Laura Secor, writing on the News Desk blog at the New Yorker, has an interview with former presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, a leader of the Green movement that took to the streets after the disputed June 2009 election who is now under virtual house arrest.
The interview, conducted via email, is worth checking out in full. Of particular note are his responses to how the Green movement could receive help from outside Iran.
When Secor asked generally about the role of Iranian exiles — some of whom are forceful anti-regime activists — Karroubi said that, while he can’t tell them what to do, they should “try to convey Iranian public opinion and elite thought to the outside world, to help project the voices of those who are voiceless in Iran.”
Then Secor asked the outspoken opposition leader how he thought the U.S. government should relate to the Green movement.
We look to our own people, to our own country and its interests. We try to avoid any dependence on other countries, nor would we suggest any strategy for them. This movement is our own responsibility, and we do not expect other nations or governments to do anything for us. But if they feel a humanitarian obligation to support us, that is another thing.
I wonder what Karroubi would have answered if Secor had followed up by asking him whether that meant public pledges of support or extended his comments to more tangible activities, such as funding satellite news channels (Voice of America’s Farsi service), internet tools to avoid surveillance and censorship or even subversive covert activities.
At a recent event at Columbia University (view it here), Bennington College professor and former Islamic Republic ambassador Mansour Farhang takes a different tack than Karroubi. He said the U.S. should take a more restrained role by focusing on negotiations towards ending the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program and not engage in discussions on Iran’s human rights situation, which would include the political repression that beat back Green movement.
Farhang cautions that because Iran’s leaders can point to such U.S. human rights hypocrisies as Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, successful discussions with Iran require that “[T]he U.S. should not at all pay attention to human rights in [Iran]. Leave that to the NGOs.” He noted his difficulty in making this statement, since he has been a dues paying member of Amnesty International since 1963.