Thursday, December 10, 2009

A better use for the Ignoble Appeasement Prize

Once again, the courageous people of Iran have been demonstrating that, despite arrests, imprisonment, beatings, torture and state murder their spirit remains unbroken. Once again, there were protests against the regime yesterday at universities throughout Iran. Potkin Azarmehr reports:

The most predominant chant was specifically directed against the Supreme Leader. It was amazing the regime had gone out of its way to prevent any information from coming out of Iran. Apart from the usual tricks, they had banned the press permits for all foreign correspondents for three days and even the public phone boxes around the universities were wrapped in black plastic bags to stop eyewitnesses reporting from the scene, yet once again they failed miserably. As Moussavi aptly said ‘They are trying to put up a barbed wire to stop a flood’.

A translated report from Die Tageszeitung, published by Planet Iran, observes:

Once again the Iranian opposition showed on Monday that it is not willing to give up the resistance against the clerical dictatorship. Thousands of arrests, torture and rape in prisons, which has claimed so far seventy-nine deaths caused by the long prison sentences, many show trials and forced confessions; the whole apparatus of repression has had its effect. The critics however cannot be intimidated.

The regime in Tehran has largely lost its base. All propaganda attempts to attacks ‘foreign enemies’, appealing to so-called nationalist sentiment among the masses remain without response. The balance of power in the Islamic state, which so far despite the rivalries and conflicting opinions always acted consistently against ‘internal and external enemies’, no longer works. Not only the reformers have long since turned away from the governance, also formed in the conservative camp, a new front against the Ahmadinejad administration and especially against the supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

In other words, the resistance of the people is continuing to weaken the Iranian regime.

The Iranian people are therefore still the west’s best hope of toppling that regime. As I have said before, it is therefore not just appalling but incomprehensible that western leaders do not support the Iranian people in this heroic resistance.

In the Wall Street Journal today, Emanuele Ottolenghi makes a very sharp suggestion for what Obama should do with his Nobel Peace Prize which he receives in Oslo this week: he should give his medal to a far worthier recipient, Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Prize laureate and Iran’s foremost human rights advocate who was recently robbed of her medal, alongside several other prizes (including the French Legion d'honneur) by order of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court. Ottolenghi writes:

President Obama is the leader of the free world—though his tepid support for Iran's beleaguered pro-democracy movement may suggest he is uncomfortable with this role. Ms. Ebadi is the symbol of defiance against a liberticidal regime, which, to use the President's own words, represents a ‘common challenge of the 21st century,’ and one which the president still must confront.

They have the Nobel Prize in common. Let it be a way to bridge the gap between the president’s ill-fated efforts to engage Ms. Ebadi’s oppressors, and America’s historic commitment to liberty abroad. And let it be a way to turn the Nobel Prize Committee's choice into a powerful message in the service of peace—for the best way to promote peace is to champion freedom.

The president's engagement strategy with the Islamic Republic has so far yielded little progress on Iran’s nuclear program, but offered much cover to Iran's regime. Clearly, internal repression is not Mr. Obama’s fault—but his premature award and his pledge to use it as an encouragement to future worthy endeavours offer him an opportunity, after past equivocations, to let Iranians know where he truly stands on the critical issue of their freedom.

Alas, I think we all now know just where he stands on the issue of freedom in Iran and elsewhere.

Melanie Phillips

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