Thousands of Iranian students and others turned out on the streets of Teheran on Monday to protest against the government, as described here. (photo from AP file). Ironically, December 7 is a traditional day for rallies marking the killing of three students during a 1953 anti-US protest.
The protests are occuring on the backdrop of increased pressure for sanctions on Iran. The sanctions are strongly supported by Dr. Emanuele Ottolenghi who spoke in Australia earlier this year. However Ottolenghi also argues for a 2 track approach of both sanctions and support for Iranian opposition. As Ottolenghi points out in this excellent article,
“If internal change can create a new, benign and regionally responsible Iran, how can the West ensure that Tehran’s “velvet revolution” clock ticks faster than its nuclear clock? While the West is continuing to engage the regime to solve the nuclear standoff, it should also talk over the ayatollahs’ heads and address the population.So far, however, this has not been the case. For European governments the promotion of human rights inside Iran was never an attractive proposition. Europe feared antagonising China and Russia, its partners in the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany). Loathing the regime-change rhetoric of the Bush administration, the EU believed that Tehran could be persuaded to be nice if only it could be assured that the West would not seek to subvert it. The Americans now appear to agree.
Under the Obama administration, support for Iran’s opposition has been eroding steadily in Washington too. Europeans insist their agenda is not regime-change but behaviour change. The message to Tehran is: “As long as we are talking, we will not contemplate any other measure to achieve our goals.”
Ottolenghi writes “This is a blow to Iran’s beleaguered forces of change. Potentially, it is also a strategic blunder of tragic proportions.”
In his brief article, ” Iran, Arsonist and Firefighter” Ottolenghi has a good perspectiveon Iranian and U.S. approaches to other conflict sites, such as Yemen. Of the U.S. response, he writes “when an official statement reads like this: “It’s our view that there can be no long-term military solution to the conflict between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels,” it almost looks like it came out of the EU. Never shall there be a military solution to a conflict! A bit like saying, “There shall be no medical solution to a disease” — let the microbes and the antibodies negotiate their way to a compromise through the good offices of the United Nations. Let them receive an envoy from the EU! But no conflict. Nope.”