Monday, July 6, 2009

International attention towards Iran increases

By Shane McCarthy, CNI Staff Writer

Ever since it became clear that the fallout from the Iranian election would cause massive unrest and draw world attention to the region, both Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad have continuously warned Western powers to avoid interfering in the political process. For this reason, world leaders (including President Obama) have been careful to put out statements which promote democratic courses of action without seeming too intrusive. However, violence perpetrated against protestors by government and paramilitary forces have given foreign powers a means by which they can express their disapproval as to how this election has been carried out.

In a conference in Treiste, Italy, foreign ministers in the G8 summit released a statement criticizing the post-election violence in Iran and urging the ruling Clerics to make sure that the will of the people is reflected in the ballots. This statement comes after negotiations between the several nations and is especially encouraging because Russia (which had previously expressed congratulations to Ahmadinejad) was included. In somewhat stronger language, French President Nicolas Sarkozy stated that Iranians deserve better leaders.

So far, the United States has been careful to avoid any statements or actions which could be construed as meddling or taking sides on the election results. If the recent arrest of British journalists in Tehran is any indication, the Supreme Leader and Revolutionary Guard are looking for any opportunity to point fingers at Western powers. Despite the deep divisions among the Iranian people which this election has brought to light, it is widely believed that they would rally around the government if there was any real evidence of American interference.

Unfortunately, the continuing turmoil in Iran has greatly set back any intentions that the U.S. had to pursue negotiations over the nuclear issue. Although President Obama has stressed that diplomatic talks must continue, it is now unlikely that Iran would be willing to listen to outside opinion on the matter. To resolve the nuclear dilemma it is likely that the U.S. will need to garner the help of Russia and China, two countries which have historically had the most sway over Iran but who are also the least likely to cooperate on such an issue.

Recent government actions in Iran have given a clear indication that any sort of multi-party negotiations will not happen for some time. In a move which was expected and dreaded by many experts, the Revolutionary Guard has taken control of Iranian national security in lieu of continuing protests and demonstrations for reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi. Calling their actions a “revival of the revolution”, the elite military branch has pledged to take control of the situation on the ground. It is unclear whether the Guard has any intention of rescinding power once the situation is dealt with, and so for the time being Iran is effectively under the military control.

With this taken into account, the best means for the international community to approach the government of Iran is in solidarity. It is extremely unlikely that the regime will change policy at the behest of a single Western nation (especially the U.S.), and so it must be made clear that the actions being taken are not only damaging to the Iranian people, but also to the world at large. However, it is also important that lines be drawn with regard to intrusion. While outside nations may call on the government to reflect the will of the people, they cannot decide what that will is.