My piece today in which former Iranian political protester Amir Fakhravar calls on President Obama to speak up more forcefully for those fighting for freedom in Iran has drawn some pushback.
Andrew Sullivan writes:
Actually, of course, (Obama) did state his support for nonviolence and freedom of expression. And when you see Khamenei’s attempt to play the foreign interference card this morning, you see the deeper wisdom of Obama’s approach.
Far from showing the “deeper wisdom” of Obama, Khamenei’s statements serve to reinforce a point made by Fakhravar, who told me, “Whether Obama says anything or not, Iran is still going to play that game.”
Meanwhile, Daniel Larison, in his typically condescending tone, barks,”Philip Klein thinks that what is needed is a lot more cheap talk that will get people killed because some Iranian activist says it sounds like a good idea.”
It pretty ridiculous for Larison to dismiss Fakhravar as just “some Iranian activist.” Fakhravar was in and out of Iranian prisons since high school as a result of his pro-democracy activism, and was subject to torture in Iran’s most notorious prison (you can read more about his experiences at Amnesty International, far from a neocon source). And this is about more than “cheap talk,” it’s about the American president using his microphone to stand up for democracy and human rights.
The article I wrote this morning was a reported piece based on my conversation with Fakhravar. Personally, I think there is worthwhile debate to be had over the proper U.S. response, and earlier today, I linked to Spencer Ackerman’s interview with noted Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji, who said that Obama shouldn’t meddle, though he added that Obama “cannot stay silent on human rights issues.” Iran is a very complex story that we’re all doing our best to comprehend at a time when the flow of information out of the country is limited and scattered. What bothers me is this false consensus among the “responsible” set that Obama is doing exactly the right thing, and that anybody who disagrees is completely ignorant. In reality, opinion on this among people in the know is not monolithic. Fakhravar says that President Bush’s pro-democracy rhetoric gave him hope when he was in an Iranian prison, and he told me that the protesters he’s in touch with in Iran want Obama to speak up. I thought it was important to bring his voice into the debate.