, China, and most of Western Europe, any eventual sanctions may actually have some teeth. The Iranians, however, have been masterful at maneuvering around sanctions. Even if the sanctions are imposed, not all sanctions are so called “smart sanctions” which would target the power players in the regime and not the average person on the street who is just trying to live their life and feed their family. Smart sanctions are meant to target the regime in power with as little effect on the general population as possible. (The definitive work on “smart sanctions” to date was written by David Cortright and George Lopez in Smart Sanctions: Targeting Economic Statecraft.)

If “smart sanctions” are not imposed and an ineffective policy is adopted by the International Community, it will allow the Iranian regime to once again externalize conflict and distract attention from their severe domestic crisis. With this summer’s domestic unrest, the Iranian regime has lost legitimacy at home and abroad. The people continue protests daily at Tehran University regardless of the massive arrests, human rights violations, and mass show trials implemented by the regime.

The greatest example of the sophistication of the conflict and continued resistance of the Iranian opposition to their own regime was captured on video on September 18th, shortly before Ahmadinejad’s trip to the UN, where the government run demonstrations were held and Iranian agents tried to lead the crowd with chants of “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” The people in the crowd would not repeat those chants and instead chanted “Death to Russia” and “Death to China” in response to those chants, respectively (video available here). The Iranian people are well aware of the supporters of the regime vs. the supporters of the popular will. They refused to demonize the U.S. and Israel and showed their opposition to Russia and China whom greatly support the regime. The Russians and Chinese have been unwilling to put sanctions on the Iranian regime and Russia was one of the first states to recognize Ahmadenijad as President after the contested elections of this summer.

At this point, the Obama administration and similarly-minded allies are presented with a great opportunity for preventing Iranian nuclear weapons capability. The argument made by the Iranian regime is that every nation has the “right” to nuclear energy. A regime has to be stable and legitimate before it can or should have the “right” to nuclear power. The steps in between enriching uranium for nuclear power to that which is needed for medicinal or bomb uses is not very far from one another. Producing one de facto gives you nuclear weapons capability. Even if it is the simple nuclear waste from a nuclear energy facility, that nuclear waste can be put into a so called “dirty bomb.” Allowing this to be put in the hands of an illigitmate regime is irresponsible and reckless.

With President Obama’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday, he has been given a responsibility to preserve the integrity of that prize. The policy of appeasement reflected poorly on the governments and leaders who appeased Hitler’s regime and the same will be the case for any leaders that allow the slaughter of innocent people in Iran. According to the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the crime of Genocide, genocide is “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” In light of the New York protests against Ahmadinejad carried out by more than 15 thousand members of the Iranian-American diaspora (video available here), any failure for the Obama Administration to act could measure up to a lost opportunity.

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